Economist on Azim Premji

The Economist profiles the Wipro chief:

Wipro is one of the country’s biggest, fastest-growing and most valuable information technology firms. Since 2000, Mr Premji has tripled his firm’s profits, to $230m, and more than doubled sales, to $1.2 billion. On a good day in the stockmarket, the 84% of Wipro that Mr Premji owns is worth $13 billion. If any of this has gone to his head, however, Mr Premji hides it well. Modest and quietly spoken, he seems vaguely embarrassed by his status as India’s richest man. His conspicuous under-consumption says something about the status of his company, too. Financially, Wipro goes from strength to strength.

Mr Premji’s own good-works outlet is the Azim Premji Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which spends $5m of Mr Premji’s money a year on improving India’s elementary education, concentrating at home in Karnataka. Dileep Ranjekar, the foundation’s chief executive, remembers that Mr Premji started thinking in 1998 about how to leave a legacy. They came up with a laundry list of three areas: health, nutrition and education. They chose education because it affected the other two on Mr Premji’s list as well. But $5m does not go far in a country in which more than 400m people cannot read or write. That, ultimately, indicates the real scale of the political challenge facing India’s booming IT industry. And it dwarfs the problems Mr Premji has had to face in America.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.