Noted industry leader and ITC Chairman YC Deveshwar, who transformed the cigarette major into a diversified player with interests in FMCG, hospitality, IT and other sectors, passed away Saturday morning after a brief illness. Deveshwar (72), who stepped down from executive role as chairman and CEO in 2017 but remained as a non-executive chairman, breathed his last at a private hospital in Gurugram. “We deeply mourn the passing away of Y C Deveshwar, Chairman ITC,” ITC Managing Director Sanjiv Puri said in a statement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also mourned the death of the industrialist and hailed his "strong contribution" to the Indian industry.
"Shri YC 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," the prime minister tweeted.
Deveshwar passionately championed the cause for sustainable and inclusive growth and the transformative role businesses could play in creating larger societal value. This vision drove ITC to pursue business models that today support over 6 million livelihoods, many amongst the weakest in society, Puri added.
He leaves behind his wife and two children—a son and a daughter. Deveshwar joined ITC in 1968 and was appointed as a director on ITC’s board on April 11, 1984. He rose to become its chief executive and chairman on January 1, 1996.
One of the longest serving top executives of a corporate entity in India, he was responsible for transforming ITC from mainly a cigarettes maker into a diversified entity with interests in FMCG, hospitality, paper, agri business and information technology, among others.
When Deveshwar took charge at the helm of the company in the mid-1990’s, ITC was confronted with formidable challenges, with diversification efforts either failing or languishing. The company’s revenue was less than Rs 5,200 crore and Profit Before Tax (PBT) stood at Rs 452 crore. In 2017-18, the company posted revenues of Rs 44,329.77 crore and net profit of Rs 11,223.25 crore.
“His leadership transformed ITC into a valuable and admired multi business conglomerate with a robust portfolio of front-ranking businesses in FMCG, hotels, paperboards and paper, packaging and agri-business.
“His vision to make societal value creation a bedrock of corporate strategy also led ITC to become a global exemplar in sustainability and the only company in the world to be carbon positive, water positive and solid waste positive for over a decade,” Puri said.
An alumnus of IIT Delhi and Harvard Business School, Deveshwar had also led Air India as chairman and managing director between 1991 and 1994.
When ITC split the role of the Executive Chairman between Chairman and Chief Executive Officer with effect from February 5, 2017 as part of succession planning in the company, Deveshwar continued as chairman in non-executive capacity and played the role of mentor to the executive management led by Sanjiv Puri.
A recipient of Padma Bhushan—one of the highest civilian awards in the country—in 2011, Deveshwar also played his part in nation building, taking up various roles in several institutions.
He served as a director on the Central Board of the Reserve Bank of India, as a member of the National Foundation for Corporate Governance and member of the governing body of the National Council of Applied Economic Research.
“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,” Puri said.
Deveshwar was also a member of the Board of Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and a member of the National Food Processing Development Council, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India.
Well respected by his peers in the industry, YCD, as he was popularly known in corporate circles, was also a past president of CII, besides being on the National Executive Committees of some of India’s premier trade and industry bodies. He also served as a member of the UK-India CEO Forum and US-India CEO Forum instituted by the respective governments.