Wipro founder Azim Premji will step down from his position as Executive Chairman and Managing Director on July 31. The 74-year-old IT tycoon will be retiring from Wipro, a company he built over 50 years. Premji’s son, Rishad, will succeed him as executive chairman.
According to The Economic Times (ET), Premji said, “It has been a long and satisfying journey for me… As I look into the future, I plan to devote more time to focus on our philanthropic activities.”
Wipro’s share price has increased by just over 1% to Rs 295.05 from its opening price of Rs. 292.40 on the BSE; 66% of respondents on a readers’ poll on Money Control also recommend buying Wipro shares.
Premji’s retirement is being called end of an era in India’s IT industry.
How Azim Premji built Wipro
Premji was accepted to Stanford University but dropped out in 1966 after his father died. Then only 21, Premji stood at the helm of Wipro and took on his father’s legacy.
Wipro started off as a vegetable oil company, but under Premji’s leadership, it grew into one of India’s most premier firms for tech services and products, such as digital strategising, tech consultancy, design, engineering and maintenance, cloud and analytics services, and research and development.
Banking, finance, health, transport, and telecom sectors were especially attracted to Wipro’s products. Wipro has high-profile partners, namely Adobe, Amazon, and Microsoft, and is worth $8.5 billion.
With the focus on tech starting in the 1980s, Wipro has made Premji India’s second richest man, after Mukesh Ambani. It is also India’s third-largest software exporter and has clients in North and South Americas, China, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Europe.
In 2018, Wipro reported the slowest growth among large Indian IT companies. However, the company scored a massive decade-long $1.5 billion deal with Alight Solutions. This is the second such billion-dollar deal Wipro has done in the last five years.
Premji has fortified his business legacy and also forayed into philanthropic work.
The ET reports that Premji put 34% of his Wipro shares towards the Azim Premji Foundation, a non-profit founded in 2000 that works on improving elementary education in government schools in rural India.
“The Azim Premji Foundation was to be funded solely by Azim Premji by way of transfer of his personal shares to the Foundation. The objective of the funding was to facilitate universalisation of primary education rather than serve as a constraint in achieving it,” says the Foundation’s website.
Now, the Azim Premji Foundation has 67% of Premji’s wealth, which is Rs 1.45 lakh crore, says The ET.
Wipro’s future after Azim Premji’s retirement
Son and current board member Rishad Premji is inheriting Wipro’s leadership.
For the next five years, Rishad will assume his duties as the company’s executive chairman, once Premji steps down. The current COO Abidali Neemuchwala will take on the role of managing director, as well.
Till 2024, Premji will still have a presence in the company as a director, but without executive powers. The family owns about 74% of Wipro’s equity.
Rishad said he has worked to expand Wipro’s product range and diversify the company.
Fortune India quoted Ashok S. Ganguly, a Wipro board member, who said, “Rishad’s [Premji] understanding of the global technology industry, strong strategic orientation, and diverse leadership experience make him the right person to guide Wipro. He is also best positioned to represent the interests and fundamental social purpose of the largest shareholder of Wipro.”
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.