After transforming Wipro Limited into a leading international corporation, Azim Premji turned his attention toward the inequities in Indian society through efforts to improve the country’s public school system. This extraordinary undertaking is driven by the Azim Premji Foundation’s direct field work, currently serving seven states and over 300,000 schools and with plans to expand. A generous endowment from Mr. Premji enabled the foundation to establish the Azim Premji University in 2011, with a focus on school education and related fields of human development. Forty-six percent of the university’s student body comes from villages and small towns, with a majority committing to work in the social sector after graduation. The foundation’s university and field institutions work synergistically toward the goal of creating a more equitable and just India. Recently Mr. Premji set up a fast-scaling grantmaking initiative that supports nonprofits working in areas that complement education.
Mr. Premji has been at the helm of Wipro Limited since the late 1960s. Under his leadership, the $2 million hydrogenated cooking fat company grew into a nearly $8.5 billion organization, specializing in IT, consulting, and outsourcing services, with a presence in 58 countries. He firmly believes that business organizations have a social responsibility to employ ethical, fair, and ecologically sensitive business practices and to actively engage in resolving fundamental societal issues. Graduating from Stanford University with a degree in electrical engineering, Mr. Premji has received honorary doctorates from Michigan State, Wesleyan University, and the Indian Institute of Technology, among others. His numerous honors and accolades include being named as one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People” (2004, 2011). He was listed in “The Power Brokers,” Forbes magazine’s 2003 rankings of the world’s most powerful billionaires, and was named Forbes India’s “Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year” in 2012. Mr. Premji is a recipient of France’s Legion of Honor, and in January 2011 he received the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award.