Change of Guard at ITC’s Lifestyle Arm
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.