THE MARKET BUILDERS
ITC | ESTABLISHED IN 1910
ITC, FABINDIA, TITAN, HINDUSTAN LEVER, GRASIM, M&M
ITC began its business life in 1910, operating out of a modest office in Radha Bazar Street in Calcutta. At the time, this office was just a small outpost of what was a multinational corporation—the Imperial Tobacco Company of India Limited, which was headquartered in Britain. As the ownership of the company became progressively more Indian, the company’s name was changed, becoming the India Tobacco Company in 1970 and ITC Limited in 1974. From then on, as the company’s portfolio expanded beyond tobacco to include fast moving consumer goods such as food, personal care products, clothing, stationery, incense and safety matches, among others—not to mention its booming hotel business—the company was rechristened ITC Limited, with ‘ITC’ no longer an acronym.
The company’s journey from that beginning to a multi-business enterprise is truly representational of the science of staying relevant, reading the signs and adapting.
In the mid-’70s, ITC ventured into the hotels and paperboards businesses. The group leveraged its consumer insights and marketing skills to expand its hotels business, and over the years reshaped the landscape of the Indian hotel industry. The hotels business was launched in 1975 with the acquisition of a hotel in Chennai, later rechristened ITC-Welcomgroup Hotel Chola and subsequently My Fortune, Chennai. ITC has over a hundred owned and managed properties spread across India under four brands—ITC Hotels, Luxury Collection, WelcomHotels, Fortune Hotels and WelcomHeritage. It took its first step toward international expansion with an upcoming super premium luxury hotel in Colombo. In addition, ITC Hotels also recently tied up with RP Group Hotels & Resorts to manage five hotels in Dubai and India.
Under the leadership of two successive CEOs—J.N. Sapru and K.L. Chugh, in the mid-’80s—ITC entered the financial services business, setting up a new division named ITC Classic Finance Ltd in 1986. In 1988, the company made a foray into the edible oils business. In 1990, ITC acquired the specialty papers company Triveni Tissues Ltd while ITC Global Holdings was set up in Singapore in 1991. But success did not come without attendant challenges. In 1996, a retrospective excise duty of Rs 803 crore was demanded of it and there also ensued a battle for control of the company.
That was when, under Y.C. Deveshwar’s leadership, the company redefined its vision to build an exemplary Indian enterprise. The company was restructured and it echoed ‘India First’ in its new strategy of creating a value chain. ITC is now among the top three in India in terms of contribution to the exchequer. Over the past 21 years, the company’s contribution to the Indian exchequer has been about Rs 2.7 lakh crore.
COMING UP NEXT
ITC is currently aiming to become India’s foremost FMCG company. It aspires to achieve a turnover of Rs 1 lakh crore by 2030. The company is aggressively betting on the future, having invested significant sums to set up the ITC Life Sciences & Technology Centre (LSTC) in Bengaluru, for the purpose of research and development. Product development in the personal care arena will be inspired from research focusing on ‘Indianness’—essentially, a blend of Indian genetics as well as environmental factors of prime relevance to the Indian consumer of personal care products. The LSTC has already filed more than 630 patent applications.
ITC is also investing in creating national assets by setting up 20 integrated consumer goods manufacturing and logistics facilities. It has also invested in the construction of 10 signature hotel properties. That aside, the company is also looking to enhance its leadership in the farm-to-fork value chain by putting up state-of-the-art climate controlled infrastructure and expanding its value chain to cover farm produce, including fresh, frozen and dehydrated fruits and vegetables.
BEST FOOT FORWARD ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar