The towering Yogi of Indian business

Fondly called Yogi or YCD by friends and admirers, Y C Deveshwar has always been dignified and led from the front.

The story of Deveshwar is the story of ITC Ltd, a century-old company,  that he transformed from being a cigarette maker to FMCG giant, hotel, hospitality, agri-business, paper, printing and packaging company.

Born as Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, on 4 February 1947 in Lahore, he was conferred the coveted Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian honour, in 2011.

Two years later, the corporate czar was listed as the best performing CEO in India by the Harvard Business Review – and the seventh in the world. He was also recognised by Boston Consulting Group.

An alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and Harward Business School, he joined the ITC in 1968. In 1984, he rose to become a director and took over as chief executive and chairman in January 1996. In 2017, he stepped down as a chief executive and started serving as non-executive chairman.

Whether it is the iconic Wills, Gold Flake, Ship safety matches, Mangaldeep agarbatti, Wills Lifestyle, Sundrop, Sunfeast, Bingo, Fiama Di Wills, Welcome Hotel or Ashirvaad, Yogi created and took pride in Indian brands.

The Kolkata-based Yogi often spoke of ITC being the Indian Trademarks Corporation.

ITC started as Imperial Tobacco Company of India Limited in 1910. He looked beyond tobacco and transformed it into a corporate giant, with 30,000 people working in 60 locations and having a market capital of over US $50 billion.

Between 1991-94, he led Air India as its chairman and managing director. He served as director in the central board of the Reserve Bank of India, as a member of National Foundation for Corporate Governance and a member of the National Council of Applied Economic Research. He was also a member of UK-India CEO Forum and US-India CEO Forum.

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