Business tycoon and philanthropist Azim Premji, known as the Czar of the Indian IT industry, completed 50 years leading the country's third-largest IT services exporter Wipro on August 17. The 71-year-old holds 75 per cent stake in the Bengaluru-based firm worth $7.7 billion.
Wipro has over 140,000 employees and clients in 54 countries.
Wipro: from oil to IT
Azim Premji took charge of Wipro at the age of 21 after his father's death in 1966. The company was then known as Western India Products Limited and was based in Almaner, a town in Maharashtra's Jalgaon district. The company transformed as an enterprise focused on vegetable oil business to an IT company in 1981. Infosys was also founded in 1981.
Azim Premji's father said no to Pakistan twice
Azim Premji's father Mohamed Hasham Premji established Wipro in 1945. In 1944, when Muhammad Ali Jinnah had set up the planning committee of Muslim League, he had asked Hasham Premji to join the league. Hasham Premji declined the invite citing "personal and business reasons," according to Ian Talbot's book Planning for Pakistan: The Planning Committee of the All India Muslim League 1943-46. Jinnah had also asked Hasham Premji to serve as the finance minister after forming his first cabinet, but the latter once again turned down the offer, says the Indian Media blog Churumuri.
Azim Premji called himself a "scrooge"
Azim Premji was known for being thrifty and an outspoken manager. When the Wipro Chairman conducted the company's annual meeting in Bengaluru, he was asked why the meeting was not held at a more expensive location.
"I have been a scrooge for 70 years, can't change now," Premji was quoted by Factordaily.
He was also known for keeping tab of the amount of toilet paper used by his employees and checked if lights were switched off when his office closed for the day.
Wipro's Azim Premji was hard to please
What does Infosys founder Narayan Murthy and CNBC's managing director Shereen Bhan have in common? Both were rejected for a job at Wipro by Azim Premji. The Infosys founder said that he was grateful for Premji for saying no to him adding that the Wipro Chairman's decision did not delay his plans to launch Infosys, according to the Economic Times.
â€” Shereen Bhan (@ShereenBhan) August 17, 2016
What other businesspersons think of Azim Premji
On Azim Premji's 50 years of leadership at Wipro, Vice Chairman T.K. Kurien compared Wipro's founder to a coconut.
"He (Premji) is very much like a coconut. He is very hard outside, but very soft inside," Kurien was quoted by Financial Express and added that the Chairman was a "rock of comfort" when the company was undergoing a transition phase.
Infosys founder Narayana Murthy recalled from his first encounter with the Wipro Chairman that Premji came across as "very courteous and easy to transact with" and had a "deep desire to understand the market and the competitors."
Subroto Bagchi, former Chief Executive at Wipro, called him a "patriotic businessman" who was reticent yet hard when he chose to express his beliefs on matters important to the country, reports ET.