Yogesh Deveshwar, the longtime head of Indian tobacco maker ITC Ltd., will step down next year and serve a three-year term as chairman of the British American Tobacco Plc associate.

Deveshwar, 69, joined ITC in 1968 and has run Asia’s second-largest tobacco company by market value since 1996. He will relinquish the chief executive role in February and attend his final shareholders’ meeting as CEO next month, the company said in a regulatory filing Tuesday. ITC’s board of directors “strongly urged” Deveshwar to remain CEO, yet he wanted to turn the job over to a younger executive, ITC said. The company did not say who would replace him.

ITC expanded rapidly under Deveshwar, growing revenue tenfold while its shares soared more than 4,200 percent. The CEO tried to reduce ITC’s reliance on cigarettes over the past decade, diversifying into other consumer products such as soaps and snacks. While ITC has emerged as the nation’s second-biggest consumer goods maker in that time with a portfolio spanning foods, apparel and incense, it still relies on tobacco for most of its profits.

Recently, the company has been shutting Indian factories to protest government rules mandating bigger health warnings on its packs, while rising taxes have prompted ITC to sell shorter sticks. India’s government has also barred smoking scenes in films as it seeks to reduce tobacco use and fight related illnesses that kill a million Indians annually.

Deveshwar joined ITC shortly after graduating from the Indian Institute of Technology, and became a director in 1984. He’s also a director on the central board of the Reserve Bank of India. London-based BAT, the maker of Lucky Strike cigarettes, is the part owner of ITC, whose history dates back to 1910.

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