Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, business stalwart and the chairman of conglomerate ITC, passed away in Delhi.
Fondly called ‘Yogi’ within his intimate circle, Deveshwar stayed for more than five decades with ITC of which over 20 years were spent as its executive chairman.
In a statement, Sanjiv Puri, MD, ITC Ltd said, “We recall with respect and pride the legendary stewardship he provided to ITC over two decades as its Chairman. Inspired by a patriotic fervour, manifest in his clarion call of ‘Lets Put India First’, he led ITC’s strategic thrust to create an exemplary Indian enterprise dedicated to serving national priorities.”
Conferred the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India for his outstanding service to the nation, Deveshwar passionately championed the cause for sustainable and inclusive growth and the transformative role businesses could play in creating larger societal value. This vision drove ITC to pursue business models that today supports over 6 million livelihoods, many amongst the weakest in society.
ITC under his leadership, greened over 683,000 acres of land together under its farm and social forestry programmes in last 18 years, generating 124 million man-days of employment as part of social development projects spread over 25 States/Union territories covering 188 districts.
“Advancements in green technology, innovative ideas from the world’s millennials, ease of communication and connectivity will no doubt contribute to new thinking and to finding better solutions to ensure a secure and safer world in times to come”, he had said.
Spearheading a journey of stellar growth that led the Harvard Business Review to rank him the 7th Best Performing CEO in the world, his leadership transformed ITC into a valuable and admired multi business. His Vision to make societal value creation a bedrock of corporate strategy also led ITC to become a global exemplar in sustainability and the only company in the world to be carbon positive, water positive and solid waste positive for over a decade.
“I remain optimistic that businesses will make an increasing contribution in the future, not only in enlightened self-interest, but because the new normal will be about doing well by doing good.”, he once said.
Born in Lahore in February 1947, Deveshwar joined ITC in 1968 after studying at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and the Harvard Business School, and had a meteoric rise that saw him being appointed as a Director on its Board in 1984. He rose to become the Chief Executive and Chairman of the Board in 1996. While every ITC Chairman since the late 1960s had explored ways and means to diversify the company from its tobacco business portfolio, it was Deveshwar who ultimately made it happen.
Business rationalisation and the diversification into the non-cigarette FMCG sector as well as information technology was not without its share of problems and challenges.
India CSR Network offers a humble tribute to the Corporate Stalwart. His vision to build an exemplary Indian enterprise, to serve national priorities, create the businesses of tomorrow, impeccable values and personal integrity, the width and depth of his strategic thinking and his compassionate conduct of business will continue to inspire us in the journey ahead.