Monday, February 9

Azim Premji – From sunflower oil to software services

Over the past decade and a half, India has seen the business community grow at a rapid pace. Fronting this growth have been a few names who have left an indelible mark on the way we do business in this country. These are people who have shaped the Indian economy. These are people who have changed our lives. These are the Indian Business Icons. As CNBC-TV18 completes 15 years, it gives you the opportunity to select your business icon over the same period. A platform where these leaders will face the verdict that truly matters. Read on and Vote.
Azim PremjiAzim Premji
In 1966, Mohamed Hashem Premji passed away, leaving his son Azim Hasham Premji to rush back from pursuing an engineering degree at Stanford University. The younger Premji had to take over the reins at the company his father had founded, Western Indian Vegetable Products. The firm manufactured vegetable oils and soaps. It was still a while away from becoming the technology byword it is today, but under Azim Premji, the process of diversification to serve broader markets began rapidly. Toiletries, baby care products, bulbs and hydraulic cylinders were all added as the company started to stake a claim as a growing consumer goods player.

It wasn’t a smooth transition. Premji was just 21 at the time and a shareholder at the next AGM questioned his ability to lead the company, suggesting he sell out his share and step aside in favour of more seasoned managerial candidates. Spurred by criticism, Premji guided the company’s growth, looking out for a breakthrough opportunity.
Destiny came knocking in the 1980s when government policy led to majors like IBM being turned out of the country, leaving a gap that Premji decided to fill with typical foresight and alacrity. Renamed Wipro, the sleek, euphonious name reflected an increasingly dynamic, even cutting-edge business vision, driven by technology. Inking a partnership with an American computer firm, Wipro commenced the manufacture of microcomputers for the emerging Indian market. By the 90s, Wipro had teamed up with GE to offer medical systems, acquired Acer Computers and broadened its portfolio of IT solutions and services.
In the 2000s, Premji spearheaded a focus on quality which helped Wipro’s IT offerings rise above the rest, earning India’s first ISO 14001 certification for software services and technology and the world’s first SEI CMM Level 5 certification for software.
Today, Wipro as a whole has a market capitalization $20.8 billion, as of 2014, and annual revenues of $7.3 billion as of 2013-14. It employees over 154,297 employees, operates in 61 countries and is the 7th largest IT services firm in the world. Not bad for a company that was a soap and oil manufacturer helmed by an unexperienced youngster just four decades ago.
What are the qualities that have enabled Premji to shape one of the biggest successes in modern India? A key fact has been faith in himself, in the face of naysayers. But confidence alone is not enough; his ability to take a long-term view, build from strengths and retain a cool head despite racking up a string of successes have been invaluable. He has always emphasized customer satisfaction as the key indicator of excellence and defined robust processes, organization-wide commitment and a culture of teamwork as the means to achieve excellence. Wipro’s quality certification and organizational commitment to Six Sigma quality processes reflect these principles.
Premji himself remains grounded, eschewing the luxuries available to one of India’s richest men, choosing instead to be one of the country’s leading charitable contributors. This mix of determination, vision and personal groundedness might well be the key to Wipro’s stellar business graph over the years.

Source: Yahoo!
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