A look into the life of Azim Premji, India’s biggest philanthropist

As of January 2023, he has donated a total USD 29 billion to the Azim Premji Foundation

Azim Premji, one of the wealthiest business tycoons in India, known for his philanthropic causes, turns 78 on July 24. What better time to celebrate and honour the life of one of the greatest stalwarts of the India’s IT industry.

Azim Premji’s background

Azim Premji was born on July 24, 1945, in Bombay to Dr Gulbanoo Premji and Muhammad Hasham Premji. Hasham Premji was a renowned businessman who had taken over his father’s grain trade business, gaining him the monicker “Rice King of Burma”.

The very year Azim Premji was born, his father Hasham had started an oil manufacturing business and called it Western Indian Vegetable Products Ltd.

MS Education Academy

Originally from the Kutch region of Pakistan, Hasham Premji had been invited by Mohammed Ali Jinnah to come to Pakistan. Hasham declined the offer and decided to stay in India post the 1947 partition.

In 1966, when he was just 21 years old, Azim Premji, upon the sudden demise of his father, had the weight of the family business fall onto his shoulders. Leaving halfway the engineering degree he was pursuing from Stanford University, he returned to India to take charge of the company. 

Transformation of Wipro

When Azim Premji took over Western Indian Vegetable Products Ltd, it dealt with the manufacture of hydrogenated oils only. Later, Premji expanded the business to include oil-based consumer products – baking fats, soaps and toiletries.

After noticing a boom in technology and exploring the scope in the IT industry, Premji decided to establish an Infotech division of the company, and by the late 1970s, the company had applied for a licence to develop, manufacture and market minicomputers. The company was then rechristened to Wipro Limited, a change that marked a huge shift in the company’s direction.

Today, Wipro is one of the biggest tech giants in the IT services sector, with a presence globally. All because Azim Premji took the risk to expand a family oil business to challenge the technology sector.

In 2019, Azim Premji stepped down as the Chairman of Wipro and passed the baton to his son Rishad Premji, to focus on philanthropy.


The Czar of the Indian IT Industry, Azim Premji, apart from making a name for himself in the IT industry, has also attained global acclaim for his generous philanthropic causes, one of the only Indian billionaires to do so.

After the immense success and growth of Wipro and the capital it had accrued, Premji was faced with the question of, “What I should do with my wealth?”

As a result of this thought, in 2001, the Azim Premji Foundation was established, a non-profit organisation that aims to work towards improving the quality of education in India.

Over the years, Azim Premji has donated large portions of his wealth to the Foundation. In 2019, he donated USD 2 billion to educational causes, by transferring 213 million equity shares of Wipro Ltd. to the Azim Premji Trust, which manages the finances of the Azim Premji Foundation.

In 2016, addressing his philanthropic donations, Premji had said, “The success of Wipro has made me a wealthy person. I have never felt the need for such wealth, nor any thrill at being wealthy. I have always felt intuitively that such large wealth cannot be privy of any one person or family.”

In 2013, Azim Premji joined The Giving Pledge, an initiative founded by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet which encourages philanthropists to channel a majority of their wealth to charitable causes, the only Indian to do so.

While signing up for The Giving Pledge, Azim Premji said, “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.” and he has truly stood by his words.

He is probably one of the only Indian billionaires who has given back to the society, his philanthropy and charity, unrivalled. Azim Premji has not just emphasised the importance of education but also worked towards it. As of January 2023, he has donated a total USD 29 billion to the Azim Premji Foundation and has no plans to stop.

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