Azim Hasham Premji

Engineer , Billionaire and

Chairman of Wipro Corporation

Azim Hasham Premji
Net worth: Rs 418.05 billion

Premji places tremendous emphasis on people development and believes that Wipro's sucess is due to its people.

For a brief while before the stock markets crashed this year, Azim Hasham Premji was the second richest man in the world; he continues to be the richest man in India. And for all this, the chairman of Wipro Corporation remains an enigma - a shy and reticent leader of a company that has become the symbol of the information technology revolution sweeping India.

Premji strongly believes that successful organisations prepare for the future, and the customer is the key to his future. He has charted a clear vision for Wipro, and has tried to bring in human values other than those of integrity, innovation and value-for-money.

Known for an almost fanatical obsession with excellence, he invests personal time in teaching and coaching future leaders of the corporation to achieve their potential .

In an interview with a website, Premji said, "Together with a professional team, we have built a very successful organisation. Our experience has taught us that people and organisations live for the future. And it is the customer who really has the choice to grant us that future."

The future, according to him will see significant changes in technology, economy and society. "But what will remain unchanged is the need of the customer for an organisation with a human face,"he said.

He said being ethical is a business tool that gives structure to Wipro's functioning and brings in more business in the long run.

"We have had no problem with practising the value of integrity. Because Wipro has a reputation of being transparent in every respect, we have saved time and effort in conducting business interactions and Wipro employees have been able to stand public scrutiny and maintain their self esteem under all eventualities."

To be able to predict the future and be there before the rest has always demarcated the winner from the also-rans. And Premji has over the past decade come out as a business man who has a finger on the pulse on the way the world is thinking.

"The e-economy will also see the advent of the digital marketplace. By year 2004, and for it organisations entering e-business, the opportunities are enormous in developing components that enable the digital marketplace," is typical Premjispeak.

The fact that he is a visionary comes from getting his basics right in a constantly changing and dynamic technology age.

According to him, what is important is not your existing knowledge alone, but your ability to keep refreshing it dynamically. "Long ago, I learnt that the future is not what happens to you, but what you make of it. Do not wait for opportunity to come your way. Actively search for opportunities and grab them when you see them. Accept the certainty of uncertainty. Things no longer hapen in a linear, predictable manner. Use yor imagination. Sometimes experience creates fixed patterns that come in the way of imagination," he said.

Be it taking Wipro on the e-path on constantly looking at rearranging business divisions within the company to be more responsive to consumer needs, Premji has lead with example and vision.

Today Wipro Corp holds abut 20 intellectual properties in verious disciplines of emerging technology areas and top executives agree that this has largely been possible only because of Premji.

Even top executives who have left Wipro have had only the nicest of words to describe Premji and have never faulted him publicly while parting ways with the company.

Wirpo as a company has been built on te quality of the people that it has employed over the years. And even his worst critics admit that Premji has an uncanny ability to recruit the best talent available and make them work for Wipro.

"When I look back, I realise that Wipro was not blessed with the abundance of resources that many multinational corporations have. What accounted for its success was its integrity, unshakable self-confidence, determination and effort to better global competition, relentless work towards achieving this and its ability to acquire world-class processes, develop world-class teams and attract world-class leadership," Premji says.

Global competence

And these are not just were words as action followed. Wipro is the first company in India to receive SEI-CMM Level 5, the highest global distinction in quality from the Software Engineering Institute of the US, for its entire software business.

Wipro pioneered the concept of Six Sigma quality in India and has earned significant savings from this initiative both through cycle time reduction and defect reduction in its products and services.

Premji has been criticised by the media and people from time to time that the wealth he had created was not being shared enough. Justifiable criticism, some critics would say but the number of crorepatis that Wipro has spawned would have you believe otherwise.

On creating shareholder value, Premji has stuck to ensuring that Wipro continues to perform, grow, and continues to enjoy the trust that the organisation enjoys with its investors.

Trust is built around integrity and takes time to develop. And Wipro as a corporation has today not many unhappy shareholders. Premji is a simple man who uses simple words and has simple tastes.

Picture India's richest man eating at a roadside stall, driving his own Ford Escort, jogging up the steps to his office, or travelling economy class! That is just the way he is and people have found it hard to digest.

For a person who studied engineering, is an alumnus of Stanford University, US, and joined Wipro in 1966 at the age of 21, Premji has traversed a long way.

He has transformed a company that sold edible oil into one which is working on the cutting edge of technology. And in the process, he has become a global-scale enterpreneur.