However, instead of following his father and going straight into the family business, Premji went to off to study electrical engineering at Stanford University, USA, in the early 1960s. His choice of degree showed his interest in all things electrical, and was undeniably part of Premji's future success...
However, in 1966, just before completing his degree, the young student received the sad news that his father had died, and so Premji returned home. He took the decision to abandon his studies, dropping out to take up the management of the family’s cooking oil business.
Premji immediately began to demonstrate his brilliance as an entrepreneur. Firstly, he began to diversify, producing not just oil but toiletries and bakery fats, and also other goods such as light bulbs, hydraulic cylinders, and even shoes. The young businessman also completely broke away from India’s rather nepotistic tradition of hiring family members within a company, instead opting to bring in graduates from fields relevant to the required jobs.
In 1979, India's socialist minister, George Fernandes (pictured), ordered both Coca-Cola and IBM to leave the country. Premji saw this gap in the market and interpreted it as an opportunity. Almost overnight, he veered Wipro towards the tech and computer industry. By 1980, Wipro were manufacturing minicomputers in collaboration with an American company, while still creating products such as Wipro Jasmine, a popular toilet soap.
Moving further away from soap and oil to software and tech, Premji’s Wipro had finally found its niche and began to expand rapidly. By 1988, it was a leader in the field, and more than capable of partnering with US giant General Electric on the manufacture, as well as sale and service, of diagnostic and imaging equipment.
But the company's roots were not forgotten, and at the same time, Premji still continued to honour his father’s original business ideas, launching a range of baby toiletries and a talcum powder in 1990.
In these years, he married a woman called Yasmeen, and they had two sons, Rishad and Tariq. Remarkably his lifestyle remained frugal, with reading and music as favourite activities, and religious worship – Premji retained his family’s Shia Muslim beliefs – a focal point. But he took business seriously, dying his hair white when he was a young man in order to be taken more seriously in the workplace, according to reports from Bloomberg.
In 1999 Premji again proved that Wipro was ahead of the rest by launching a range of personal computers – the Wipro SuperGenius range. And the following year, Premji collaborated with KPN (Royal Dutch Telecom) to form a joint venture company, Wipro Net Limited. This would provide internet services across India.
It was in 2000 that Wipro was also listed for the first time on the New York Stock Exchange. At the time Premji was India's richest man due to his 75% stake in the company.
It was now that the billionaire began to demonstrate his philanthropic nature by setting up the Azim Premji Foundation, and in 2001 he donated $125 million (£97m) of his own Wipro shares to fund it. This not-for-profit organisation works to support the elementary education system in rural Indian government schools. One of its main aims is to make primary education available and accessible to all.
In 2010, Premji gifted a further $2 billion (£1.52bn) of Wipro shares to the Foundation. On top of other donations made over the years, this brought his total charitable contributions to a staggering $4.4 billion (£3.35bn), making him officially the most generous philanthropist not just in India but across Asia.
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It was in 2012 that Premji took his philanthropic practice to the next level by signing Bill Gates's Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals to give away most of their money. He was the third non-American to join this grand philanthropy club, and he donated another $2.2 billion (£1.67bn) to good causes through his Foundation upon signing. That year Premji also spoke out about his endorsement of a tax upon the super-rich, to the dismay of many of his peers.
This year, of course, Premji’s donation to charity of $7.5 billion (£5.7bn) shares again demonstrated his dedication to giving. In the words of the businessman himself: "I strongly believe that those of us, who are privileged to have wealth, should contribute significantly to try and create a better world for the millions who are far less privileged". Words which Azim Premji has certainly, as we have seen, lived his life by.