Son rises at Wipro; Azim Premji calls it a day, hands over reins to Rishad

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Updated: June 7, 2019 7:07:40 AM

Premji, who turns 74 next month, will however remain associated as non-executive director of the company and as founder chairman.

Azim Premji, Azim Premji to retires, Wipro, Rishad Premji, Wipro Enterprises, Wipro-GE Healthcare, NR Narayana Murthy, Indian IT industryClockwise from top left) A file photo of Wipro chairman Azim Premji with RIL CMD Mukesh Ambani and Aditya Birla Group chairman KM Birla; with Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy; at a book launch; with IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad; and with PM Narendra Modi

Curtains have come down on an era in the annals of Indian business history as IT major Wipro’s executive chairman and managing director Azim H Premji, who turned a small maker of vegetable oil into a $8.5-billion software behemoth, will retire by July-end after serving the company for 53 years, and hand over reins of the firm to his son, Rishad.

Rishad Premji will be re-appointed as whole-time director for a period of five years with effect from July 31, 2019, to July 30, 2024 and will be designated as executive chairman. Premji, who turns 74 next month, will however remain associated as non-executive director of the company and as founder chairman. He will also remain chairman of Wipro Enterprises and continue to chair the board of Wipro-GE Healthcare, Wipro said in a statement on Thursday.
Premji, along with FC Kohli, the first CEO of Tata Consultancy Services, and NR Narayana Murthy of Infosys, changed the face of the Indian IT industry in all aspects.

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The Wipro board on Thursday also announced that CEO and executive director Abidali Z Neemuchwala will be re-designated as CEO & MD. A recipient the of Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards, Premji now plans to devote more time for philanthropic activities. He had, in March this year, gifted an additional Rs 52,750 crore of the company’s shares to support philanthropic activities, making it the most generous donation in the nation’s history.

About 34% of shares held by companies controlled by Premji, India’s second-richest person, were irrevocably renounced and earmarked to the Azim Premji Foundation, taking the total donations to over Rs 1.4 lakh crore. Premji’s Foundation, which works in the education sector and supports over 150 non-profits serving under-privileged with financial grants, has 67% of economic ownership of Wipro.

Premji transformed a small hydrogenated cooking oil firm to a $8.5 billion global tech titan that is counted among India’s top IT exporters and also led the transformation of Wipro Enterprises into a global FMCG, infrastructure engineering and medical devices powerhouse, with revenues of about $2 billion.

“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,” Premji said. Ashok S Ganguly, independent director and chairman, board governance, nomination and compensation committee at Wipro, said Azim Premji’s “unflinching commitment” to values made him an exemplar of how business and ethics can and must go together. “His exceptional generosity makes him one of the greatest philanthropists of our time,” he added.

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