Politicians, industry mourn ITC's longest-serving chairman Y C Deveshwar

Politicians, industry mourn ITC's longest-serving chairman Y C Deveshwar

Politicians, industry mourn ITC's longest-serving chairman Y C Deveshwar

Under Deveshwar, who died on Saturday, aged 72, ITC posted a 10-fold growth in revenues to Rs 51,582 crore and a 33-fold rise in pre-tax profit to Rs 14,958 crore

Celebrated industry titan and ITC’s chairman, Y C Deveshwar, who transformed ITC from a cigarette major to a diversified Indian conglomerate, died on Saturday morning owing to brief illness in Delhi. He passed away just two years after moving from an executive to a non-executive role in the company after leading the conglomerate as its chairman from 1996 till 2017.

Aged 72 years, he is survived by his wife Bharti Deveshwar and children, Gaurav and Garima.

His death not only came as a blow to industry stalwarts but saddened the nation’s political leaders as well.

President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, on a social media platform said, “Sad to hear of the passing of Y C Deveshwar, a stalwart of Indian business and a builder of Indian brands. His emphasis on sustainability and the triple bottomline will remain ever influential. My condolences to his family and colleagues in ITC and beyond.”

Expressing grief, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the same social media platform said, “Y C Deveshwar made a strong contribution to Indian industry. His efforts helped ITC become a professionally-run Indian company with a global footprint. Saddened by his demise. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the ITC group in this hour of grief.”

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley also expressed sadness while West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, terming Deveshwar as “A giant in the corporate world” said, “I have many memories of him as a distinguished captain of industry. Condolences to his family, his colleagues and his admirers.”

ITC’s managing director, Sanjiv Puri, said, “Inspired by a patriotic fervour, manifest in his clarion call of ‘Lets Put India First’, he led ITC's strategic thrust to create an exemplary Indian enterprise dedicated to serving national priorities.”

In January 2011, Deveshwar was conferred the Padma Bhushan by the Indian government for his outstanding service to the nation.

Puri said Deveshwar passionately championed the cause of sustainable and inclusive growth and the transformative role businesses could play in creating larger societal value. "It was this vision which drove ITC to pursue business models that today support over six million livelihoods, many among the weakest in society," he added.

Deveshwar, ITC’s longest-serving chairman joined the firm in 1968, after passing out from IIT-Delhi and was appointed as a director on ITC's board in 1984. He took a brief break from ITC during 1991-94 when he joined Air India but returned as ITC's vice-chairman. Two years later, he rose to become its chief executive and chairman on January 1, 1996.

Expressing his condolences, Vikram Kirloskar, president of the CII, said, “A titan and guiding luminary of Indian industry, Deveshwar’s commitment and passion for sustainable business was an inspiration for all. Deveshwar’s devotion to inclusive growth in India was laudable and he led by example.”

“Working with diverse sections of society, he created new livelihood opportunities for millions of people. By doing this, he introduced new models of doing business, embracing technology, agriculture, and industry in new ways. He ardently advocated for a triple bottomline approach to corporate strategy to keep the interests of society and the environment at the heart of business. Following these ideas, he set a role model for business in all that he did. His is a legacy the world needs to emulate,” he added.

When Deveshwar took charge of the company, ITC was already engaged in non-tobacco businesses like financial services, edible oils and real estate. After rationalising these ventures by selling financial services to ICICI in 1998, and exiting edible oils, Deveshwar prioritised non-cigarette FMCG businesses, agro-diversification and hotels and envisioned of earning Rs 1 trillion revenue by 2030 from the non-cigarette ventures.


Calling him a titan and a friend, Harsh Goenka, chairman of the RPG Group conglomerate, said, “Yogi Deveshwar passes away making the Indian corporate world poorer.”

Giving his own expression of what ITC stands for, Goenka added, “He built Indian successful brands, Tobacco to an FMCG and hotel conglomerate (and) corporate of great strength.”

Mayank Jalan, chairman and managing director of Keventer Agro, which makes confectionaries and Yippee brand of noodles for ITC, said, “The demise of a business icon like Y C Deveshwar is a huge loss for the industry. He was an inspirational leader and a role model for me. Kolkata's business community has always looked up to him and had deep respect, as he was instrumental in putting Kolkata on the global business map.”

During his stint as the executive chairman, ITC registered a 10-fold growth in revenues to Rs 51,582 crore and a 33-fold rise in pre-tax profit to Rs 14,958 crore. From a shareholders’ perspective, returns grew at a compounded annual rate of 23.3 per cent.