The Billionaire With A Heart
Born on 24th July 1945.
Azim Premji is truly a person who is one-of-his-kind. Although having a grand net worth of US$32.8 billion, he is known as one of the most ethical billionaires to have ever lived. At the age of 74, Premji has left a mark so deeply rooted in the soils of the business industry that even the richest men fall short in comparison to him. The story of this unstoppable tycoon began in Mumbai on this day in 1945, where he was born to a Gujarati Muslim family.
Azim Premji’s father, Mohamed Hashem Premji, was a businessman himself, which was one of the main reasons Azim took interest in industries. Upon the partition of India in 1947, Hashem was offered an opportunity to shift to Pakistan where his fellow Muslims lived. Hashem politely declined this offer as he considered himself to be a true Hindustani, ensuring his family followed the same ideals. Little did he know that his young son would land up becoming one of the reasons for the nation to gleam with pride.
As a kid, Premji was known for being a prankster, regularly getting himself scolded for his mischief. This force of nature soon completed his schooling and got him admitted to Stanford University for further studies. However, his plans were forcefully changed due to a twist of fate. Hashem Premji unexpectedly died in 1966, causing his son to leave his studies mid-way to return back to India, as he had to now take over his father’s unattended business.
Hashem’s business known as Western Indian Vegetable Products Ltd, primarily dealt with cooking oils and soaps. Yet, Azim on his appointment began dreaming of an empire that had no boundaries. He aimed at diversifying the business and went on a spree to drastically evolve his father’s legacy. In just a short span, Azim led the company to manufacture products like bakery fats, toiletries, light bulbs, hair care products, and hydraulic cylinders, making it no longer deal with just vegetable products.
With these drastic changes, came a change in the company’s name, which now stands as the history of its origin. This company became Wipro (Western India Palm Refined Oils Limited) in 1977, the current business empire familiar to all.
Despite this mega expansion, Azim wanted to broaden Wipro’s horizons even more and got the appropriate opportunity to do so with the expulsion of the computer firm IBM from the country. The 1980s-1990s witnessed an era of the emergence of computers on a scale that was unprecedented. Wasting no time, Azim shifted Wipro’s focus and targeted it towards the manufacturing of computer hardware, branching out to the software market as well. In no time he made Wipro position itself as a leading IT competitor, making the company reach a global status and himself as one of the richest men worldwide.
Wipro continues to expand Azim’s wealth. However, he is a man who created his empire out of passion, not greed. With his pockets becoming full, Azim began his philanthropic endeavours with the pure intention of helping the needy. Aiming at developing the elementary education system in rural government schools, he established the Azim Premji Foundation, a non-profit organisation, in 2001. Yet this wasn’t all, for he went on to donate 2 billion dollars to this cause which became one of the largest donations ever made in India.
Azim continues to break barriers, for he is the first Indian to pledge for Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s campaign titled The Giving Pledge. In March 2019, he also pledged an additional 34% of Wipro stock held by him to the foundation, a large share rarely given by anyone.
His endeavours have been heavily awarded and have bestowed him a spot in lists published by various magazines such as Time’s ‘100 Most Influential People.' On top of being internationally noticed he has also been awarded the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan in 2005 and 2011 respectively. Not discarding his education, Azim went on to receive his degree from Stanford at the age of 55 in electrical engineering, the same degree he had previously postponed.
Azim continues to be a force to reckon with. He has now retired from his position of Chairman of Wipro, letting his sons take over, continuing the legacy of the Premji household. However, his influence and philanthropy continue to prevail, making Azim have a rare mixture of being humble and rich, setting an example for other largely selfish billionaires.
This was story was first published on This Day.app.