Peo­ple First

Business Sphere - - CONTENTS - By Our Cor­re­spon­dent

ITC keeps its staff mo­ti­vated with em­ployee-cen­tric poli­cies. In the movie Piku, Deepika Padukone's epony­mous char­ac­ter fondly re­calls the reg­is­tered ad­dress of the fic­tional com­pany her fa­ther once worked for in Kolkata: "37 Vir­ginia House, Park Lane". The ad­dress is un­can­nily sim­i­lar to an ac­tual one - Vir­ginia House, 37 JL Nehru Road, Kolkata. Cu­ri­ously, the lat­ter is also the head­quar­ters of ITC Ltd, inar­guably one of In­dia's most pres­ti­gious blue chip com­pa­nies. In por­tray­ing Piku's pride in her fa­ther's old job, the film merely feeds off the aura around the real Vir­ginia House, to­day syn­ony­mous with ITC that strad­dles sec­tors as di­verse as FMCG, HO­TELS, to­bacco, pa­per­boards and pack­ag­ing, sta­tionery, agri-busi­ness and IT. This pride of as­so­ci­a­tion with Vir­ginia House has also been il­lus­trated em­pir­i­cally by global HR con­sul­tancy IBM Kenexa. Ac­cord­ing to a 2016 em­ployee en­gage­ment sur­vey by Kenexa, 93 per cent of ITC's near30,000 em­ploy­ees are proud to be part of the Rs 54,000-crore group. "Glob­ally, this is one of the high­est," says R. Srid­har, Head, Cor­po­rate Hu­man Re­sources, ITC Ltd. "Peo­ple leave (ITC) with a heavy heart." The rea­son, con­tends Srid­har, is em­ployee en­gage­ment at two lev­els: job con­text, and job con­tent. The first com­prises ben­e­fits such as STOCK OP­TIONS and ac­com­mo­da­tion; ITC is one of the few com­pa­nies which till date of­fers hous­ing to its man­agers. The sec­ond - job con­tent - in­volves keep­ing the work­force mo­ti­vated, and work to­wards a goal of a `1 lakh crore turnover from new FMCG busi­nesses by 2030. The com­pany to­day has over 1,000 Stock Keep­ing Units or dis­tinct prod­uct types, which are con­stantly ex­panded. In the bar­gain, avers B. Su­mant, Pres­i­dent, FMCG Busi­nesses, ITC is cre­at­ing "preneurs" - a port­man­teau of pro­fes­sional man­agers and entrepreneurs. "Ev­ery launch is like a start-up," he says. "This cre­ates new chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties, it keeps peo­ple ex­cited and mo­ti­vated." Ca­reer coun­selling is a reg­u­lar prac­tice that in­volves a "di­a­logue" with em­ploy­ees to plan their progress within ITC. Fac­ulty from re­puted busi­ness schools, in­clud­ing Har­vard and INSEAD, are also in­vited to con­duct work­shops on strat­egy and prod­uct devel­op­ment. Along­side, em­ploy­ees are ro­tated across var­i­ous busi­ness seg­ments, ex­pos­ing them to new roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Su­mant him­self has un­der­gone the process sev­eral times dur­ing his 30-odd years with ITC. "Peo­ple never find them­selves stag­nat­ing," says Srid­har.

For ITC pro­vid­ing great liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment to man­agers is a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor

