Book review #Three of 2021: Azim Premji – The Man beyond the billions.

An Authorized Biography of the very private man Azim Premji.  

They are 4 business leaders who have influenced me a lot Narayan Murthy, Azim Premji, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  Any book which helps in getting to know more of these personalities is a welcome.  The book does justice in trying to get all possible details about personal and professional life of Azim Premji.  However, given the Halo effect, interviews with friends and co-workers were unlikely to throw any sharp criticism.  Full credit still to the author for not failing to report on Azim Premji style of hands-on approach and miserly payout which could have hindered the growth of Wipro.

The Greatest Indian Philanthropist

Azim Premji has inked is name among the greatest business leaders by giving away US$21bn in Charity. In March 2019, he donated 34% shares of Wipro worth USD$ 7.5bn for Philanthropy and the best thing is that the focus will be on improving education. Azim Premji has over the years displayed miserly behavior in personal life which is euphemistically called cost- conscious. However, when the intent is to give it all back to the society, one understands the nobleness of the behavior. Also, during COVID-19 times, Son Rishad has been equally forthcoming in taking charity initiatives and WIPRO emerged as one of the largest donators.

I started of my career as an Associate to IT sector Analyst in 2004.  One of my first corporate meetings was with Laxminarayana/Lan (Investor relations) of Wipro, whom we had reached out to help us in understanding the difference in accounting by IT companies so that we can compare them.  Lan meticulously explained us the differences in accounting and from that day on I decided that equity analyst job is very easy provided you can find people like Lan to help you.  The last few years Premji invest has been a client and I completely vouch for the authors observation that the fund is very meticulous in their research. 

Wipro has been a clear underdog in the IT pack languishing and one can blame may be blame micro-management style and reluctance to pay top dollars to employee of Azim Premji to be a reason for that.  However, one should look into perspective how the group emerged from a trader of vegetable oils lead by a young person who had to drop his education at Stanford mid-way to start taking care of business.  So, from a 60-year lens it’s a great job but from a 20-year lens it could have been better.

Some interesting quotes from the book:

It is impossible to generate a few good ideas without a lot of bad ideas.  Failure should be forgiven and forgotten quickly.   – Azim Premji.

In 2000, Azim Premji was worth US$ 39.5bn, enough to buy reliance industries, Hindustan Unliver and infosys.

Any child not in school is in child labour. –  MV foundation

Premji to a Director on Board:  Don’t come to the meetings if you have not read the papers.

Premji to CFO Suresh Senapaty’s wife not buying Wipro baby products – You cannot even convince your wife to buy Wipro products. Later, when Rishad’s (Premji Son) wife was not buying ‘Wipro baby products for – “You don’t know how to sell products to her”.

PS : Too much of sweetness after reading about Azim Premji. Shifting gears to pick up murk – A Feast for Vultures is the next book.


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