It has been told and retold to us how the character of human, his attitude towards the problems, and his determination, shapes his future. Then there are few others, whose grit not just transform their own future, but change the lives of many. This is the story of such an Indian entrepreneur, Azim Premji.
Azim Premji before Wipro
Azim Premji’s father owned a ‘hydrogenated cooking fats’ company. It was called ‘Western India Vegetable Products’. If you remember ‘Dalda Ghee’, it is Wipro’s oldest product. Azim went to Stanford University to study engineering. However, one fateful day he had to arrive immediately leaving everything, because of his father’s sudden demise.
It was year 1966. Azim was just 21. He had to take over an entire business that valued $2 million.
Taking the reins
Though Azim Premji took reins of ‘Western India Vegetable Product’, shareholders did not welcome him wholeheartedly. They were not ready to trust a 21 year old and give him the charge. There was a revolt. However, by the virtue of owning of more than 90% shares, nobody could do much.
Azim started working and in no time, he expanded the company in innumerable domains. On one side, it moved into more consumer-based goods. Company started manufacturing bakery fats, toiletries, soaps, and lighting products. On the other side, they also produced industrial hydraulic cylinders.
‘Western India Vegetable Product’ was now in able hands.
Wipro after Azim Premji
In 1977, the government changed. The new government led by Morarji Desai was against FDI and foreign companies. Companies like Coca-Cola were asked to leave. IBM, the only IT Company in India, also left the shores. Azim Premji envisioned the future. The void created due to exit of IBM gave him a ripe and ready market. ‘Western India Vegetable Product’ was renamed as ‘Wipro’.
It initiated working in IT related services as well. Wipro also collaborated with US based Sentinel Computer Corporation.This was the beginning of the Indian IT revolution that transformed entire nation, especially post liberalization.
In 1989, Wipro collaborated for some time with ‘General Electric’. Wipro-GE manufactured medical imaging and diagnosis devices. In 1999, they worked with Acer to produce personal computers for the Indian market.
In addition, in 1999, Wipro became first Indian computer manufacturer which received Y2K-compliant certification from the National Software Testing Laboratory in the US. It also provided internet services in India with Royal Dutch Telecom (KPN).
In 2000, Wipro listed itself in US through American Depositary Receipts (ADRs). It also became India’s largest software exporter. It had India’s second largest market cap. During the period of 1998-2003, Azim Premji stayed as the richest Indian. Wipro established itself at a peak and until today, no one could challenge the position of Wipro.
A person is never big from his net worth, but with his big heart. Azim Premji is India’s biggest donor who has pledged 39% of Wipro shares for philanthropic activities. This currently values around $8 billion. He is the first Indian to sign ‘The Giving Pledge’ started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.
Other than this, he has also donated an amount of $2 billion to improve education in India. This money is donated to Azim Premji Foundation, which also runs Azim Premji University. He has his own wealth management company, Premji Invest, to take care of his angel investing and venture capitalist activities.
Azim Premji is a celebrated entrepreneur. 50 years before we saw young CEOs dominating the Indian start-up scene, he took over charge of a company. He took it from $2 million to make it a $12 billion enterprise. Azim Premji is truly legendary because he not only lived for himself, but many more.
He chose to donate half his holding in Wipro so that many other lives may transform. He has been honoured with several prestigious awards. Country has conferred him with ‘Padma Vibhushan’. However, the best awards we can give him is being a better citizen and contribute in his vision to transform India and make it a better place.