Azim Premji

The Philanthropist

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10 little-known facts about Azim Premji

Wipro bigwig Azim Premji once again featured on the Forbes richest list for 2011. Premji who owns close to 80 percent in the soap-to-software empire, ended up richer by Rs 10,600 crore at the end of the fiscal year 2011.

The chairman of India's third-largest IT company also sometime back made news for getting rid of his joint CEOs and rightsizing his managerial strength. Also, in the largest act of philanthropy by an Indian, Premji pledged to give about Rs 8,846 crore ($2 billion)to improve school education in India. The tycoon recently announced plans to produce a $32 tablet computer designed to bring iPad-style technology to the country's masses.

Here's are 10 interesting facts about Premji.

1. Started his career with

Dropped out of Stanford University at age 21 to take over the reins of Wipro following the sudden demise of his father. At that time, the company made hydrogenated cooking fat. (He completed his degree over 30 years later).

2. Big bet that didn't pay

Three years after appointing two CEOs, Suresh Vaswani and Girish Paranjpe, to navigate Wipro, the duo were suddenly removed and replaced. The company says that the move was in keeping with the changes in the business environment, but skeptics find it hard to believe. The duo resigned from Wipro.

3. Icon

Premji holds late Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata (popularly known as JRD Tata) as his icon. In an article, Premji wrote that JRD had been an icon for him, like many other people of his generation.

He wrote that what he "really admired in JRD was his ability to manage a very complex business portfolio with a rare clarity of mind." Another quality I admired in him was "his obsession with quality," wrote Premji.

4. Act of do-goodery

Transferred 8.6% of his stake in the company, worth about Rs 8,646 crore, to the Azim Premji Foundation. This is the biggest act of individual philanthropy in India.

5. Family ties

Husband to Yasmeen, father to Rishad and Tariq.

In January this year, Rishad Premji, Wipro's strategy chief, was given additional responsibility of leading the company's M&A pursuits.

Rishad, 33, who joined Wipro from consulting firm Bain & Co in June 2007, and became a general manager (treasury & investor relations) in 2009, was promoted to replace Lakshminarayana KR as the chief strategy officer in 2010.

6. Leadership style

He knows every small detail of his businesses, but does not interfere with everyday operations of the various independent business heads.

7. Biggest in hydraulic cylinders

Wipro is the second-largest hydraulic cylinder company in the world.

8. When not working

Enjoys trekking and loves watching movies; he often turns to his senior executives for recommendations

9. Recent accolade

Was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2011

10. Famous quote

"As you get bigger, you have to delegate. It's also an excellent way to get staff involved in the company's operations."

In a harsh criticism of the US "restrictive" policies, chairman of India-based Wipro Azim Premji told the gathering of global CEOs in January 2011 that the emerging economies are "more than fed up" of being lectured by the west to open their economies without any reciprocity. "I think they (emerging economies) are fed up of being needled for opening their economies,"

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