The name of Azim Premji brings two thoughts to mind. The owner/promoter of Wipro, one of the largest IT companies in the world. The man who has achieved the status of “The Richest Indian”. But what is important to mention is that this legendary person's lifestyle is simple. Most people who know Azim are aware that he avoids anything that is too much extravagance. He flies economy class, avoids staying in five star hotels, and prefers clothes, watches and cars that are made in India.
Azim Premji was born on July 24, 1945 in a wealthy business family when he was 21, he lost his father. He was studying Engineering at Stanford University, USA at that time. He had to rush back to India to deal with this heavy loss. He knew that it was time for him to enter the family business, as there was no one else to carry on his father's legacy. He joined "Wipro", his father's vegetable oil business. Azim started off his career in Wipro with a simple Vision to build an organization on a foundation of Values.
This was in 1966, when the massive computer revolution was round the corner. Azim realized that there was a world of opportunities in the Information Technology field and decided to build his business empire in it. Azim Premji was rated the richest person in the country from 1999 to 2005 by Forbes. His wealth in 2006 was estimated at US$14.8 Billion. Under Azim Premji's leadership Wipro has metamorphosed from a Rs.70 million company in hydrogenated cooking fats to a 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.
This status was however not achieved overnight. This happened over the years, with Azim and his team believing in delivering Value to the Customer through world-class quality Processes. This belief has driven Wipro's efforts on Quality. Azim Premji often says, "Quality is equal to Integrity both being non-negotiable." When it comes to Integrity there are many legendary stories about Azim Premji.
At one time, when Azim had taken over his father's business and wanted to expand. He had o install a substation for his Vanaspati unit. He had to wait for 18 months to get this going as Wipro refused to bribe the concerned people. It took nearly 20 months and cost the company dearly, but Azim preferred that to breaking his values. This speaks volumes for the man's attitude.
Azim's focus on growing the business has not diminished over the years. He makes it a point to deal directly with customers as much a possible. Azim has created an extremely loyal team and together he and his employees practice the values Wipro has adopted - Human Values, Integrity, Innovative Solutions and Values for Money.
Azim is a visionary in every way, and this is reflected in a speech he gave in an International IT Conference at Bangalore. He said in context of India succeeding as a nation, “We need a shared Vision that will ignite the imagination of all the partners - the Industry, the Government and the Educational Institutions. The Industry will have to bring in the entrepreneurial spirit, the Government will have to contribute the appropriate infrastructure and legal support and the Educational Institutions must build the talent base." The levels of success have not made Azim forget his social obligations. He is involved in various activities for the development of people, especially children in third world countries.
In 2001, Azim established the Azim Premji Foundation, a non-profit organization, which contributes to quality universal education for children. Azim has personally contributed the financial resources to this foundation. The current programs of the Azim Premji Foundation engage 1.8 million children under various programs. His phenomenal growth has been complemented by befitting awards. In 2000, he was voted among the 20 most powerful men in the world by Asia week. He was also among the 50 richest people in the world from 2001 to 2003 according to Forbes, a leading financial magazine. According to a2003 BBC report, he is "regarded as an Indian Bill Gates".
In April 2004, he was rated among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. In 2005, Azim Premji was honoured with Padma Bhushan. He was awarded a Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.), an honorary degree, from the Aligarh Muslim University on the 18th of June, 2008 on the occasion of 58th Convocation Ceremony of the University. Despite all the world media attention and noise, Azim, Premji has a sane head on his shoulders. He continues in the same way that he started off almost 40 years ago. He believes in adding value to his employees through constant training and rewards and recognition programmes. Research and quality are still the two sacred words in the Wipro shop floor.
Azim Premji's dream has come true, but he is not resting on laurels. He has one more dream. He wants to take his company Wipro, and India to heights that no one has reached before. And no one has a doubt that he will achieve this too.