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January 14, 2013

ITC - the champion of branding

ITC, an Introduction

ITC is a well-known name in Indian consumer market.  Earlier, it was known for the famous cigarette brands such as Wills, Navy Cut, Gold Flake and Classic.  But, at present, Indian Tobacco Company is no more just a tobacco company, it has diversified into hotel industry, FMCG, IT and various other segments and it’s identified with warm hospitality and some of the strongest FMCG brands in the market.  Some of its popular brands are known as Aashirvaad, (packaged wheat flour) which has become a household name in a short span of time, Sunfeast (Noodles and biscuits), heavily advertised Fiama Di Wills (hair care and skin care range), Vivel (cosmetics for skin care, bath care and hair care), Bingo(snack foods) and Wills Lifestyle (sportswear, club wear, and other premium fabrics), which are available in almost all of the supermarkets and major retail stores in India. 

History of ITC

ITC was established in 1910 and it was named “Imperial Tobacco Company of India Ltd.,” (which was seemingly a British colonial influence). Later on in 1970, it was rechristened as “India Tobacco Company Limited,” which was further changed to ITC Ltd. four years later. In 2001, the multi-business portfolio of FMCG, Hotels, Cigarettes, Personal Care, Apparel, safety matches, stationary products, papers, agribusiness, packaging and IT under the umbrella of ITC were renamed as ITC Limited (removing full stop from the earlier version.)

Just like most of the giant business houses in India, ITC too has humble beginning from the narrow lanes of Kolkata. It started from a rented office in Radha Bazar Lane and was transferred to a plot on Chowringhee Road in 1926. It was a milestone in the history of the company as it gave it the much needed attention and marketing arm it required to spread into the length and breadth of the country. From this plot emerged a reputed 'Virginia House' which became the headquarters of ITC and a prominent building in Kolkata.

Initially the company continued to tread the path of progress consolidating its core business Cigarettes and Leaf Tobacco products. It was only in 70s that the transformational change began to take place in company business portfolio. Though ITC’s Packaging & Printing Business was initiated in 1925 to supplement its cigarettes business, it has emerged into a state of the art packaging house in India. ITC’s hotel business was launched in 1975, when it took over a hotel in Madras and named it as 'ITC-Welcomgroup Hotel Chola'. Paperboard business of ITC was started in 1979 with the launch of ITC Bhadrachalam Paperboards Limited. In 1990, it entered into specialty paper industry and agribusiness. Lifestyle retailing business was started in the year 2000 with the brand name Will Sports and IT division was launched with ITC Infotech India Limited, the same year. In 2001, the company jumped into food business with 'Kitchens of India' and in 2005, ITC entered the Personal Care Business.

Strong Branding

The culture of ITC has become synonymous with household branding. Aashirvaad is packaged wheat flour, which has become a leading brand in a very short span of time and is in great demand because of its quality.  ITC has a tradition of branding and they have a deep customer insight.  It’s obvious therefore that they are able to create a portfolio of super successful brands within no time.  Their commitment to quality and innovation has resulted into their increased capability to create finest brands out of common product-line.  For example, Aashirvaad the packaged wheat flour is marketed as 100% “atta” and 0% “maida” and that’s the reason, it has driven people to buy packaged flour instead of open market flour offered by local flour mills, which was a traditional buying behavior in India.

Turnover and International Recognition

ITC is a well-known FMCG company with a market cap of around USD 36 billion with a turnover of more than USD 8 billion.  ITC is recognized for its achievements worldwide and it is rated among India's most valuable companies by Business Today magazine.  It is also rated among the World’s Most Reputable Companies by Forbes magazine.  According to the Economic Times’ Brand Finance section, it has been honored among “10 Most Valuable (Company) Brands.” According to a report compiled by Business Week, ITC ranks among the “50 best performing companies in Asia.”


ITC is no more just a cigarette manufacturing tobacco company, as its name suggests; it’s into diverse industries at present such as hotels, FMCG, Packaging, Agri-Business, IT and Paperboard & Specialty Papers. Though it’s a market leader in the above industries, it’s also making inroads into Indian middle class market in Branded Apparel (John Players), Personal Care, Stationery and Packaged Foods & Confectionery. ITC Infotech India Ltd. Is ITCs IT business and it delivers IT solutions and services to the leading MNCs and IT companies worldwide.

Commitment towards brand building and competitiveness

Chairman Y C Deveshwar reiterates ITC’s commitment beyond the market to become a valuable national company. This is the outlook of the company, which is responsible for the sustenance of its growing shareholder value. So, ITC is committed to enhance the competitiveness of the entire value chain of the flagship company and its businesses. ITC capitalizes on its core competencies to create growth drivers and these competencies include excellent background in brand building, a strong and robust SCM (supply chain) and service oriented branding in hospitality industry.  That’s the reason ITC is able to seize a big share of the market in every foray it makes into a growing market segment.  

ITC Hotels – A treat of Luxury

ITC hotels are a symbol of luxury, romance, royalty and grandeur.  These magnificently beautiful hotels are located in all of the major tourist destinations in India, where you get the local flavor, exquisite cuisines, a treat of luxury and warm hospitality.  They blend well with the distinctive character of the specific tourist destination. The architecture of these five-star hotels resembles the forts and palaces of ancient dynasties of those specific regions in India.  Marketed and promoted as “luxury collection,” ITC hotels represent the true luxury that the ancient and medieval Indian emperors and kings enjoyed.