Back in 2000, the US con­sulate in Kolkata was look­ing to sell a prime

prop­erty in the heart of the city, a few hun­dred me­tres from the iconic Vic­to­ria Me­mo­rial. Though the Amer­i­cans were in a hurry to find a buyer, the ask was high-$5 mil­lion. Take it or leave it. Anand Nayak, who was at that time the group head for hu­man re­sources at ITC Ltd, came to know that the US mis­sion had put the Old Ma­rine Club up for sale and rushed to chair­man Y.C. Devesh­war, mak­ing a strong pitch for the prop­erty. Rs15 crore wasn't steep, but in those days, it wasn't a small sum ei­ther, said Nayak. But be­cause the prop­erty met all the re­quire­ments to build homes for ITC's man­agers, he got his boss's ap­proval in "less than a minute", re­called Nayak, who re­tired a year ago, hav­ing worked closely with Devesh­war for more than 20 years. What stands on that prop­erty to­day is Vic­to­ria View, a con­do­minium with 44 apart­ments over­look­ing the Vic­to­ria Me­mo­rial. ITC is cur­rently build­ing such con­dos across the coun­try: two in Chen­nai, and one each in Gun­tur, Ben­galuru, Munger, Chandigarh and My­suru, in ad­di­tion to such gated com­plexes, which it al­ready has in Kolkata, Ben­galuru, Pune, Ahmed­abad, Hard­war, Gurgaon and Munger. For ITC, "pro­vid­ing a great liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment for its man­agers is a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor" as an em­ployer, said Nayak. Devesh­war used to say we owe it to the fam­i­lies of our man­agers. Soon af­ter he joined as the chair­man in 1996, he asked Nayak and other key peo­ple in the lead­er­ship to cre­ate an "em­ployee value propo­si­tion, which is dif­fer­ent from other com­pa­nies". Devesh­war said hous­ing could be a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor in ITC's em­ployee value propo­si­tion, which also in­cluded pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to young man­agers to learn faster than at other or­gan­i­sa­tions and to lead projects early in their ca­reers, said Nayak. In 1996, ITC ac­quired the first ex­clu­sive res­i­dence for its man­agers-a tower in Gurgaon built ac­cord­ing to ITC's spec­i­fi­ca­tions. And Devesh­war went far beyond this vi­sion state­ment to make sure that the homes that ITC built for its man­agers fully met his ex­pec­ta­tions, said Chit­taran­jan Dar, head of re­search and devel­op­ment and projects. The chair­man would in­sist that all our prop­er­ties had large el­e­va­tors, or stretcher lifts, be­cause he wanted these homes to be friendly to "el­derly par­ents" of ITC's man­agers, said Dar, who per­son­ally over­saw the devel­op­ment of many such com­plexes. And Devesh­war or­dained that these com­plexes should be "el­e­gant and not os­ten­ta­tious", ac­cord­ing to Dar. They should have enough liv­ing spa­ces for chil­dren and all ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties of a condo such as fit­ness and re­cre­ation cen­tres, but at the same time, they should be easy to main­tain. When ITC ac­quired a 6.5-acre prop­erty in Bengluru to build a new res­i­den­tial com­plex for its man­agers, Devesh­war said it must be built to be bet­ter than the one in ex­is­tence at that time. So ITC built only 80 apart­ments in the Jakkur neigh­bour­hood of Ben­galuru, where "200 apart­ments could have been eas­ily ac­com­mo­dated", said Nayak. Most are three-bed­room apart­ments of 3,600-4,200 sq. ft, fully geared, so that a per­son mov­ing in "didn't have to buy even a wardrobe", said Dar. Devesh­war would per­son­ally in­spect many sites un­der con­struc­tion-most re­cently, he ar­rived unan­nounced at a site in Ahmed­abad two years ago where only around 20 flats were be­ing built. And as in­tended, these com­plexes be­come homes to a thriv­ing com­mu­nity tied to­gether by an or­gan­i­sa­tion with di­verse cul­tures from across In­dia. This in­ter­min­gling of cul­tures makes for a bet­ter up­bring­ing of chil­dren, said Neel Kingston Jasper, head of cor­po­rate plan­ning. "These are in­tended to be ecosys­tems to max­imise hap­pi­ness for ev­ery­one in the fam­ily," said Jasper, who has pre­vi­ously lived in ITC-pro­vided homes in other cities but now lives in Vic­to­ria View. A na­tive of Ben­galuru, his mother spends a cou­ple of months ev­ery year at his new home, where his school-go­ing daughters are football champs within the com­plex. For a com­pany in­vest­ing to build long ges­ta­tion busi­nesses ground up, re­ten­tion of tal­ent is of paramount im­por­tance. "Sev­eral times, I have been told that our man­agers were tempted to start new jobs out­side ITC, but their fam­i­lies re­fused to move," said Nayak.

Y. C. Devesh­war, Chair­man of ITC Limited

R. Srid­har, Head, Cor­po­rate Hu­man Re­sources at ITC, with em­ploy­ees

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