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India’s biggest philanthropist all set to retire

Wipro, India’s fourth largest software services firm announced a major reshuffle in its top management last month. This reshuffle will see its founder and executive chairman Azim Premji step down and hand over the reins of power to his son Rishad Premji.

Mr. Azim Premji attended his last general meeting on Tuesday, in which he bid farewell to the shareholders of Wipro. More than five decades of chairmanship of the company with Mr. Premji at its helm, saw Wipro, which was a little known producer of edible oils in 1966, transform into an IT giant with over $ 8.5 billion in revenue for the year ended 31st Mar 2019.

In his final address, he told the shareholders of the 73rd annual general meeting in Bengaluru, that Wipro would be stepping up investments and focussing on four new-age technologies such as digital, cloud, engineering services and cyber security to drive its growth.

On the future leadership under his son, the outgoing chairman said that Rishad, who is the chief strategy officer and member of the board, would take over as executive chairman from 31st July. He further went on to say that his son brought new ways of thinking, experience and competence that will lead Wipro to greater heights and that he has a deep understanding of the company, business strategy, culture and heritage.

After stepping down from the executive role, Mr. Premji said he would dedicate most of his time and energy to the philanthropic efforts of his foundation, the Azim Premji Foundation. Set up in 2001, his foundation works to improve access to primary education in India (including some of the most disadvantaged parts), it also helps improving the lives of street children and the physically challenged. In addition, it also runs the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru.

Azim Premji stands tall in India’s short list of philanthropists. In a country where we believe that giving is for others to do, the total value of funds donated by him to date is around $ 21 billion (which is approximately ₹ 1,45,000 crore), which also includes 67% of economic ownership of Wipro. In wealth terms, this is by far the highest by any Indian business tycoon towards charitable activities, and puts him in the top five globally, along with the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and George Soros.

With Mr. Premji stepping down, it would truly be, as they say in common parlance, the end of an era.


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