Azim Premji to retire as executive chairman of Wipro; son Rishad to take over

However, Azim Premji will continue to serve on the board as a non-executive director for five years till July 2024.

New Delhi: IT major Wipro founder Azim H Premji, who turned a small maker of vegetable oil into a USD 8.5 billion software behemoth, will retire as the company head by July-end and handover reins of the firm to his son, Rishad.

Premji, who turns 74 next month, will retire as executive chairman upon the completion of his current term on July 30, 2019, after having led the company for 53 years, Wipro said in a statement. He, however, will continue to serve on the board as a non-executive director for five years till July 2024 and has also been conferred the title of founder chairman.

Wipro board also announced that chief executive officer and executive director Abidali Z Neemuchwala will be re-designated as CEO and managing director, while Rishad Premji will be re-appointed as whole-time director for a period of five years with effect from July 31, 2019, to July 30, 2024. Rishad will be designated as executive chairman. These changes will be effective July 31, 2019, subject to shareholders' approval.

A recipient of Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards, Azim Premji now plans to devote more time for philanthropic activities. He had, in March this year, gifted an additional Rs 52,750 crore of the company's shares to support philanthropic activities, making it the most generous donation in the nation's history.

About 34 per cent of shares held by companies controlled by Premji, India's second-richest person, were irrevocably renounced and earmarked to the Azim Premji Foundation, taking the total donations to over Rs 1.4 lakh crore. Premji's Foundation, which works in the education sector and supports over 150 non-profits serving under-privileged with financial grants, has 67 per cent of economic ownership of Wipro.

"Azim Premji, one of the pioneers of the Indian technology industry and founder of Wipro Limited will retire as executive chairman upon the completion of his current term on July 30, 2019 after having led the company for 53 years. However, he will continue to serve on the board as non-executive director and founder chairman," Wipro said in a statement announcing the top deck changes.

Premji transformed a small hydrogenated cooking fat firm to a USD 8.5 billion global tech titan that is counted among India's top IT exporters and also led the transformation of Wipro Enterprises into a global FMCG, infrastructure engineering and medical devices powerhouse, with revenues of about USD 2 billion.

He will remain the chairman of Wipro Enterprises and continue to chair the board of Wipro-GE Healthcare, the statement added. "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," Azim Premji said.

Commenting on the changes, chairman designate Rishad Premji said Wipro has, over the decades, demonstrated that success can built on the foundation of strong values and uncompromising integrity. "This is a testament to the spirit and dedication of thousands of Wiproites. 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," he said.

Ashok S Ganguly -- independent director and chairman, Board Governance, Nomination and Compensation Committee at Wipro -- said Azim Premji's "unflinching commitment" to values made him an exemplar of how business and ethics can and must go together. "His exceptional generosity makes him one of the greatest philanthropists of our time," he added.

Ganguly further said that Rishad's 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," Ganguly noted.

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