Azim Premji, Chairman of Wipro Technologies is one of India’s most respected industrialists and philanthropists. Born on July 24, 1945, to an affluent Gujarati entrepreneur, he inherited Wipro, a vegetable oil company at the age of 21 after the sudden demise of his father.
While pursuing a degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in the USA in 1966, Azim Premji took on the responsibility of managing his family’s business. Initially, he faced skepticism and was advised to sell his shares to more experienced individuals. However, this fuelled his determination to make Wipro a successful enterprise, leading to its remarkable history.
The Path of Expansion
Wipro initially focused on producing hydrogenated cooking fats, but later diversified into other areas such as bakery fats, ethnic ingredient-based toiletries, hair care soaps, baby toiletries, lighting products, and hydraulic cylinders. In the 1970s, Wipro strategically shifted
its focus from soap production to software services, taking advantage of IBM’s departure from the Indian market. This decision was pivotal in making Premji one of the wealthiest people in India and positioning Wipro among the top global leaders.
Thanks to his leadership, Wipro has undergone a remarkable transformation from a Rs.70 million company that produced hydrogenated cooking fats to a pioneer in delivering integrated business, technology, and process solutions on a global delivery platform. Wipro Technologies currently holds the distinction of being the world’s largest independent R&D service provider and is ranked among the top 100 technology companies worldwide.
The company’s IT division achieved a significant milestone by becoming the first in the world to obtain SEI CMM Level 5 and PCMM Level 5 (People Capability Maturity Model) certification, the latest in quality standards. The IT division is responsible for generating a significant portion of the company’s revenue. Additionally, Wipro has formed partnerships with leading global companies such as Alcatel, Nokia, Cisco, Ericsson, and Nortel, and has established a joint venture in Medical Systems with General Electric Company.
Awards and Recognition
The Indian government honored Premji in 2005 with the Padma Bhushan award. In 2011, he received the Padma Vibhushan award, India’s second-highest civilian honor.
Despite his vast wealth, Premji is renowned for his unpretentiousness and modesty. He chooses to drive a Toyota Corolla and fly in economy class, and prefers staying in company guest houses instead of luxurious hotels.
A Man With Purpose
As a part of his Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, Premji founded the Azim Premji Foundation in 2001. The Foundation offers degrees in teacher training and is actively involved in computer-based assessment programs in Andhra Pradesh, a learning guarantee program, and a policy planning unit in Karnataka. In 2010, Premji made an unprecedented commitment to donate USD 2 billion towards improving school education in India, becoming the first Indian billionaire to do so.
At the age of 65, Premji continues to lead Wipro through four decades of diversification, establishing it as a leading brand in the software industry. He is an iconic figure among Indian business leaders and serves as a source of inspiration for budding entrepreneurs. Currently, he is focused on shaping Wipro’s third epoch in ecology.
Azim Premji is considered an inspiration for his remarkable business acumen and leadership skills. Additionally, his philanthropic endeavors through the Azim Premji Foundation demonstrate his commitment to improving education and social welfare in India. Moreover, Premji is known for his modesty, simplicity, and ethical business practices, despite his enormous wealth and success.
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