New Delhi/Bengaluru: Azim Hasham Premji and Wipro Ltd — both born in 1945 — bid a farewell of sorts to each other on Tuesday.
The man who turned Wipro from a little-known producer of edible oils with just $2 million in sales in 1966 to over $8.5 billion in sales in the year ended 31 March, attended the last annual meeting of the company as executive chairman on Tuesday after steering it for more than half a century. He will devote his time to philanthropic activities after he retires on 30 July.
The mood at the company’s 73rd annual general meeting was sombre. Known for being frugal in his spending and austere in his lifestyle, Premji went about the day’s proceedings clinically, asking Wipro’s company secretary, M. Sanaulla Khan, or “Sana” as he calls him, if the meeting had the requisite quorum. Sana replied in the affirmative.
He told the company’s shareholders that son Rishad Premji, chief strategy officer and member of the board, would take over as executive chairman from 31 July.
“He (Rishad) has been an integral part of the leadership team since 2007, and has a deep understanding of the company, its business strategy, its culture and its heritage. He is also completely committed to the values, which form the bedrock of Wipro,” Premji said.
Premji expressed confidence that Wipro will be able to far outshine anything that has been done before.
“To lead in this time of rapid change, we have sharpened our strategy into four pillars based on what our clients need —business re-imagination, engineering transformation and modernization, connected intelligence and trust,” he said.
“In order to build the capabilities that are needed to deliver these strategies, we have been investing significantly in four areas—digital, cloud, engineering services and cyber security,” he added.
Premji’s principled and unwavering approach towards ethics, and attention to detail, transformed Western India Vegetable Products Ltd into Wipro, now India’s fourth largest software services firm.
Premji stands tall in India’s short list of philanthropists. In a country where giving is for others to do, the total value of funds committed by the Padma Vibhushan awardee to philanthropic activities is a staggering ₹1.45 trillion ($21 billion). This includes a 67% economic ownership of Wipro.