Azim Hashim Premji
Business Tycoon & Philanthropist
“We must always begin with our strength.” These are the words of Azim Premji. However, he himself created his strength wherever he ventured. One of India’s richest business tycoons and the chairman of Wipro Limited, Azim Premji – the philanthropist, is the first Indian to sign up for ‘the giving pledge’-a campaign led by Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Due to the sudden demise of his father, he inherited ‘Wipro’ in 1968. The company then was a small cooking oil producer.
Azim Premji is a graduate in electrical engineering from Stanford University, USA. He guided the company through four decades of diversification. The business was diversified into fluid power, soap toiletries, lighting and baby-care products. This young entrepreneur in 1980s recognised the importance of the emerging IT field and took advantage of the vacuum left behind by the expulsion of IBM from India. A $2 million hydrogenated cooking fat company turned into a $7-billion IT, BPO and R&D organisation with a presence in 60 countries. In BPO, Wipro is the leading service provider. With the growth of Wipro, he emerged as a world leader in the software industry. Wipro’s business success had been driven by keeping the customer at the core of everything it does. Premji is a simple man with a frugal lifestyle. He flies economy class and prefers staying in company guest houses rather than luxury hotel suites.
In 2001, he established Azim Premji Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation with a vision of contributing to quality primary education for every child in order to build a fair, equitable and sustainable society. Corporate social responsibility that is the new buzz with the corporates is well understood by Premji. He believes that it is not only enough to employ ethical and ecologically sensitive business principles but also important to actively engage with fundamental societal issues. In the long journey that started in 1960s, the awards too have made their way to this man of high ethical standards. The government of India awarded him with the civilian honour of ‘Padam Bhushan’. He was twice listed amongst the 100 most influential people by TIME magazine. The US-India Business Council has honoured him with the ‘Global Vision Award’. Inarguably the biggest philanthropist of India, he was also bestowed with a lifetime achievement award by The Economic Times. The accolades and awards that Premji has received over the years are numerous. However, he considers them as recognitions for team Wipro.