Azim Premji is a renowned investor and owner of Wipro Limited (WIT), India’s fourth largest IT services outsourcer. Besides his capital, he is known for his business skills and philanthropy. Let’s take a look at Azim Premji’s biography to understand how he went from a small family business owner to one of India’s most influential entrepreneurs.
Who is Azim Premji?
Azim Premji is a man of many titles. He founded and was the chairman of Wipro, one of the largest companies in India dealing with IT. Apart from being a family man with two sons and a wife, Yasmeen is an engineer by profession. This billionaire and investor has touched the hearts of many because of philanthropic initiatives and activities across India and beyond.
Early life and education
Let’s start with Azim Premji’s childhood and then talk about the education that helped him build a company as big as Wipro.
Azim Hashim Premji’s birth dates back to the 24th day of July 1945 in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. In the same year, his father founded a company that dealt with the production of vanaspati (hydrogenated cooking fats) and named it Western India Vegetable Products Limited.
Azim Premji was schooled at St. Mary’s School I.C.S.E, located at Mazagaon in Mumbai. He then joined Stanford University in the USA, California, and undertook a degree in Electrical Engineering.
In 1966, a term before he could finish his bachelor’s degree, he received the news of his father’s demise, which came as a shock (Azim was 21 years then). It forced him to move from the USA and return to India to give the father a decent send-off and take over the family business.
To finish the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Premji eventually applied for and was granted permission to take courses via correspondence. As a result, he graduated and became a qualified electrical engineer in 1999 – 30 years later after dropping out.
Let’s take a closer look at all Azim Premji’s achievements.
Coming up Wipro
Premji took over his father’s business and raised it a notch higher than it was. First, he added other products into the industry, including consumer products such as shoes, soaps, and hydraulic cylinders, among others which did well in the market. Azim Premji also renamed the company to Wipro in 1977.
Delving into IT at just the right time
IBM leaving India in 1979 served as a greater advantage to Azim Premji since it gave him an opportunity to delve into the computer business, which he did in 1980. Although Wipro began with hardware operations producing minicomputers, the company later embraced software development by picking the best and most well-trained developers in India. Thanks to this business, Wipro picked up well and gained an excellent reputation.
The company also gained a name because it invested in its employees by providing them with training to provide the best services, which were mainly for exports to the United States. Wipro also established a Business Process Outsourcing unit in 2002.
Forming a strategic venture with GE
Wipro formed a corporate strategy venture with General Electric (GE) in 1989 to manufacture and distribute imaging products called Wipro GE Medical Systems, which became a subsidiary of the company in 1990.
Azim Premji has received many awards and titles, to name a few:
- The National Institute of Industrial Engineering awarded him a Lakshya Business Visionary in Mumbai in 2006.
- The Indian Government also awarded him the Padma Bhushan in 2005 for his outstanding contributions to commerce and trade.
- According to Time magazine, Azim Premji was included in the list of 100 most influential people worldwide.
- Business Week named Azim Premji one of the 30 Greatest Entrepreneurs of all time.
Wealth and philanthropy
When Azim Premji took over the family business, it was worth around $2 million, and by 2017 it had increased to over $1.7 billion (after the implementation of IT solutions). The company’s value skyrocketed more when technology stocks increased, making Azim Premji the most prosperous entrepreneur worldwide throughout the 21st century. His net worth is around $3 billion.
As his capital increased, the owner of Wipro looked for opportunities to invest and help people. Let’s take a look at some of his philanthropic acts.
Establishing the Azim Premji foundation
To raise the standard of elementary education in rural areas across India, he founded the Azim Premji Foundation- a non-profit organization, by giving 2/3 of his Wipro stocks in 2001. The foundation had added computer-assisted instruction to more than 16,000 schools by the end of the twenty-first century’s first decade, with kid-friendly content becoming more and more readily available in local languages. He also runs Ajeem Premji University.
The giving pledge
In 2013, Premji signed the Giving Pledge, a pledge by the richest people in the world to donate most of their capital to charity. He became the first person from India to make such a pledge and has already donated $21 billion.
The Wipro company owner Azim Premji also gave Rs 7,904 crore to charitable activities in 2020, and in 2021, he ranked top on the EdelGive Hurun India Philanthropy Record for the umpteenth time, with a donor of Rs 9,713 crore.
Azim Premji leaves behind the following legacies.
Azim’s philanthropic acts
Among the many things, Premji will be remembered for is his philanthropy which will be his defining legacy for ages. Besides, despite the capital he owns, his modesty and high ethical business conduct cannot be compared to his peers in the corporate world.
Going past the economic deregulation
Wipro did not lag behind even after the economic deregulation that was announced in 1991 in India. The company instead ventured into the production and manufacturing of other products, including powders, medical equipment printers, and IT products, making the brainchild of Azim Premji thrive more. Wipro became the second-largest listed company in India and one of the biggest exporters of software from the country.
Y2K certificate compliance
As the year 2000 approached, most people in the IT sector feared that their programs would not function properly since the computers could only allow two digits instead of four digits for the year section.
A system had to be developed to make the computer compliant with the Y2K (“the year 2000”), and Wipro became the first software company to comply and receive this certificate. However, as a result, nothing much happened that could affect computer programs in 2000.
Being listed on the US Stock Exchange
Wipro raised approximately US$131 million in gross aggregate proceeds in its initial US public offering of American Depositary Shares (“ADSs”), which appeared on the New York Stock Exchange in October 2000.
The company stocks on the Indian Stock Exchange maintained its legacy as the best performer for five years, from 1998 to 2003.
Wipro’s corporate structure
One of the most important questions about company structure is: Who is the chairman of Wipro? Vivek Paul became Wipro’s CEO in 1999 and served for six years until 2005. His contribution to the company was genuinely significant since he took over when it made millions and left it at the billion-dollar bar.
Azim Premji took over as the CEO and served in this capacity until 2008, leading to a bit of change in the organization’s corporate structure from single to joint CEOs for three years. A new position Chief Operating Officer (COO), was created. The intention was to offer general support to the CEO and carry out other company activities, ensuring customer satisfaction and on-time product delivery.
Azim Premji was the chairman of the Wipro board till 2019, when he stepped down and delegated authority to his firstborn son, Rishad Premji. The Wipro company is still doing great, with a record of over 659 billion Indian rupees net worth as of 2022.
Where is Azim Premji’s house?
Azim Premji, who is the owner and founder of Wipro, established his residence in Bangalore, India, the same city that the Wipro company is.
How many shares in Wipro does Azim Premji own?
The promoter group led by Azim Premji owns approximately 73% of Wipro’s shares.
The founder of Wipro has created much capital over the years, and all his contributions to charity are evidence that Azim Premji never sought to benefit only himself and his family. Though he passed the leadership of Wipro to his son, his name will be remembered for many years for his outstanding contribution to the Indian economy and the lives of ordinary people.