Wipro Limited on Thursday said that Rishad Premji, chief strategy officer and board member, will take over as the executive chairman of the IT services firm after his father Azim H. Premji steps down from the post by the end of July. This is first time that the reins of a listed Indian IT company have been handed over to the second generation.

“Wipro was not started by me. It was started by my father. But I think I contributed to expand its existing product range and to diversify,” said Azim Premji, to the question ‘Who and what inspired you to start Wipro?’ that was asked by a student at public event in Bengaluru, in mid-2017. “What inspired me was just the ambition to do better than what we were doing and to grow much faster than we had in the past.”

Taking over the family business, which manufactured cooking oil, at the age of 21, Azim Premji is perhaps among a few second-generation Indian businessmen who can be truly credited with growing his inheritance many-fold. From information technology to FMCG, and more recently education, Premji has created billion-dollar multinational companies over the last five decades. As of March 31, the Premji family and promoter group holds a shade under 74% in Wipro Ltd.

Wipro was started as a vanaspati manufacturer in 1945 by M.H. Hasham Premji, Azim Premji’s father. In 1981, Wipro shifted gears and rode the IT boom. In the mid-1980s, under Azim Premji’s leadership, the company pioneered the marketing of indigenously made personal computers, which was a money-spinner.

Rishad Premji
Rishad Premji

The billionaire entrepreneur will retire as executive chairman and managing director of Wipro Ltd upon the completion of his current term on July 30, after having led the company for 38 years. Azim Premji will continue to serve on the board as non-executive director and founder chairman, Wipro said in a statement.

“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,” said Azim Premji.

Chief executive officer and executive director Abidali Z. Neemuchwala will be re-designated as CEO and managing director effective July 31, Wipro said in a filing to the exchanges.

Azim Premji transformed the edible vegetable oil business into an $8.5-billion IT services major over the last few decades. Premji will remain the chairman of Wipro Enterprises Limited and continue to chair the board of Wipro-GE Healthcare, the company said.

Ashok S. Ganguly, independent director and chairman, board governance, nomination and compensation committee, Wipro Limited said, “Rishad’s [Premji] understanding of the global technology industry, strong strategic orientation and diverse leadership experience make him the right person to guide Wipro. He is also best-positioned to represent the interests and fundamental social purpose of the largest shareholder of Wipro.”

“I am very excited about our future and the opportunity to create value for all our stakeholders in these transformative times for Wipro and the technology industry. I look forward to their trust, collaboration and support,” said Rishad Premji, chairman-designate, Wipro Ltd.

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