Azim Hashim Premji is an Indian business tycoon, investor, engineer, and philanthropist, who is also the chairman of Wipro Limited. Wipro is an Indian multinational corporation providing IT, consulting and business process services. Under Azim Premji’s leadership through four decades, Wipro stands today as one of the global leaders in the software industry. Azim is currently the second richest person in India with an estimated net worth of US$21.5 billion. He has been listed in TIME’s 100 most influential people twice, once in 2004 and once in 2011.
Azim Premji had a privileged childhood. However, it scarcely takes away from his achievements. Azim also certainly has a good perspective on his wealth given his huge philanthropic work. In 1966, on the news of his father’s death, the then 21-year-old Azim Premji returned home from Stanford University, where he was studying engineering, to take charge of Wipro. Years later he would finish his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.
Wipro in 1966 dealt only in hydrogenated oil manufacturing but Azim Premji’s vision saw it later diversified to different industries especially those related to soaps. Seeing a vacuum left by IBM’s exit from India in 1978, and recognizing the importance of the emerging IT field, he entered Wipro into the high-technology sector and shifted its focus from soaps to software. By hiring the best minds in software engineering and providing them with top-notch training, Wipro was able to develop high-quality software at considerably lower costs compared to American companies, enabling them to export custom software to the US with great success. It is currently one of the fastest-growing global IT services brands. Wipro has consistently maintained high ethical standards.
Azim is well-known for his outstanding philanthropic work. In April 2013, he said he has already given more than 25 percent of his personal wealth to charity. In 2001, he founded his non-profit organization, Azim Premji Foundation. In December 2010, he donated US$2 billion for improving school education in India which was done by transferring 213 million equity shares of Wipro Ltd to the Azim Premji Trust. Years later on March 2019, he would outdo himself by donating a stunning US$7.5 billion to charity by pledging 34% of Wipro stock. It is the single largest contribution to an Indian foundation on record and possibly the biggest donation ever given to charity. His total endowment to the foundation amounts to US$21 billion.
It is a testament to Azim that his business career and philanthropy are two outstanding beacons of inspiration. He transformed his company from humble beginnings to one of the global leaders in IT. In 2011, he was awarded the Padma Vibushan, the second-highest civilian award by the Government of India.