ITC Chairman YC Deveshwar, one of India’s longest-serving corporate chiefs died on Saturday morning at a private hospital in Gurugram. The “Corporate freedom fighter” was 72 years old. The news of his death was confirmed by ITC.

Survived by his wife Bharti Deveshwar, son Gaurav and daughter Garima, Yogesh Chander Deveshwar was also known as “Yogi” among his friends.

He had been ill for the last few months.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recalling his contributions towards the Indian Industry, expressed grief over Deveshwar’s death and said his thoughts were with his family, friends and the ITC group.

“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,” Modi tweeted.

Deveshwar was one of India’s longest-serving corporate chiefs with over two decades as the executive chairman and CEO of ITC, having joined in 1968.

Born on February 4, 1947 in Lahore, he pursued his studies at IIT, Delhi followed by a management course at Harvard University. He was the architect of ITC’s bold transformation from a tobacco company and also battled British American Tobacco to ensure ITC remains an Indian company. He is said to be the one who turned cigarette business into one of India’s leading FMCG players.

Between 1991 and 1994, Deveshwar led state-owned carrier Air India as its chairman and managing director. He was also a director on the central board of the Reserve Bank of India.

Deveshwar stepped down as the chief executive of ITC Ltd, India’s largest cigarette maker, in 2017 and was serving as non-executive chairman.

In a statement, Sanjiv Puri, Managing Director, ITC, said: “We deeply mourn the passing away of Mr Y C Deveshwar, Chairman ITC. In this hour of profound grief and sorrow, we recall with respect and pride the legendary stewardship he provided to ITC over two decades as its Chairman. Inspired by patriotic fervour, manifest in his clarion call of “Lets Put India First”, he led strategic thrust to create an exemplary Indian enterprise dedicated to serving national priorities….”

BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted: Deeply shocked by the news of passing away of @ITCCorpCom Chairman Shri YC Deveshwar. Madhya Pradesh has lost a true friend & a brand ambassador. This is a personal loss for me. He had a key role in MP’s development & industrialization. My condolences to his family & ITC Pariwar.”

Industrialist Naveen Jindal posted: “Deeply saddened by the news of passing away of Shri YC Deveshwar. His demise is a big loss to India Inc and the nation. He was an inspirational man and I admired him greatly. Will miss him…. My condolences to his family and loved ones. Om Shanti”

Also known as YCD, Deveshwar had received the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award, in 2011. He was also ranked the seventh best performing CEO in the world by the Harvard Business Review.