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From soap company to IT major: Azim Premji's amazing journey

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Bengaluru, June 07: Azim Premji, who founded Wipro and led the company for over 50 years, is set to step down as the company's executive chairman. Premji took over reins of Wipro in 1966 and chiefly responsible for turning it into a 11 billion dollar company from approximately USD 2 billion in 1966.

Muhammed Hashim Premji, Azim Premji's father, started Western Indian Vegetable Products Ltd, based at Amalner, in the Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, in 1945. It used to manufacture cooking oil under the brand name Sunflower Vanaspati, and a laundry soap called 787, a byproduct of oil manufacture. In 1966, after Muhammed's death, the then 21-year-old Azim Premji returned home from Stanford University, where he was studying engineering, to take charge of Wipro.

File photo of Azim Premji

In the 1980s, Premji, recognising the importance of the emerging IT field, took advantage of the vacuum left behind by the expulsion of IBM from India, changed the company name to Wipro and entered the high-technology sector by manufacturing minicomputers under technological collaboration with an American company Sentinel Computer Corporation.

Premji donated two-thirds of his wealth, worth USD 21 billion to charitable causes.

"He also gave space to his people. There is nothing you cannot disagree with Mr Premji. You can disagree with him in a public forum, and once a decision is taken, he doesn't carry anything into a future interaction," an ET report quoted KK Natarajan, the chairman of Mindtree who has worked for Wipro, as saying.

IT czar Azim Premji to retire as executive chairman of Wipro

Premji would retire as executive chairman upon the completion of his current term on July 30, 2019 but he would continue to serve on the board as non-executive director and founder chairman, the company 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. I have great confidence and trust in Rishad's leadership to steer Wipro in its next phase of growth as we move forward," reports quoted his statement as saying.

Azim's son Rishad Premji, chief strategy officer and a board member, will take over as the executive chairman following his father's retirement.

He is currently the second richest person in India with an estimated net worth of US$21.5 billion as of May 2019. In 2013, he agreed to give away at least half of his wealth by signing The Giving Pledge.

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