Sanjiv Puri, Deveshwar's successor at ITC, has big shoes to fill

It took cigarettes-to-hotels major ITC six years to find someone who could take charge of its day-to-day operations.


ITC had set the ball rolling on succession planning early 2010 when three new members, Kurush Grant, Nakul Anand and Pradeep Dhobale, were inducted into the board. The changes in the board were the first in a decade.


On Monday, as the company announced it had appointed Sanjiv Puri as the chief operating officer with immediate effect, it seemed the search for a successor to its longest serving chairman, Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, had finally come to its logical conclusion.



At the company's recent annual general meeting, Deveshwar made it clear that ITC hadn't arrived yet. The best is yet to come, there is an unfinished agenda, he said. The goal is to make ITC a multinational corporation.



In a sense, Puri, too, is yet to arrive. He has another six months to make the transition from a COO to CEO. Deveshwar's current term as chairman and CEO will end in February 2017 after which he will continue as a non-executive chairman for another three years. And to say that those are large shoes to fill would be putting it mildly.


Numbers tell the story. During Deveshwar’s two-decade stint, revenues have grown tenfold to over Rs 51,000 crore, profit before tax 33 times to more than Rs 14,900 crore and market capitalisation recently touched an all-time high of Rs 3,00,000 crore.


But Deveshwar has done more than just. He has rebuilt ITC from a battered reputation in 1996.



The question uppermost on everyone's minds is: Can Puri repeat Deveshwar's performance? To Puri's credit, he has led the company successfully in many of its endeavours. During his tenure the conservative company has made quite a few acquisitions such as B Natural and the bigger Savlon and Shower to Shower from J&J.



Puri is the driving force behind setting up integrated consumer goods facilities across the country and forays like coffee, chocolates and dairy. But the next six months will decide whether Puri has it in him to slip into Deveshwar's role.

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