- Wipro chairman Azim Premji retiring on July 30, his son Rishad will take over the reins of the company on July 31
- On this occasion, this interview from Harper Collins’s upcoming book Peerless Minds, especially for readers of Bhaskar
- Premji told- I got the quality of service from my mother, she used to take care of 4 children and used to treat poor children everyday for 9 hours.
Mumbai ( Anil Dharkar, Senior Journalist) . The country’s second richest 74-year-old Azim Premji is the most revered Indian donor. Premji, chairman and managing director of Wipro, owes a total of Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Want to donate half of his wealth for social service. Of this, 65 thousand crore rupees. Has also donated. They spend 500 crores every year. Donate The special thing is that Premji travels in Iwai in economy class and runs from his Maruti 1,000. Premji is retiring on 30 July. On 31 July, his son Rishad will take over the reins of the company. Read excerpts from Azim Premji …
Question- You got understanding of business and industry from your father. How did the spirit of social service awaken? Answer- I got this quality from my mother. She was a doctor, but she never made it a profession. It was only after marriage that he opened the Bones Hospital for Children in Haji Ali. Dedicated life to poor children from age 27 to age 77. We did not have much money then. The mother had to work hard to arrange the money. Seeking help from the government, then trying to get the fund released after the announcement was made, it used to go all the time. Governments promise to fund, but refuse to issue. Mother used to work for nine hours every day. That too when there were four children at home. But now the time has changed. People feel that the wife and son-daughters should get all their money.
Question- So how are you different? Answer- Amiri never thrilled me. I believe that those who are affluent should do something for those poor and weak people, so that their lives can also be better.
Question- 2% donation is given under CSR, is it not helpful? Answer – Many people spend the company’s CSR funds in their own foundation. It should be stopped. At Wipro, we do not give any money out of 400 crores of CSR funds to our foundation.
Question- Why is your personal stake in Wipro so high? Maybe it is 78%. While Intkal the answers father was 50%. I invested every penny I received as a dividend to buy shares of Wipro. People said that I am an idiot, but if I do not trust Wipro, then who will. In this way my stake reached 78%.
Question- Did you see anything changing? Answer – New businessmen have new thinking. I have felt that entrepreneurs of 35-40 years look at public welfare with a big heart. I am confident that in future these people will become a major source of funding for social service.
Question- You used to trade vegetable oil in the beginning. How did you suddenly get into the IT sector? Answer: In the 70s, Industry Minister George Fernandes wanted new technology to come in the country, but he (IBM) was imposing such technology on India which was over in the US 7-8 years ago. Fernandes asked him to bring new technology. When IBM refused, Fernandes reduced shareholding and IBM left India. IBM then had an 80% market share. There was a vacuum as he left. We then landed in this area. Then there was no need to look back.
Question- But, you were not proficient in IT? Answer – We have collected mastery. Pick new people directly from campus. Also made appointments from institutes like ISRO and Defense Research. We made the leader of the team a person who was not from IT. But, the businessman was very good. Technicians were running the rest of the companies and we were building a big business of technology.
Q: You are the third Indian in ‘Giving Pledge’ started by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Why are Indians so few in this?
Answer: Family is prominent in the Indian mindset. I have been participating in good initiatives for six years. Every year we invite rich people who want to donate. It has a secretariat, which I bear myself. We do not pressurize anyone, nor do we force the donor to make it public. We have had some success, but the path is still too long.
Question- You have a degree in Electrical Engineer from Stanford University, but your studies were interrupted due to the death of your father. Answer – I was 21 years old when I was recalled from Stanford University in August 1966 to take over Wipro. I had completed a summer school, but there were 8 or 10 units left, which I completed after 20 years of correspondence.
Question- Was there no course on IT then? Answer- Electrical engineering was close to IT at that time. There was no separate course for information technology. I remember once FC Kohli told me how JRD Tata asked him to be the first head of TCS. Then Kohli told JRD, but I don’t know anything about computers. JRD’s answer was that no one knows anything about computers. You have a degree in electrical engineering.
Question- After returning from America, did you focus on increasing the things that father started? Answer- We were primarily in the commodities and vegetable sector, which we sold in the wholesale market. We moved forward and started retailing as a brand and built a distribution network. After this we grew into the soap business. One of the wise things we did during this time was to invest in the machinery of the manufacturing plant. Initially, it caused a lot of problems. Our first product, its launch failed. But due to our investment, we relaunched Santoor, which was quite successful. We then moved on to the area of toiletries (bathroom accessories).
Question- How did Stanford help in all this? Answer- Engineering actually helps in evaluation. There was a lot of leeway in course selection at the university. I chose a number of subjects in Liberal Arts, such as History of Western Civilization, an advanced course on English Language and Shakespeare. All this was not possible in India. Because there was no exemption to study anything other than engineering. Stanford’s study opened his mind. There I played tennis a lot and joined an eating club. In the Eating Club you do not eat in the cafeteria, you eat together and enjoy the club’s programs. I also made very good friends.
Question- Where do you think the future of Wipro is? Answer- mainly in IT. At the geographical level, we are diversifying very fast. We have now also entered Latin America and Africa. They are also putting considerable power in Europe. We can see that India’s IT sector will grow faster than the international market and reach a respectable position.
Question- Do you want to donate half your earnings?
Answer- In today’s situation, about 40% is already owned by Azim Premji Foundation. This is a big amount. There are about 65 to 70 thousand crores in 10 billion dollar rupees. It is the second largest charity after the Tata Group. At the same time, our annual grant is equal to Tata’s.
(This interview is from Harper Collins’ forthcoming book Peerless Minds, especially for readers of Bhaskar. The book has been edited by Pritish Nandy and Tapan Chaki.)