A five-decade run of leadership at Wipro Ltd. will come to an end on July 30, when Azim Premji steps down as executive chairman and managing director. His son Rishad Premji will take over the mantle of executive chairman whereas Chief Executive Officer Abidali Neemuchwala will add on the title of managing director, Wipro said in a filing with stock exchanges.
Premji, 73, will remain associated as non-executive director with the company he joined in 1966 and nurtured from a mid-sized cooking oil business into an IT and and BPO giant with $8.5 billion in revenue. He will also carry the ornamental title of Founder Chairman.
He will remain Chairman of Wipro Enterprises Ltd. and continue to chair the board of Wipro-GE Healthcare, the company statement said.
Among India’s most admired business leaders, Premji took over the leadership of Wipro in the late 1960s, two decades after the business was established by his father Hasham Premji. At the time Wipro was primarily in the business of cooking oil, doing $2 million in revenue approximately. In 1982 the company entered information technology products and in 1990, IT services. Premji features among the pioneers of India’s booming IT industry, along with FC Kohli, the first CEO of Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and NR Narayana Murthy of Infosys Ltd.
While TCs and Infosys have led in size and profitability, Wipro has consistently remained among the top five IT companies in the country.
“I wish to thank generations of Wiproites and their families for their contribution towards building our company to what it is today. I am grateful to our clients, partners, and other stakeholders who have reposed trust and confidence in us. 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.”
In recent years Premji has come to be recognised as India’s top philanthropist. In 2000-01, he set up the Azim Premji Foundation bequeathing a portion of his Wipro shares to fund it. He then set up Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives in 2014 to support other not-for-profits with multi-year grants.
In March this year, Premji pledged Wipro shares worth $7.5 billion to philanthropy, making it the largest such donation in India’s history.
Premji was appointed executive chairman of Wipro in 1968 and will complete 51 years when he steps down this July. His son Rishad, who is currently the chief strategy officer and a member of the board, will take over as executive chairman.
Among the many awards that have honoured him, Azim Premji was conferred with Padma Vibhushan in January 2011 and France’s highest civilian award Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in November 2018.―Bloomberg Quint