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At the first annual general meeting of the company attended by Azim Premji, a shareholder doubted Premji’s ability to handle business at such a young age and publicly advised him to sell his shareholding and give it to a more mature management. This spurred Azim Premji and made him all the more determined to make Wipro a success story. And the rest is history.

Azim Hashim Premji, born on July 24, 1945, is a man of power and strength. He is a business tycoon, philanthropist and the chairman of Wipro Limited, a group company that holds Wipro Technologies, India’s third largest software development company. He is an icon among Indian businessmen and his success story is a source of inspiration to a number of budding entrepreneurs.
Premji was born to a Gujarati Khoja, Shia Islamic family at Karachi, present day Pakistan. His father MH Premji owned the Western India Products (which later became Wipro Ltd.) that made hydrogenated vegetable oils and fats. His grandfather was the rice king of Burma. While Premji completed his initial education at St. Mary’s School, Mumbai, he was forced to leave his studies in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, California, USA at the age of 21 to take over the family business when his father suddenly died in 1966. He, however, after a gap of 30 years, completed the engineering degree in 1999. Premji is married to Yasmeen; the couple has two children, Rishad and Tariq. Rishad is currently the Chief Strategy Officer of IT Business, Wipro Technologies while Tariq,has co-founded a dotcom and works from Bangalore. However, Premji who holds 78% stakes in Wipro does not believe in naming one of his sons as his successor just for the norms.Wipro grew from a company of US $2.5 million to a giant of $1.4 billion under Azim Premji’s leadership. When he took the lead, the company dealt in hydrogenated cooking fats and later diversified to bakery fats, ethnic ingredient based toiletries, hair care soaps, baby toiletries, lighting products, and hydraulic cylinders. Thereafter Premji made a focused shift from soaps to software. Wipro was the pioneer in providing integrated business, technology and process solutions on a global delivery platform. Today, Wipro Technologies is the largest independent R&D service provider in the world. It entered the IT field, taking advantage of the expulsion of IBM from the Indian market in 1975. Wipro Technologies is ranked among the top 100 technology companies globally. It works with leading global companies, such as Alcatel, Nokia, Cisco, Ericsson and Nortel and has a joint venture in Medical Systems with General Electric Company.
Despite all the success, the media-shy Premji maintained a low profile, letting his work do all the talking; until when the media broke the story that Azim Premji had become the second-richest man in the world. In spite of his billions, he still travels economy class, stays in budget hotels and drives a Toyota Corolla! In 2000, Asiaweek magazine voted Premji among the 20 most powerful men in the world. He was among the 50 richest people in the world from 2001 to 2003 listed by Forbes. In April 2004, Times Magazine rated him among the 100 most influential people in the world. He is also the richest Indian for the past several years. In 2005, Government of India honored Azim Premji with Padma Bhushan. As on March 9, 2010, he was one of the wealthiest people in India, with a net worth of $17 billion. The Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee and the Manipal Academy of Higher Education have both conferred honorary doctorates on him. He is also a member of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee for Information Technology in India.

In 2001, Premji established the Azim Premji Foundation, a not-for-profit organization with a Vision of significantly contributing to quality universal education to build a just, equitable and humane society. This means every child should receive quality education. The foundation works closely with the State Governments of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh etc and the programs cover over 5000 rural schools. The financial resources to this foundation have been personally contributed by Premji. In December 2010, he pledged to donate $2 billion for improving school education in India. This would be done by transferring 213 million equity shares of Wipro Ltd, held by a few entities controlled by him, to the Azim Premji Trust. This donation is the first of its kind by any Indian billionaire.

Premji’s story of success and prominence clearly shows how determination and perseverance, when coupled with knowledge, clear vision and proper planning, enable one to reach the peak of success and leadership. To end with Azim Premji’s strong belief: “Ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things, have the courage to think big.”

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