Azim Premji – Integrity Personified

Shri Azim Premji has completed 50 years in business and I would like to share an important facet of his personality. The one thing he never compromised was integrity. Wipro Fluid Power (now Wipro Infrastructure Engineering )  was  set up in Peenya Bangalore in 1992 for the manufacturing of hydraulic cylinders and related products. The KEB engineer insisted on a bribe for sanctioning the electricity supply. Azim Premji flatly refused for any bribe and decided to run the plant on Diesel Generating (DG) sets. Can you imagine the hardship of running an industry without electricity? After three long years,  Wipro was able to get the connection without paying any bribe. The corrupt official was transferred by then.

A former VP of Wipro narrated an amusing story of the changing attitude of corrupt government officials  towards Wipro subsequently.  When they realized that it did not make any sense troubling Wipro, they decided to ‘focus’ on other companies where the results were quick with ‘low-hanging fruits’.

During one of the training programs on Leadership,  after  narrating the above  incident, ( about honesty and integrity of Azim Premji) one of the participants said that Premji could  afford to do the same because he is one of the richest men. I had to make the rebuttal on the following two counts:

  1. When this incident happened in 1992, he was not the richest man. The IT revolution had just begun then.
  2. Secondly if this were to be true, there are a number of equally rich people from big industrial houses ( who started from scratch ) and  are notorious for their corrupt practises.

Actually money does not change people, it only magnifies what is within. Values cannot be taught, either you have it or you don’t.

A manager from Wipro was tracked for claiming flight charges for his travel from Bangalore to Delhi even though he had travelled by train. He was asked to resign immediately.  Even while travelling by train, the engineers were told not to give bribes to the TTE. I know an instance where a Wipro engineer even decided not to board the train for having  refused the bribe  and opting to go by bus. It is indeed admirable to have such an uncompromising value and still succeed in a country like India which is notorious for corruption.

Actually ethics is a very delicate issue and can be interpreted to suit one’s convenience. Ratan Tata once said, “Why should I waste my time with the bureaucrats in Delhi?  They are supposed to do their work and I am supposed to do mine.” (Late) Dhirubhai Ambani had a different take on this. He said , “while going to temple,  we offer Naivedya to God, then what is wrong while dealing with bureaucrats?”

Out of the 73.39% stake he owns in Wipro, he has irrevocably pledged 39% shares for his philanthropy which as of today’s market capitalization works out to be Rs. 56,000 crores. Compare this with  the CII report on CSR. The 1000 listed BSE companies have donated around Rs. 6400 crores as a part of the Corporate Social Responsibility ( CSR) ( Source- livemint)

Dear Mr. Premji, I salute you for the great work you have carried out not only in establishing a world class company but also for the noble cause of education of millions of rural children with your uncompromising value system!

Rajan Parulekar|Paradigm Trainers Private Limited| #7, 7th Main, Binny Layout, Vijaynagar, Bangalore 560 040| T: 080 23207930, M: 98450 14098| rajan@paradigm-info.com

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