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There's more to ITC than tobacco

By Suveen K Sinha in New Delhi
September 03, 2005 03:50 IST

Yogi C Deveshwar, chairman of India's largest cigarette maker ITC Ltd, has said that his company would not resist any future move by the government to extinguish the tobacco business in the country.

"In future, there will be no resistance from ITC if the government decides to extinguish the tobacco business," he said at the annual session of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers in New Delhi on Thursday.

Deveshwar's confidence stems from the strides the ITC group has made in recent years in the areas of food, apparel, paper and electronic commerce. "We are creating value in other areas," he said.

However, according to Deveshwar, as long as the tobacco business exists here, the country should extract maximum value (revenues, employment etc) from it.

"I wouldn't tell anyone to smoke or use tobacco," he said. However, he pointed out that ITC's exit from the business will have little impact since nearly every global cigarette brand is available in the country through the smuggling route.

Besides, cigarettes constitute only 14 per cent of the total tobacco consumption in the country, the rest being in the form of chewing tobacco and bidis.

However, cigarettes pool in 90 per cent of revenues from this industry.

Deveshwar was speaking on how car companies could transform their image, now associated with smoke, accidents and congestion.

In the last few years, he has overhauled the image of ITC in such a way that it is associated lesser with tobacco and more with apparel, food, e-choupal and paper. He was speaking on Doing Business While Enhancing The Quality Of Life at Siam's annual meeting.

"You can work both for society and commercial purpose," Deveshwar told the gathering, pointing out how ITC had, of late, become a zero solid waste company producing more water than it consumed.

Siam's focus on the image overhaul comes close on the heels of its efforts on automobile fitness, protecting the environment and safety. The association has been trying to encourage automobile companies to focus on these issues for sometime now.

Suveen K Sinha in New Delhi
Source: source