Azim Hashim Premji- A leading college dropout and a billionaire from India

When we are kids, we are told to go to school and get high grades to get a good job.  We work hard and sacrifice everything to get good grades and earn college degrees, so that we can become an entrepreneur, a business leader or a successful person in some other field, one day.  Though, it is a well-known fact that a number of successful business leaders across the world are college dropouts.  So, is a college degree a necessity or a guarantee of a successful career? 

Business coaches such as Robert Kiyosaki have contrary views about it; according to them, school education doesn't prepare us to become a truly creative and independent human being, rather it stresses upon conformity.  You get good grades if you conform to old ideas and outdated textbooks. There is no wonder then that a vast brigade of millionaires and billionaires are college dropouts around the world.

Azim Hashim Premji, an Introduction

Today we are going to tell you the story of Azim Hashim Premji, a well-known billionaire from India and chairman of Wipro Limited.  The successful 67 years old billionaire’s net worth is estimated to be around $11 billion in the year 2013.  He resides in Bangalore and has completed his graduation from Stanford University, US.  He's happily married to Yasmeen Premji and has two children.  He is currently the third richest person in India and 91st richest person in the world.  He is also ranked as 61st most powerful person in the world.

Generosity and Philanthropy

The generous and down to earth Azim Premji is also a big philanthropist.  He has signed a Giving Pledge with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and recently he has donated $2.5 billion to this foundation, the Azim Premji Foundation to promote education.  He had donated $2 billion in the year 2010 for the same cause.  According to Forbes magazine, he is the fifth most generous person on this planet in terms of philanthropic donations and assistance.

Azim Premji Foundation is working towards the cause of universalization and expansion of primary education in India. He donates graciously for this cause and other social issues partnering with the government and other social bodies. He has been honored and referred to as the Bill Gates of India by Forbes magazine for his philanthropic work and charities.

Leadership Skills

Though, Wipro’s software outsourcing business is facing rough times and its stock is dipping, the company has made new inroads into consumer products market with the launch of Wipro Enterprises, taking over Singapore's skincare company, L D Waxsons.  It is largely because of the successful leadership of Mr. Azim Premji that Wipro is set to recover from the tough times, this year. 

Early Life and Schooling

Mr.  Azim Premji, the chairman of Wipro Limited, was born in the commercial capital of India, Mumbai in 1945.  He belongs to a Gujarati Shia Khoja family and inherited the business empire of his father, Mr. M H Premji, with the name of Western India Products, a manufacturer of hydrogenated vegetable oil and fats, toiletries made of herbal ingredients and hair care soaps. His grandfather was a prominent trader of Myanmar, and was called a “Rice King” there.

He attended St Xavier's, Mumbai after completing his primary education from St. Mary’s Mumbai. As a college student, he loved playing cricket and he was more of a bowler than a batsman. He also loved cycling on the streets of Bandra and Juhu in Mumbai. He also travelled all across Europe with his classmates at the time taking the ship route to Naples.  Then he went to Stanford to study electrical engineering.

Dropping out of College

According to him he had no plans to settle in the United States and he always wanted to come back to India after working in US for a couple years. He was in the final year of his graduate program in electric engineering at Stanford, when he received the news of the sudden demise of his father in 1966.  He had to return to India to undertake the command of his parental business, discontinuing his engineering studies at Stanford.

Restructuring the Ailing Business

He renamed his father's business as Wipro Technologies and Wipro Corporation.  He also diversified and expanded into many other businesses, such as baby care products, light bulbs, powders, shampoos and other FMCG products.  He also ventured into making truck tippers and hydraulic cylinders.  He entered the IT sector in as early as 1980, when it was still a nascent industry.  Wipro Technologies partnered with Sentinel Computers in U.S. and started developing software and hardware for the PCs and desktops.  At present, Wipro is among the top 100 IT companies and also a leading BPO company in the world.  It has also attained level 5 certifications in SEI-CMM and PCMM and has an employee-strength of around 22,000.

Wipro Products Ltd, Wipro Technologies and Wipro Corporation are riding on the growth curve incessantly since then. A college dropout took this $1.5 million company to a multibillion dollar empire in less than two decades. Now this cooking fat and oil company is into medical systems, consumer items and technology products apart from a huge software outsourcing and development business.  

Going back to Stanford to complete Graduation at 50

At the age of 50, Azim Premji, the leading industrialist of India, decided to complete his unfinished degree (the remaining last semester) in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1966 and took the distance learning mode to complete it, getting his old enrolment reactivated by Stanford.  According to him, he was tired of being referred to as a “college dropout.” He has completed it successfully and now, he is an engineering graduate as well.

Azim Premji as a Person

At Stanford, his interest was in liberal arts rather than engineering. He loves hiking and more often he prefers to do it alone. He also loves vacationing inside India and takes around five short vacations to unwind in exotic Indian locations. He is also very much fond of arts and he patronizes rather unknown artists from India. He says that they are very creative but their paintings are not bought by people, as they are not recognized or famous.  His company also buys the paintings and other art from such unknown faces of arts in India. He is not an avid reader, but prefers to read management books, whenever he gets time.

Ethics, humility, honesty, integrity, excellence of operations and human values are his watchwords.

Salary of Azim Premji 

Forbes magazine given the salary breakups under the Detailed Financial Data of the Azim Premji, according to this the base salary is 79057 USD, Bonus is 79057 USD, other compensation is 39485 USD and Change in pension value and non-qualified deferred compensation earnings is 96625 USD, by this way total compensation of Azim Premji is USD 733827 for the financial year of 2013-14

Last Updated: May 22, 2013

Tags : Azim Premji Biography, Azim Premji Family, Azim Premji Profile, History of Azim Premji, Early Life of Azim Premji

About Nashaat Quadri

Freelance Content Writer (Compare Infobase, New Delhi.) Ex Sr Content Writer, Western Software, New Delhi. Ex Relationship Manager, Mashreq Bank, Dubai.