Change of Guard at ITC’s Life­style Arm

The Economic Times - - Brands: Creating Desire - Wri­tankar.Mukher­jee @times­

Kolkata: ITC has changed the chief ex­ec­u­tive of its Wills Life­style and John Play­ers stores by giv­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity to Vikas Gupta, who joined the con­glom­er­ate in Jan­uary from Cello Writ­ing Group of Com­pa­nies where he was the CEO.

For­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Atul Chand will move into a dif­fer­ent role within the com­pany, look­ing af­ter spe­cial projects whose de­tails are yet to be chalked out, two se­nior in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tives said.

This is the first ma­jor change un­der­taken by San­jiv Puri, who took charge ear­lier this month as ITC’s CEO. The con­glom­er­ate’s life­style re­tail­ing busi­ness − Wills Life­style and John Play­ers – has yet to break even though it has been around for al­most 17 years. As per in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tives, ITC’s life­style re­tail busi­ness is es­ti­mated at around ₹ 650-700 crore. An ITC spokesman said while the com­pany fo­cuses on de­vel­op­ment of home­grown tal­ent, it ropes in peo­ple from out­side when re­quired to take the busi­ness to the next hori­zon of growth. “All our seg­ments in­clud­ing life­style re­tail­ing have huge po­ten­tial and we are scal­ing these busi­nesses lever­ag­ing ITC’s in­sti­tu­tional strengths,” he said.

Gupta, an alum­nus of IIMAhmed­abad, had joined ITC in Jan­uary as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the life­style re­tail busi­ness. He pre­vi­ously held po­si­tions such as pres­i­dent of kitchen and bath at Kohler In­dia, di­rec­tor (con­fec­tionery) for Warner Lambert In­dia, and also did a sales stint at Col­gate-Pal­mo­live. His ex­pe­ri­ence in re­tail in­cludes manag­ing La­coste’s In­dia busi­ness.

Gupta joins a small team of se­nior ex­ec­u­tives at ITC who have been re­cently hired lat­er­ally from the in­dus­try. They in­clude Sameer Sat­pa­thy, who heads the per­sonal care busi­ness hav­ing joined from Marico, and San­jay Sin­gal, a for­mer Dabur ex­ec­u­tive who is the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of ITC’s dairy and bev­er­ages busi­ness. The change of lead­er­ship comes at a time when the com­pany is mak­ing a strate­gic shift — peo­ple in the know said ITC is try­ing to make John Play­ers an on­line-fo­cussed brand while ex­pand­ing the Wills Life­style chain through the fran­chisee mode. The spokesper­son, how­ever, said no such blan­ket strat­egy was pro­posed.

“The life­style re­tail busi­ness has been mak­ing money on and off, but has yet to break even. How­ever, ITC will con­tinue to in­vest on the busi­ness since it is not far from prof­itabil­ity,” said one of the in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tives ET spoke to.

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