Azim H Premji, chairman of Wipro and a titan of India’s software industry, will move away from an operational role at the company. It’s a milestone. He inherited a business selling vegetable oil 53 years ago and transformed it into an IT giant. The journey encapsulated the transformational potential of Indian capitalism. Wipro navigated the country’s transition from a closed economy to a relatively open one by diversifying and competing successfully in a global marketplace without making compromises. Premji dedicated most of his consequent wealth to philanthropy, particularly in education.
To that extent, Premji’s career over five decades mirrors larger changes in economy and society. The company’s entry into IT services in 1990 coincided with deep-seated changes in the economy. Hitherto inconceivable concepts such as stock options for prized employees meant wealth creation was democratised. A new breed of entrepreneurs emerged, middle class in their lifestyle but driven by a desire to change India. They benchmarked themselves against the best – Wipro listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2000. Indian software’s global delivery model was an innovation which made the world take notice. Its impact on India’s international image was immense.
Premji’s role in this journey was hugely important. Not only did Wipro play a key role, some of the company’s employees turned entrepreneurs and created new opportunities. Premji’s philanthropy also stood out. Over almost two decades his foundation systematically sought to make a difference in education, with its efforts culminating in the establishment of a university based on “liberal and humanistic” values. Premji’s story is the antithesis of India’s political rhetoric, characterised by distrust of ‘suit boots.’ He showed that success can come without having to game the system or ‘manage the political environment’; moreover, that Indian private sector companies are good enough to compete globally.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
via TOI Blog
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