Rishad Premji has very big shoes to fill at Wipro

It’s son-rise at Wipro. In a transition that was on expected lines and set in motion over a decade ago, Rishad Premji, Azim Premji’s first born, will take over as Wipro chairman in July.

Premji Jr, the Cathedral boy from Mumbai with a business degree from Harvard Business School, has done multiple gigs at Wipro. As the head of investor relations and corporate affairs and as chief strategy officer he was instrumental in aligning Wipro’s strategy with the future needs of the business. He is also credited with setting up the $100-million Wipro Ventures, its corporate VC arm to back startups developing solutions that complement Wipro’s future businesses.

One of the top credits he earned at Wipro was when he spearheaded the integration of Citi Technology Services, following Wipro’s acquisition of the Citibank captive in the application and infrastructure space. Citi is one of Wipro’s top customers in the BFSI space. On the day Premji handed over the baton to his son, the former had this to say about Rishad to employees: “Rishad brings to this role new ways of thinking, experience, and competence that will lead Wipro to greater heights. He has been an integral part of the leadership team since 2007, most recently as chief strategy officer, and has an intimate understanding of our company – from operations to strategy.”

Rishad was until recently the chairman of the trade body Nasscom, where he helped chart the course of India’s $170-billion software industry. “His diverse and cross-industry experiences give him the benefit of a broad view of global business. He is firmly rooted in the values that are the bedrock of the company — his commitment to the Spirit of Wipro is absolute,” Premji Sr assured his 1.7 lakh plus employees.

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Rishad takes over at a time when the Indian IT services industry is going through challenging times as emerging technologies like cloud and analytics are altering the tech landscape dramatically. Its closest rival HCL pipped it last year to become the third largest Indian IT services company by revenue.

Rishad walks in thus into a challenging environment. “Wipro has lagged its larger peers largely because of its exposure to certain sectors like oil and gas and telecom where business changes have been profound due to the market conditions. But they seem to be catching up and showing some aggression to get back to growth trajectory,” said Sampath Reddy, CIO, Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance.

Pratik Kumar, CEO of Wipro Infrastructure Engineering, said Wipro’s change of guard is an absolute case study on how succession needs to be planned. “Obviously, Premji’s are big shoes to be filled. But Rishad will bring his own leadership flavour as chairman and it all augurs well.”

Rishad and his wife Aditi (school sweethearts from Cathedral) are quite popular in Bengaluru’s social circles and with their young, school-going children Rohaan and Rhea, are seen about town unlike Azim Premji.


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