For ITC, Change at the Top Brings Sense of Continuity
Sanjiv Puri, who took over from YC Deveshwar as CEO on Sunday, has been digging deep into group businesses for the last couple of years
Kolkata: On Sunday, the pristine white Virginia House in downtown Calcutta got a new occupant in its corner-room, heralding as much continuity in the departure of an icon as in the arrival of his successor.
One of India’s rare board-driven companies that primarily reward career-professionals, ITC chose as the head for its iconic Chowringhee home 54-year-old Sanjiv Puri, who like predecessor Yogesh C Deveshwar, 70, began his career in the cigarettes major and later helped steer the company’s entry into businesses that cushion regulatory risks and help the 106-year-old company consistently rank among the top five on the country’s marketcapitalization leaderboard.
In the visible tapestry of continuity, however, were woven hidden elements of drama: Two directors once considered frontrunners in the succession race quit amidst Puri’s elevation to the role of chief operating officer six months ago. However, to Deveshwar, the IIT-Delhi alumnus who mid-wifed ITC’s journey into soaps, shampoos, hotels, and retailing beyond the bailiwick of leaftobacco and cigarettes, the succession meant continuity of his 21-year legacy as chairman.
“I am sure everyone joins me....in expressing our collective faith in his leadership to take this institution to its exalted destiny with your committed, inspired and passionate support,” Deveshwar wrote in an internal note to his colleagues last week ahead of Puri’s appointment. “I am more optimistic of the future of ITC now than ever in the past.”
The succession plan in ITC, which sells 4 of 5 locally made cigarettes, was keenly watched by investors and companies alike in India, where family firms dominate the list of companies making up benchmark indices of the nation’s two biggest stock exchanges in Mumbai. Deveshwar was not only at the vanguard of an effort two decades ago to retain the local SANJIV PURI | CEO, ITC
I am more optimistic of the future of ITC now than ever