Indian entrepreneur Azim Premji’s story is one that evokes respect and simultaneously serves to inspire every entrepreneur out there. He managed to turn a small, family-owned cooking-oil company into Wipro Limited, a multinational conglomerate focused on providing technology outsourcing services. So how did his story start? Let’s find out, shall we?
Azim Hasham Premji was born July 24, 1945, in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, at the cusp of India’s independence and the partition. Azim Premji’s biography reads like a tale of many who were born or grew up in the tumultuous years of British India, but his rise to success is noteworthy.
Shortly after the partition of colonial India took place, the country was bifurcated into predominantly Hindu India and a Mulsim majority Pakistan. However, the Premji family decided to stay back in India, and Azim Premji completed his studies in Mumbai.
In 1966, just as Premji was about to complete his engineering degree at Stanford University, the news of his father’s demise brought him back to India and placed his education on the backburner. He then became the chair of Wipro at the age of 21 amidst a shareholder revolt.
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He diversified the business and expanded into sectors such as hygiene, home care, personal care, male grooming, and office solutions. Wipro entered the IT space in 1980 after IBM withdrew from the country. The 1980s saw a series of ventures by Azim Premji and Wipro. He started a manufacturing plant for hydraulic tipping systems in 1983, followed by manufacturing industrial cylinders and hydraulic cylinders. The company first manufactured microcomputers under a technology-sharing agreement with U.S.-based Sentinel Computers. Later, it provided software solutions to complement its hardware operations.
In 1989, Wipro formed a strategic joint venture with General Electric (GE) to manufacture and distribute imaging products called Wipro GE Medical Systems, which became a subsidiary of Wipro the following year.
Wipro successfully forayed into building computer hardware in India when the usage of computers was still in its infancy. However, software development made the company’s operations financially lucrative.
Wipro developed cost-effective proprietary software that was primarily for export.
Wipro’s stock value saw a substantial increase thanks to increased valuations of technology stocks in the 1990s. The skyrocketing value saw Premji emerge as one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the world.
Despite being a wealthy individual, Premji personally is known for his modesty and lack of extravagance. He established the Azim Premji Foundation in 2001 to improve the quality of education in the rural heartland of India with an initial funding of $2.2 billion. Azim Premji is also a signatory to The Giving Pledge, a list of wealthy individuals who have pledged to give away 50% of their wealth in their lifetime or in wills.A recipient of both the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards, Azim Premji, handed over the reins of Wipro to his son and now devotes more time to his philanthropic activities. Azim Premji’s Biography is inspirational in both a humanitarian and an entrepreneurial way.