In what appears to be a clear indication of its succession plan, cigarette-to-hotel-to-FMCG major ITC has promoted Sanjiv Puri, one of its executive directors, to the post of chief operating officer for the conglomerate. The COO for its entire business is a new post created in ITC, a clear indication that Puri is leading the race to be the chief executive officer when Y C Deveshwar will relinquish the post in February next year, according to company sources. Deveshwar, currently chairman & CEO of India’s largest cigarette maker, has decided to step aside from his executive role to a non-executive one with effect from February 5, 2017.
In a stock exchange filing on Monday, ITC said, “The board of directors at the meeting held on July 22, 2016, redesignated Sanjiv Puri, wholetime director, also as chief operating officer of the company with immediate effect.” The Kolkata-based diversified conglomerate had earlier appointed its senior executives as chief operating officers for its divisional businesses like food and hotels. “The post of chief operating officer for the entire company is a newly-created post. And it is a clear indication that Puri is tipped to be the new CEO,” sources told FE.
During the ITC’s 105th annual general meeting on July 22, an emotional YC Deveshwar had addressed shareholders in the joint capacity of chairman & CEO. He will become a non-executive chairman of the company from February 5 next year, after leading the company for over 20 years. Sanjiv Puri was appointed additional executive director on the board of ITC effective from December 6, 2015. An alumnus of the IIT, Kanpur, Puri, 53, is now responsible for overseeing the FMCG, paperboards, paper & packaging, and agri businesses of the conglomerate.
Prior to his appointment as director, Puri, who had joined the company in 1986, was president of FMCG businesses — cigarettes, foods, personal care, education & stationery products, matches and agarbattis since December 2014. He handled a wide range of responsibilities including business leadership positions, manufacturing, operations as well as in information and digital technology. Analysts and observers have also tipped Puri to be the likely successor of 69-year-old Deveshwar, as the company has identified its fast-growing non-cigarette FMCG division as the major growth engine for it with higher taxes and regulatory pressures impacting its cigarettes business.
Significantly, speaking at the latest AGM, the ITC chief said his company aspires to be the No 1 player in the non-cigarette FMCG business and has set a revenue target of R1,00,000 crore by 2030. Currently, the company’s non-cigarette businesses, including foods, personal care, hotels, paper, agriculture, information technology and others account for over 50% of its net revenues. The company has plans to foray into overseas markets with an aspiration to become one of the leading multinational corporations (MNCs) operating globally. Notably, Deveshwar will be providing guidance and mentorship to the new executive management that is planned to be put in place, as non-executive chairman, on expiry of his current term next year. “I am very happy to say that we have a worldclass, youthful team at ITC and that is going to take this company forward and will outdo what we did in the past,” the ITC boss told shareholders last Friday.