There are few executives in the Indian corporate sector who have assumed iconic status and will go down the annuls of India’s rich corporate history. Yogi Deveshwar was one such corporate leader who not only set standards, but rewrote chapters of India’s corporate history.
The longest serving head of any company in India, Y.C. Deveshwar’s passing away will leave a big void in India’s corporate leadership. His illustrious career has seen ITC change from being a tobacco company to an FMCG giant that can give stiff competition to any multinational.
He singlehandedly led the diversification of ITC into foods and other products like confectionary, paper and soaps, which has become one of the biggest revenue earners for the company.
Deveshwar was at the helm of ITC for over two decades during which he personally worked to take the company’s revenues from around Rs 5,000 crore to over Rs 50,000 crore.
He joined the company in 1968 and became its executive chairman in 1996. In 2013, he was listed as the Best Performing CEO in India by Harvard Business Review and seventh in the world.
Though he was the CEO of ITC till February 2007, he donned the mantle of non-executive chairman to remain at the top of one of India’s most successful companies. In June 2018, the company extended his term as non-executive chairman by another two years from 2020 to 2022.
In the last few years he had taken up the role of mentoring senior executives to lead the company into the next decades.
Deveshwar had survived several crucial crisis situations at the company and led the company through them. Some of them include the BAT takeover bid and the tax evasion charges though he was not at the helm directly in the company at that time.
Deveshwar also had a stint as the CMD of the pre-merger Air India between 1991 and 1994. Under his stewardship, Air India became the sixth most profitable airline in the world and earned profits of Rs. one crore a day in 1993. He was appointed as the CMD of Air India by the then Aviation Minister Madhavrao Scindia.
Under Deveshwar, Air India’s profits had doubled. The Rs 333 crore profit recorded by Air India in 1992 -93 is probably the carrier’s highest recorded profit.
He also introduced several new management practices in the airline some of which are being followed till today. He also served as the director on the Central Board of the RBI.