United Breweries Limited (UBL), India's largest brewer, owned by Vijay Mallya, has created the post of a joint president and has elevated Shekhar Ramamurthy to it. Before this, Ramamurthy was deputy president, overseeing sales & marketing, besides international operations. In the new role, he will be in charge of strategic planning and HR, in addition to his earlier responsibilities. He will report to Kalyan Ganguly, president & MD, of UBL.
Mallya has created this new position in United Breweries emulating the structure of United Spirits, another group company of UB Group which is into spirits. It may be recalled that after Vijay K Rekhi stepped down as the MD of United Spirits, Mallya had created a similar structure by appointing Ashok Capoor as the president, while P Murali was made joint president & CFO of United Spirits.
Kalyan Ganguly, like Vijay K Rekhi, has been a veteran of United Breweries having steered the company to exceptional heights with it controlling significant share in the beer market. UB Group officials however declined to comment on whether the move to elevate Ramamurthy as the joint president is a step to prepare him to be the next person to lead UBL after Ganguly retires. "It is for the chairman - Vijay Mallya, to take a call on that aspect," senior officials of UB Group said.
Ramamurthy, 51, is also a long time employee of United Breweries having joined the company in May 1989, and has held crucial positions in his 23 year career. A B.Tech. (Civil) from IIT, Delhi, and PGDBM from IIM-Kolkata, Ramamurthy has been one of the key players in the aggresive growth of UBL's flagship beer brand Kingfisher. During last fiscal, Kingfisher beer sold a record 100 million cases, with UBL controlling a significant 54.5 per cent market share, almost double than its nearest competitor.
As head of sales & marketing, Ramamurthy has been hands-on in a whole host of initiatives which has catapulted Kingfisher on to a strong wicket. United Breweries spent almost 28 per cent of its sales of Rs 3,600 crore on a range of marketing activities spread across the key four verticals - sports, fashion, music and food. Some of the key properties which has the backing of Kingfisher are the Lakme Fashion Week, Indian Premier League, Kingfisher East Bengal Team, The Great Indian Octoberfest, besides the Kingfisher calendar.
The strengthening of the top layer of UBL comes at a time when the group is going through a tough phase with both United Spirits and Kingfisher Airlines burdened with huge leverage issues. There has been buzz in the marketplace as well that Mallya may dilute his 37.5 per cent stake in United Breweries in favour of the joint venture partner - Heineken, the Dutch brewer which also holds equal stake.