By Clifford Sawhney January 2001 Meet the top twenty spiritually-inclined business giants of India • Ashish Somani• Dr Bindeshwar Pathak• Chandni Luthra• G. Narayana• Gurcharan Das• Hrishikesh Mafatlal • Narayana Murthy• N.K. Somani• N. Vaghul • Priya Paul • Ravi Bhoothalingam• Rocky Mohan• R.P. Khosla • Satish Nanda• Shahnaz Husain• Sunil Bharti Mittal• Sushil Gupta• S.K. Bahl• Vikas Malkani Azim H. Premji, Chairman, Wipro Corporation In a world where integrity purportedly counts for naught, Azim Hasham Premji symbolizes just that. The 55-year-old Wipro chairman made international waves in 2000 ever since his group became a Rs 3,500-crore empire with a market capitalization exceeding Rs 500,000 million! If any stargazer had been foolish enough to predict in 1966 that a 21-year-old Indian at Stanford University would one day achieve all this, he’d have been laughed out of business. At that juncture, Premji was forced to discontinue his engineering studies in the States due to the untimely death of his father. Returning to India to take charge of a cooking oil company, the youth infused new life into the family’s traditional mindset and trade. Over the years, Premji diversified into sectors like computer hardware and lighting, disregarding marketing laws that extolled the virtues of core competence and frowned on brand extensions into unrelated segments. Despite all the success, the media-shy Premji maintained a low profile, letting his work do all the talking. Until early last year the media broke the story that Azim Premji had become the second-richest man in the world… In spite of his billions, however, he still travels economy class and stays in budget hotels. When the man was recently honored with the Businessman of the Year 2000 award, he attributed his stupendous success to the 12,000 people who work for Wipro Corporation. Nor did he forget to mention his family. The great man then shared some tips for success: • Have the courage to think big. • Never compromise on fundamental values, no matter what the situation. • Build up self-confidence, always look ahead. • Always have the best around you, even if they are better than you are. • Have an obsessive commitment to quality. • Play to win. • Leave the rest to the force beyond. Premji the businessman practices what he preaches. When it comes to upholding personal values, there’s no margin for error. Wipro managers speak in awe of the time they received a terse message that their chairman was flying down to Bangalore for a meeting. It was clear that something major was in the offing. Premji came straight to the point. A senior general manager of the company had been given marching orders-because he’d inflated a travel bill. The man’s contribution to the company was significant; the bill’s amount was not. Yet he had to go for this solitary lapse. It was, Premji stressed, a matter of principles. Wipro’s code of conduct for employees says it all: Don’t do anything that you’re unwilling to have published in tomorrow’s newspaper with your photograph next to it. It’s that kind of integrity that has catapulted Premji and Wipro to unprecedented heights.
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