Azim Premji Explains Why Wipro Is Now Making Plans For China

New Delhi, June 28: | Updated: Jun 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
On China, or many other matters, there’s seldom a more incisive soundbite-giver than the richest Indian. So, want to hear why his immensely valuable Wipro is eyeing China Then sample this one: “You won’t be pissing in your own soup bowl unless you have to!” So, guiding Wipro’s expansion behind the Great Wall, be it the decision to set up a marketing office in Shanghai, or software development centres in partnership with key clients sometime later (Mr Premji won’t say when) is the fact that Wipro needs to keep its customers happy.

Some months back, Mr Premji had famously observed that he won’t go to China. Around the same time friend and competitor NR Narayanamurthy of Infosys had espoused a direct interest in setting shop there. Today, both companies seem to have new insights on the subject, though at least Mr Premji looks uneasy if you describe his latest moves as a U-turn.

“If the issue was just costs, I could go to Bhubhaneswar,” Mr Premji told the media at the Foreign Correspondents Club here. “But in China, besides cost effectiveness, there could be systems integration advantages, or even support services needed for systems integrated solutions, (then) there could be a government insistence for a software exporting component, and there could be a geographical risk (spreading) advantage, which my customers like.” In the same breath, Mr Premji won’t announce concrete investment plans for China, say, for one more year. “Yet, should the situation demand, we could go there in the next three months!” he said, disclosing that key customers in the US have been asking Wipro if it can partner them on some of the abovesaid opportunities in China.

On the impact of travel advisories against India, the Wipro boss said existing clients are being serviced by “team flying out” as against the past practice of customers flying in. Seventy per cent of the company’s revenue is generated from overseas. New business, Mr Premji confessed, was “on hold”. Naturally, he hoped that the Americans will change their mind soon, “so that their cousins and relatives (read other countries!) can to do the same, in the same way as these cousins and relatives had slapped the advisories in the first place!”