The ten best ITC Hotels in India are: ITC Mughal, Agra, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai, ITC Sonar, Kolkata, ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru, ITC Maratha, Mumbai, ITC Maurya, New Delhi, ITC Windsor, Bengaluru, ITC Grand Central, Mumbai, ITC Kakatiya, Hyderabad, and ITC Rajputana, Jaipur.

There is an increasing demand from tourists for authentic experiences, so that they can bring with them the memories of the place they visit. For example, Jaipur in Rajasthan is identified with Rajput kingdoms and the ITC Hotel in Jaipur, ITC Rajputana is a marvel of Rajputana architectural beauty and grandeur and inside this hotel you would feel as if you are staying in a luxurious Rajput palace with similar color themes, terraces, courtyards, pools, galleries, verandas and stretches of rooms.

So, ITC Hotels have crossed the boundaries of homogeneous luxury and ventured into true and sincere reflection of the local luxuries and peculiarities and that’s the reason they have created a brand for “authentic luxury with local flavor” for the global tourists.

Innovative agricultural products and empowerment of farmers

ITC is among one of the largest agri-products exports company and it has accumulated a total of around USD 2.5 billion in the last decade in this sector alone, which accounts for nearly half of the total foreign exchange earned by it. They also empowered Indian farmers by optimizing the power and reach of the Internet and successfully built a huge rural distribution setup magnifying its marketing capacities.  Its success has become a case study at Harvard Business School’s MBA program.

Employment generation and wealth creation

ITC has earned laurels from different quarters including awards and accreditation for its productivity, safety, quality and green initiatives. There are around 30,000 people directly on its rolls and its businesses and products are responsible for providing livelihood to around 5 million people in India. It’s also a smart company when it comes to generating wealth. It has more than 4 lakh stakeholders and the company has a successful record of rewarding its shareholders.

Forbes rankings ITC has been ranked in Forbes Global 2000 list at 987th rank in 2009. It was the only FMCG from India in that list. It was also featured at 95th position among Forbes World’s Most Reputable Companies.  


ITC was criticized for employing young legal professionals to promote their tobacco brands and products among the younger population in India. Its cigarettes are sold in open markets and under age children are employed for the task.

Working with ITC

According to ITC employee reviews in Glassdoor.com, the pros and cons of working with ITC are described as follows:  The work culture of ITC is nice and you get flexible scheduling to avoid stress and work in a natural way. Perks are good and you get the opportunity to work with the leading brands. ITC experience on your CV is a surefire way to uplift your career.  Work-life balance is good and you get lot of time to unwind. It’s a very good company to start your career with, as you learn a lot of things about branding and distribution and you get many good offers from other companies, once you have spent some time with ITC. HR department is quite supportive. Learning is encouraged and it’s fun to learn at ITC. You get the leverage of a string and robust distribution strategy adopted by the company, which puts you in an advantageous position and make your job easier. However, better interaction between the entry level employees and supervisors is needed to encourage innovation and enhanced employee participation.

Ratings: Employees have rated the work-life balance and culture and values at ITC as extremely good. Compensation and benefits were rated as good. Leadership and career opportunities were rated as ordinary.

Learning and development at ITC

ITC places a strong emphasis on learning and development of its employees and it trains them for various aspects of leadership, skill development and capability enhancement. Customized training programs are available at various levels and for different types of skill development needs. These programs also encompass behavioral aspects apart from functional competencies as they believe in all round development of the employees.

KITES: A summer internship program with ITC

ITC has launched Knowledge, Initiative & Talent Excellence Series (KITES), which provides the management and engineering students a platform to learn and experience the real life business situations. It also prepares the leaders of tomorrow.   

AUT: Induction into ITC

ITC has introduced Assistants under Training (AUTs) for the fresh graduates of premier engineering and management institutes who want to kick start their career path with ITC. It’s aimed at managerial development and cross functional exposure to the young executives. After one year training as AUT, the executives are confirmed as Assistant Managers with ITC.

Working with ITC:

The work environment at ITC is excellent and it’s a preferred group of companies to work with. Nowadays, the HR dept is focusing on hiring quality workforce and that’s the reason they are recruiting more and more employees through references, though campus hiring is also prevalent. By and large the employees of the company are satisfied with recruitment, training, promotion and appraisal processes. Salary increment and appraisal is also rated as satisfactory. Most of the people working with different companies of the ITC group are happy and satisfied because of excellent HR, marketing and branding practices of the company. Stability factor is also very good. Polices to prevent discrimination and create a friendly working environment at work place are excellent initiatives from the ITC group human resource department. Group offers the best compensation packages according to industry standards. HR department has a social charter and human rights are respected here. Work hours are clearly defined and child labor is banned inside the premises of ITC group companies. However, the HR department needs to focus on promotion and appraisal part, which is an area of improvement.

Tags : ITC, ITC Maurya, FMCG, Brand, Aashirwaad

About Nashaat Quadri

Freelance Content Writer (Compare Infobase, New Delhi.) Ex Sr Content Writer, Western Software, New Delhi. Ex Relationship Manager, Mashreq Bank, Dubai.