Business Today

'We want to be FMCG's No.1'

By drawing on ITC’s strengths in businesses as diverse as cigarettes to hotels to agri-business, Chairman Y.C. Deveshwar has built an FMCG machine that’s become the market leader in several segments. Now, it’s eyeing the No. 1 slot.

Arnab Mitra        Print Edition: Dec 02, 2007

It’s still called “cigarette factory” by the locals, but ITC’s old factory in the Pulikeshinagar locality of Bangalore no longer rolls cigarettes. Instead, the campus can easily be mistaken for a country club or a resort—winding pathways set amidst 34 acres of lush greenery, dotted with ancient high-roofed factory sheds that no longer roast tobacco or roll cigarettes.

Each of these quaint single-storey structures has been re-purposed, and now houses the offices of ITC Infotech. Each building has a name drawn from Sanskrit literature—the food court is called Aashirvaad, the development centre for Danske Bank is called Nidhi, the one for Finnair is called Athithi, and the ITC Infotech Managing Director’s Office Kriti— probably to underline ITC’s identity as an Indian company.

There is a building at one edge of the complex, that, is, in a way, the odd man out. It is the only building in the complex that does not have an ITC Infotech office. Instead, it is home to ITC Foods, and its Divisional Chief Executive Ravi Naware sits here. Naware is a key player in ITC Chairman Y.C. “Yogi” Deveshwar’s grand gameplan to turn his tobacco-to-hotels-to-FMCG-to paper conglomerate into India’s numero uno FMCG company

The numbers game

ITC, in fact, has already travelled some distance down that path. For the first time in history, the share of its non-tobacco portfolio crossed the 50 per cent of net turnover mark in 2006-07. And the FMCG business, which is growing at 68.17 per cent, accounted for about 14 per cent of its net revenues of Rs 12,705.79 crore. Its Aashirvaad brand of atta, launched in 2002, dominates the market for the staple with a share of 52 per cent. Hindustan Unilever’s Annapurna is a distant second with an 18 per cent share.

Then, its Bingo brand of finger snacks (potato chips and khakra) has already ratcheted up a pan-India market share of 11 per cent within six months of launch, still some way behind market leader Frito Lay’s 63 per cent, but making ground fast. The Sunfeast brand of biscuits has a share of more than 10 per cent, and its pasta offering under the same brand is the only player in that market.

Then, Mint-o Fresh, ITC Food’s cough lozenge, has edged past erstwhile market leader Perfetti to the #1 position with a market share of 17 per cent. Having gained segment leadership in some niches and significant shares in others, ITC is setting its sights higher. “We hope to emerge as the #1 player in the packaged foods segment in India in four years,” says Naware.

That’s not all. In 2000, ITC entered the readymade garments (lifestyle) market with its first Wills Lifestyle store in Delhi’s tony South Extension area. Today, its three brands in the segment—Wills, John Players and Miss Players—place it among the top 5, well, players in India.

Chitranjan Dar, Divisional Chief Executive, Lifestyle Retailing Business Division, ITC, like all other Divisional CEOs BT spoke to, declines to reveal exact segment turnovers, but says: “We should double our sales over the next 3-4 years and be among the top 2 players in the branded apparel market by then.”

It’s more of the same in the greeting cards and stationery segment, in incense sticks and in matches. ITC is very clearly the market leader in these segments and, happily for the company and its shareholders, faces very little competition on a pan-India basis.

It has also recently launched a line of personal care products like soaps, shampoos and fragrances under the Wills brand. New consumers are entering the market every day; they like to experiment, but want the best. Then, per capita consumption is among the lowest in the world.

“Given this background, I think the time is just right to enter the market and grow with it,” says Sandeep Kaul, Divisional Chief Executive, Personal Care Products, ITC.

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