Yogi Deveshwar visualises ITC’s future in his farewell speech

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Yogi Deveshwar wishes to see ITC emerging as a multinational brand much like Apple in the US, Samsung in Korea or Toyota in Japan.

“Can we in India not dream of building our own institutions that stand amongst the finest in the world? I believe we can, and we must,” ITC chairman Y C Deveshwar said at what was his last annual general meeting that he addressed as its chief executive officer and chairman.

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Deveshwar, after serving ITC for two decades as its head, is retiring in February 2017.

With this target that Deveshwar would be giving to his yet-to-be-named successor, ITC has plans to keep developing new FMCG brands.

Its Aashirvaad brand has crossed the Rs 3,000-crore mark while Bingo and Classmate have exceeded Rs 1,000 crore each.

Now, ITC will be launching Sunbeam, a brand for premium coffee, following a recent foray in luxury chocolates under brand Fabelle.

“Very soon, Fabelle chocolates, launched recently at ITC Gardenia in Bengaluru, will be available at all ITC Hotels, before being extended more widely,” he said.

Beyond brands, ITC is getting into cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants to expand in health and wellness space and exploring the opportunity to invest in state-of-the-art cold-chain to cover farm produce, including fresh, frozen and dehydrated fruits and vegetables.

“ITC’s strong presence in the agri-food value chain also places it in a unique position to explore new opportunities, particularly in the area of perishables including fruits and vegetables. Towards this end, the physical infrastructure being developed by your company will be utilised to establish cost-effective regional cold-chains across the country,” he said.

Before stepping out of the executive role, Deveshwar got reflective, looking back at the tough times when he assumed the role of ITC chairman.

“The company was confronted with formidable challenges. Its earlier diversification forays failed. A battle for control ensued amidst a public smear campaign. Doubts were raised even about the very integrity of the organisation. A media trial, on the encouragement of the then representatives of our overseas shareholder, pronounced the Indian management inept, fraudulent and guilty, ahead of any independent investigation.

Enforcement authorities used the draconian Fera law to incarcerate 14 members of the then current and past management. A retrospective excise demand of Rs 803 crore, on the very first day of my assuming the charge amounting to three times the annual profit, imperiled your company’s financial stability.”

From there, ITC has transformed itself into an engine of growth making a substantial contribution to the economy, he claimed.

An aged Deveshwar has now calmed down. He has even some good words for the new FMCG phenomenon, Patanjali.

“I am proud of Patanjali for developing an Indian brand. Competition is good for competition and we are not afraid of it. I also respect brand Amul. We must salute these Indian brands,” Deveshwar said amid applause.