Rishad Premji, the 30-year-old elder son of Azim Premji, chairman of India’s third-largest software services firm Wipro Ltd, is joining the company as a business manager and could eventually succeed Premji Sr, according to a former Wipro employee.
Azim Premji, 61, owns around 80% of Wipro and said in a recent interview with Mint that the family “had a significant stake in the company and its strategy going forward.” “I think you need to divorce the ownership issue from the management of the company,” he added.
“It is natural (for Rishad to join Wipro). But (Azim) Premji will make sure that he is groomed through the ranks before he succeeds him,” said Sridhar Mitta, managing director, e4e Labs Pvt Ltd, a technology incubator based in Bangalore and a former employee of Wipro. Mitta, who was hired in 1983 by Premji Sr, helped grow the business before leaving in May 2000. He was the president then. “If Rishad does not progress well, then Premji may bring in an outsider to be the CEO,” said Mitta. However, a person close to the development, who did not wish to named, claimed that Rishad was neither Premji’s successor nor his successor’s successor.
Rishad will move to Bangalore from the London office of Bain & Co., a consulting firm, and report to Soumitro Ghosh, senior vice-president of Wipro’s banking and financial services division. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Pratik Kumar, executive vice-president, human resources, Wipro, told reporters that Rishad was “joining as just another employee”, but that he could become a director on the board of the company if he inherited his father’s stake.
One analyst said it wasn’t irregular for sons to succeed fathers as heads of family-controlled businesses. “If the son has the right credentials for the job, then why not?” asked E. Balaji, COO, Ma Foi Management Consultants Ltd, a recruitment firm. Earlier on Monday, Wipro said in a statement that Rishad would join the company at a level commensurate with his background and experience.
Azim Premji has not found a replacement for Vivek Paul, the vice-chairman and chief executive of Wipro Technologies, who moved to head private equity firm TPG in May 2005. In his earlier interview with Mint he admitted that he was “hands-on.”
Premji’s younger son Tariq Premji, 27, a commerce graduate from St Joseph’s college in Bangalore, works with the Azim Premji Foundation, which is focused on improving the quality of primary education in rural schools across the country.