Azim Hashim Premji is an Indian business magnate and the chairman of Wipro Limited, a multinational information technology consulting and systems integration services company that is currently one of the world’s largest IT services companies. Premji, who became chairman of Wipro nearly half a century ago, guided the company through decades of expansion and diversification, transforming it into one of India’s largest publicly traded companies. Originally founded by Premji’s father as a vegetable products and refined oil company, the company entered the computer business in the 1970s under Premji’s leadership. Soon after, the company carved out a niche for itself in the software market and grew to become one of the industry’s global leaders. Azim Premji grew up in a privileged environment as the son of a successful businessman. He attended Stanford University to study engineering after completing his high school education. However, due to his father’s untimely death back home, he was forced to return and assume control of his father’s business. He earned notoriety not only as a successful businessman, but also for the high ethical standards he upholds in his company and his commitment to giving back to society.
Childhood & Adolescence
Azim Premji was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, on July 24, 1945, into a Nizari Ismaili Shia Muslim family. Mohamed Hashem Premji was a prominent businessman who founded Western Indian Vegetable Products Ltd., a company that dealt in vegetable products and refined oils. “Vanaspati,” a hydrogenated shortening, was one of the company’s most well-known products.
British India was partitioned in 1947, and Jinnah invited senior Premji to visit Pakistan. Despite being Muslim, the family chose to remain in India.
Azim Premji moved to the United States after completing his education to study engineering at Stanford University.
However, shortly before his graduation in 1966, his father died unexpectedly, and he was forced to return home and assume control of the business. Years later, he would earn his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.
Career of Azim
Azim Premji assumed control of his father’s business in 1966, at the age of 21. At the time, the company’s primary business was manufacturing hydrogenated oils. Premji sought diversification opportunities and sought to expand the business beyond refined oils shortly after assuming control.
Soon after, the company expanded its portfolio to include bakery fats, toiletries, light bulbs, hair care products, and hydraulic cylinders. Premji renamed the company “Wipro” in 1977, when it ceased to deal exclusively in vegetable products.
IBM was expelled from India by the Indian government in 1979. Premji recognized this as an excellent opportunity to enter the emerging computer hardware and software markets and began diversifying Wipro’s business.
Throughout the 1980s, the company formed partnerships with several other computer-related businesses, including an American company called Sentinel Computer Corporation, and established Wipro as a successful manufacturer of computer hardware. Eventually, the company expanded into the software sector as well.
Premji ensured that his company hired the best minds in software engineering and provided them with world-class training to further hone their skills. This enabled Wipro to develop high-quality software at a fraction of the cost of
American firms, enabling Wipro to successfully export custom software to the United States. By the late 1990s, the company had achieved enormous success, and Wipro’s value had skyrocketed. The company’s increasing wealth also ensured that Premji became one of the world’s wealthiest businessmen. The ‘Business Week’ lauded him as one of the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs for transforming Wipro into one of the world’s fastest growing companies.
Significant Works of Azim
Azim Premji inherited Western Indian Vegetable Products Ltd, a manufacturer of hydrogenated cooking oil, and transformed it into Wipro, an information technology consulting and system integration services company that is now one of the world’s largest information technology services firms. As of March 2015, the company operated in 67 countries and had a market capitalization of approximately $ 35 billion.
Awards and Accomplishments
Azim Premji has received numerous honorary degrees. In 2000, the Manipal Academy of Higher Education bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate, and in 2009, Wesleyan University in Connecticut bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate for his outstanding philanthropic work.
He was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2005 for his outstanding contributions to trade and commerce.
In 2011, the Government of India bestowed upon him the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second highest civilian honor.
Personal History and Legacies
He is married to Yasmeen and the couple has two sons, Rishad and Tariq. Rishad is currently the Chief Strategy Officer of Wipro’s Information Technology business.
Works of Philanthropy
Azim Premji is a strong believer in giving back to society. In 2001, he established the Azim Premji Foundation, a not-for-profit organization. Through this foundation, he hopes to contribute to the achievement of universal access to quality education in rural India in order to foster the development of a more equitable and sustainable society. The foundation operates in five states: Karnataka, Rajasthan, Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar.
He is the first Indian to take the Warren Buffett and Bill Gates-led Giving Pledge. The campaign’s goal is to persuade the world’s wealthiest individuals to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to charitable causes.
Estimated Net Worth
Azim Premji’s net worth was $17.1 billion in August 2015.