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Filling Up The Big Boots Of His Mentor
Puri is expected to take forward the legacy he has inherited from Deveshwar and strengthen ITC’s position as a major FMCG player
Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma
Sanjiv Puri, Chairman, ITC
Sanjiv Puri assumed charge as chairman of India’s largest cigarette maker and FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) company – ITC Limited in May, after the company’s longest serving chairman, Y. C. Deveshwar, passed away. Puri, 56, was being mentored by Deveshwar for the post and is expected to take forward the legacy he has left behind.
Sanjiv Puri joined ITC in 1986 and was expected to succeed Deveshwar in 2021-22. He is expected to pursue Deveshwar’s strategy of diversifying the tobacco company’s businesses. Deveshwar helped ITC diversify its business from cigarettes to retail, packaged foods, paper and packaging. He also grew its revenue ten-fold to Rs 51,500 crore during the two decades that he was at the helm of ITC Limited.
Puri is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Wharton School and an old-timer in the company. He has spent three decades working across various functions at the firm, and has swiftly moved up the ladder to head some of the company’s biggest businesses, including its packaged consumer goods segment.
Puri began as brand manager for various categories. In 2001 he became a general manager at the ITC subsidiary in Nepal, Surya Nepal. In 2014, Puri was elevated to president of the company’s FMCG businesses. “Puri has grown under Y. C. Deveshwar. He has so far taken the baton effectively and shown optimistic results for the group. The company will further grow under his vision. He will have to mentor a successor under him,” said Abneesh Roy, Senior Vice President, Edelweiss Capital.
During this period, Puri also led the company’s foray into new businesses, such as juices and dairy and spearheaded the acquisition of brands like Savlon and Shower to Shower. Analysts feel the acquisitions have been good for the growth of the FMCG unit which is the second largest revenue churner for the group. ITC is one of the largest consumer goods companies in India, with businesses spanning cigarettes, hotels, paper and agri-commodities. Its branded foods division, with products like staples, confectionery, noodles, snacks and biscuits, is doing well and gaining a strong market share across many categories.
ITC has been successful in the foods business and is constantly expanding its personal product portfolio (soaps, shampoos, deo, talc). The company has sustained its market leadership in the cigarettes space too, despite the heavy taxes imposed on tobacco products. The e-Choupal network established by ITC, gives it a phenomenal edge in sourcing raw materials for its tobacco and packaged foods businesses. Together these diversifications have helped ITC transform into a consumer giant.
ITC’s FMCG business has shown good operating profits in FY18. Its paper business helps address the packaging needs of the FMCG business. The performance of its agri-business has been robust. The company’s agri-business exports provide strategic sourcing support to its cigarette and branded packaged foods businesses by ensuring high quality supplies.
“Optically, though growth in the FMCG business was soft, adjusting for restructuring in lifestyle retailing business and pipeline calibration in education and stationery business, the segment grew 10 per cent y-o-y. With the volume revival in the cigarette business, coupled with market share gains and margin expansion in FMCG business, we are optimistic about ITC’s growth in the next quarter under Puri,” said Roy.