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ITC names VL Rajesh as its foods business head

Posted by sonimanish Published on Wed, 2015-06-03 16:14

News article

Wed, 2015-06-03 (All day)
Mumbai, India

ITC has elevated VL Rajesh as its foods business head, in line with the tobacco-to-consumer goods major's recent trend of appointing younger professionals in leadership roles.

Rajesh, 47, will replace Chitranjan Dar who will take over as the corporate group head for central projects organisation, which executes all the firm's projects, and R&D to develop newer products across businesses, two industry executives aware of the plans told ET.

Dar, 59, will take charge later this month from TV Ramaswamy who is set to retire soon. He will be an integral part of ITC's plans to invest Rs 25,000 crore across verticals over the next five years, which includes building several new hotels, plants for FMCG and paper business, agri-business and the IT business, the two executives said.

A lifer at ITC, Rajesh has been its chief operating officer for foods business since a year. He joined the company in 1990, soon after completing his MBA from IIM, Calcutta. After working in the tobacco division's sales and marketing function for a decade, he joined the special projects team responsible for identifying new business opportunities for ITC, which led to the inception of the foods business in 2000.

Rajesh's mandate is to grow ITC's food business as the country's largest packaged food firm in line with its ambitions to become a market leader in the fast moving consumer goods space (FMCG), the two sources said.

ITC's food business had clocked Rs 5,717 crore sales in 2013-14. Figures for last fiscal are yet to be released. Dar, an IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad alumnus, has been instrumental in helping ITC attain a dominant position in the packaged food business. It's now the largest brand in cream biscuits and packaged atta, second largest in instant noodles and snacks.

Dar has also been instrumental in the firm's recent foray into packaged juice market by acquiring the 'B Natural' brand and was charting its entry into dairy business, which will take shape over the next couple of months.

But ITC is still struggling to replicate its food business performance into personal care. The firm, which entered soaps and shampoo segments nearly seven years ago, has less than a percentage share in shampoo and 2.5% share in soaps. Analysts attribute this to tougher competition in these segments.

"Food rivals weren't as aggressive as companies such as Hindustan Unilever and Godrej (in FMCG space) to defend their turf," said an analyst at a domestic brokerage firm. "Also, ITC's large network of smaller stores including paan shops came handy for snacks and biscuits business, but personal care needs a different retail approach," the person said.

Industry executives said Rajesh's appointment is in line with ITC's strategy of promoting professionals in their 40s or early 50s to groom the next line of directors. Earlier this year, the company appointed Sanjiv Puri, 52, as president of FMCG business.