Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, the chairman of ITC, passed away on Saturday morning at a private hospital in Gurugram and is survived by his wife and son. He was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. The cause of his death is not known.

Deveshwar stepped down from an executive role as chairman and CEO of ITC in 2017 but remained with the company as a non-executive chairman. He served at ITC for over half a century and became known for his business acumen which brought the conglomerate to its position today.

ITC is one of the biggest diversified conglomerates in the world and the largest cigarette-maker in India. It has 20,000 employees across 60 locations in the country.

ITC's managing director Sanjiv Puri mourned the death while attributing ITC's successful transformation and growth to Deveshwar's leadership in a statement, "Spearheading a journey of stellar growth that led the Harvard Business Review to rank him the 7th Best Performing CEO in the world, his leadership transformed ITC into a valuable and admired multi-business conglomerate with a robust portfolio of front-ranking businesses in FMCG, Hotels, Paperboards & Paper, Packaging and Agri-Business."

ITC chairman YC Deveshwar passes awayReuters File

With regard to the employment opportunities created by ITC, he added, "His death is mourned by many, as he was considered an astute Indian visionary whose cause provided employment to over 60 lakh people."

Born on February 4, 1947, in Lahore, Deveshwar was an IIT Delhi and Harvard Business School alumnus who joined ITC in 1968 and became the chairman in 1996. He led state-owned carrier Air India as the chairman and managing director from 1991 to 1994. He was also a director on the central board of the Reserve Bank of India. Deveshwar received the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian honour in India, in 2011.

ITC LtdReuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was grieved by his passing. He tweeted, "Shri YC Deveshwar made a strong contribution to Indian industry. His efforts helped ITC become a professionally run Indian company with a global footprint. Saddened by his demise. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the ITC group in this hour of grief."

Other political leaders also mourned the loss of the inspirational businessman.