Catalyst

‘For us the journey has just begun’

| Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on September 10, 2015

Sanjiv Puri, President, FMCG business, ITC

Big plans: ITC has to strengthen its standing in products old and new.

ITC aspires to multiply 10X by 2030 and enhance its footprint in existing categories, says Sanjiv Puri, president of its FMCG business

Sanjiv Puri is a key man in the tobacco-to-hotels conglomerate, the ITC group.

Earlier this year, Puri, was elevated to a newly created post of president of FMCG business, which includes the flagship cigarette business as well as packaged food, personal care and stationery products. As a result, he becomes the point person who is responsible for driving more than 60 per cent of the group’s revenues and nearly 80 per cent of its profits.

On the sidelines of the IAA Silver Jubilee Summit in Kochi, MG Parameswaran, advisor, FCB Ulka, engages with Puri in a conversation about the thinking inside India’s most feared challenger.

In a relatively short period, ITC has built a wide portfolio of brands across categories. What next?

Whilst we have a diverse portfolio of brands across diverse categories, for us the journey has just begun. Because our aspirations are to multiply 10X by 2030 and our endeavour is that even in categories where we are already present, we need to enhance our footprint.

We need to strengthen our market standing in existing categories and we continue to explore new categories. Very soon we will be in the market with our first dairy product. This is going to be our ongoing journey till we get to our target.

You spoke about how ITC has stuck to creating its own brands. Can you give us the philosophy behind creating your own brand?

We chose to bring to the market products that are distinctly superior or unique to the market. And it was necessary in many cases to build our own brands.

It would also help us build the institutional capacity to create new brands and build new categories. That’s why we chose to take the path that’s less travelled and more difficult.

You also created your own fountain of talent where many of your executives have turned business leaders. What are some lessons?

We believed that if talent is given the freedom to unleash their full potential and creativity to become professional entrepreneurs, it does a lot in building talent. It does a lot in retaining leaders as well.

What are your views on the valuations at which FMCG brands are being bought and sold in this country? There have been recent reports of valuations being 6-7 times of the topline …

There is no one answer where it might be justifiable. There must be cases where at least to us the valuations might appear to be high. I think it needs to be evaluated from the angle of the potential that the brand brings in and the synergy that it creates for the existing portfolio and therefore the net value that this whole acquisition would create.

In an age where CMOs spend more on technology than CTOs, do you think someone like you with a strong background in technology has an inherent advantage?

In ITC, one is exposed to a diverse set of roles in the course of one’s career. One is exposed to diverse training programmes and such engagements build you as a general manager. I have personally handled tobacco, had the opportunity to create a garments business in Nepal, lead the IT business.

These diverse roles help ITC managers to take on bigger roles in the future.

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Published on September 10, 2015
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