Azim Premji Biography

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Azim Premji factsheet

Azim Premji
Name Azim Premji
Born on 24 July 1945
Place of Birth Mumbai, India
Educated from Stanford University
Works for Wipro
Valued at US $ 19.1 billion
Position CEO
Married to Yasmeen

About Azim Premji

Born on 24 July 1945, Azim Premji is one of the instantly recognizable faces in the Indian business industry. Apart from being a business tycoon, he is the Chairman of Wipro and a
well-known philanthropist. He is also unofficially regarded as the Czar of the information technology industry of India. Ever since its inception, Wipro – under Premji’s capable guidance and leadership – has kept growing and diversifying and is right now held as one of the leading companies in its domain in the country. Premji was also supposedly the wealthiest person in the country in the six-year span of 1999 through 2005 according to Forbes.

The same globally-revered magazine also states that as of 2015, he is the fourth richest in India and 61st across the world. As of 2014, his personal wealth totalled to 16.4 billion. His personal net worth was estimated at 19.1 billion dollars in March 2015. During 2010, he was voted in Asia Week as one of the 20 most powerful men in the continent. TIME Magazine has twice enlisted him among the most influential 100 people in the world – first in 2004 and then in 2011. Premji holds 75% of the shares of his company, besides owning a private equity fund named Premjiinvest. Premjiinvest is responsible for managing the personal investment portfolio of Premji, which is estimated to be worth a billion dollars.

Azim Premji's Family

Azim Premji was born in Mumbai on 24 July 1945. He is a Gujarati Muslim and his family is originally from Kutch. His father Mohamed Hashem Premji was a famous businessman in his time and was also referred to as the ‘Rice King of Burma’. When India was partitioned, Muhammad Ali Jinnah – the founding father of Pakistan – had invited Premji’s father to stay over there. However, this request was turned down by Mohamed Premji. Azim Premji is married to Yasmeen Premji and they have two sons – Tariq and Rishad. Rishad is currently working as the Chief Strategy Officer for the IT business activities of Wipro.

Education of Azim Premji

Azim Premji obtained a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. This is almost equal in importance to a graduate degree in engineering in India.

Azim Premji's Career

Premji’s career started in 1966 when he had to cut short his education at Stanford University upon receiving the news of his father’s demise and come back home to take charge of his father’s company, which had been started in 1945. At that time, Wipro was working out of a small town in Maharashtra named Amalner and dealt in Sunflower Vanaspati, a cooking oil brand, and 787, a laundry soap that was the byproduct of cooking oil production.

Premji managed to diversify the company’s offerings by starting the production of bakery fat, various kinds of lights and related products, toiletries made from locally available ingredients, hydraulic cylinders, hair care soaps and toiletries for babies. Thanks to his visionary capabilities, he was able to understand the potential of information technology in the 1980s.

At that time, there was a significant gap in the IT market in India when IBM was shown the door. So, Premji changed the name of his company to Wipro and started to make microcomputers so as to gain entry into the sector for high technology products. In this project, he collaborated with Sentinel Computer Corporation, an American organization. Very soon, he made a complete shift from fast moving consumer goods to the technology industry.

NGOs and Foundations Opened by Azim Premji

The life and times of Azim Premji are testament to the fact that he believes in giving back to the society in a meaningful manner and help it go ahead. In that vein, he has opened a number of charitable institutions and NGOs over the years. He has also taken part in some key charitable initiatives.

Azim Premji Foundation

The Azim Premji Foundation was established in 2001 and is a major part of the philanthropic work done by Premji. It is a not-for-profit entity and its main aim is to come up with contributions that can help in realizing a level of universal education, which, in turn, will lead to a society that has values like justice, equality, humanity and sustainability at its core. The basic area of work of the foundation is elementary education.

Through its work in this sensitive area of education in India, the Azim Premji Foundation is attempting to come up with proofs of concept that can change the very system in which the government-owned schools operate in India. The emphasis is on improving the quality of education on offer and bringing the schools at par with the best schools across the country. Most of these schools are in the rural area and this is where the foundation has been focusing to a significant extent. It currently functions in the states mentioned below:
  • Karnataka
  • Puducherry
  • Uttarakhand
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Rajasthan
  • Bihar
  • Chhattisgarh
  • Madhya Pradesh

Azim Premji Trust

During December 2010, Premji promised to provide 2 billion dollars for making school education in the country better than what it was. He transferred equity shares – amounting to 213 million in number – from his company to the Azim Premji Trust. This is supposed to be the biggest ever educational donation in the country.

Azim Premji University

The Azim Premji University was set up as per an act passed by the legislative assembly of Karnataka. Its main aim is to conceive and execute programmes that can help in the development of the overall educational scenario as well as a well-trained workforce. It also attempts to provide substitute models for changing the educational scenario. The university also puts in money in educational research with the end aim of widening the horizon of educational thoughts in India.

Participation in The Giving Pledge

The Giving Pledge is a campaign, a brainchild of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Its primary aim is to provide encouragement to rich people to come forward and commit a part of their riches to philanthropic activities. Azim Premji is the first Indian to have signed up for the programme. In fact, he is the third person from outside the United States of America – he is preceded by David Sainsbury and Richard Branson - to have become a part of this initiative. As of April 2013, Premji has donated at least 25% of his personal wealth to the said charity.

Awards and Recognition won by Azim Premji

Over his illustrious career, Azim Premji has received a lot of honour and respect and been conferred with many awards. Business Week has hailed him as one of the 30 Greatest Entrepreneurs of all Time, which is no mean feat considering the global reach of the said publication. This recognition was in honour of the role that he has played over the years in making Wipro one of the top business organizations across the world in terms of growth.

Manipal University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate during 2000 and six years later, the National Institute of Industrial Engineering, Mumbai, conferred on him the Lakshya Business Visionary Award. The Wesleyan University of Middletown Connecticut awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2009. This was conferred as a way of appreciating the exceptional work that Premji had done in terms of philanthropy. His contributions to the world of trade and commerce were recognized when the Indian Government bestowed on him the title of Padma Bhushan in 2005. He received the Padma Vibhushan, which is the second most prestigious civilian award in India, in 2011. He also got the Economic Times Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

Last upadted on May 23, 2015