business | IST

    I was told not to try and fill my father's big shoes, but to stitch my own: Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji


    Rishad took over as executive chairman of IT services giant Wipro from his father Azim Premji in July 2019. He talks to CNBC-TV18 on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum 2022 in Davos about the blend of old and new leaders, people as an important asset in a services business and why he believes returning to offices is important

    Rishad Premji, the Executive Chairman of IT services giant Wipro, said he was told not to try and fit into his father's boots, but to stitch his own. Rishad took over as executive chairman of Wipro from his father Azim Premji in July 2019.

    "He (Azim Premji) is a legendary founder and one is not trying to fill shoes here. One of my board members once told me that don't try and fill big shoes, rather stitch your own.. because you can't fill big shoes," Rishad told CNBC-TV on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2022 in Davos.

    Rishad said his style and his father's style of working are very different and Wipro as a company has been through a fair amount of change. Referring to Wipro's Chief Executive Officer Thierry Delaporte, Rishad said, "We have a global CEO running the company. Now, we have completely transformed our structure. We have gone from being industry-organised to being market-organised. So we have four markets across the world, we are much, much closer to the market now."

    Blend of old and new leaders

    Rishad said the company has an ideal combination of new and old leaders. "We have a nice combination, I think of new leaders who bring in a new mindset to the organisation, yet 55 percent of our top 200 leaders have been in the organisation for more than 10 years. We think it is important to be in a nice combination of the old and the new," he said.

    Rishad felt that people constituted the most important asset in a services business and the key is to stay connected with them. "I spend my time on capital, and investments that we make and I spend my time with our board and how do we make sure that we have an impactful board that is helping us think strategically and, and boldly. But people are probably the most important and I think in a services business, people is your number one asset, it is important to spend time with them," he said.

    Hybrid's fine but office is key to 'connectedness'

    It is important for people to physically come to work to build the connection, before moving to a hybrid work environment, Rishad felt.

    He said 45 percent of Wipro's employees are new, they haven't walked into an office, or engaged with anybody, with the exception of a few people and their boss. "So it is very hard to drive connectedness in that environment. So I think it is incredibly important that people come back to the office at least for some rhythm. You want to move to a hybrid model to come back for connectedness, to come back for culture," he said.

    Organisations grow and organisations get connected when people gossip over coffee, over lunch. I am a big believer in that, he said. "So I think it is incredibly important to drive that to nurture that because we are very proud of the culture and values we imbibe as an organisation. It is a huge, I think, a differentiator for us, and it is important that people experienced that," he added.

    Rishad joined Wipro as a business manager in 2007, and was escalated to the position of chief strategy officer in 2019. He was inducted into Wipro's board in 2015, the year he also conceptualised and set up Wipro Ventures.

    Wipro under Rishad Premji as executive chairman

    Within six months of Rishad taking charge as executive chairman of Wipro, the company, in December 2019, was ranked top employer for Australia for 2020. The company had a 35 percent year-on-year (YoY) rise in consolidated net profit in the second quarter of FY20, shortly after Rishad took charge. However, it had posted a 2.1 percent dip in consolidated net profit in the next quarter.

    The Wipro CEO at the time, Abidali Z Neemuchwala, stepped down in January 2020 and his position was later filled by Thierry Delaporte in May, who, in a letter to the employees in November had stressed on organisational changes such as the newly-created role of chief growth officer, new operating model to help drive growth in non-US markets, among others.

    Since Rishad took charge as executive chairman of the global IT services company, Wipro and its units have acquired and announced acquisitions of a slew of companies, including digital customer experience (CX) firm Rational Interaction, engineering services company Eximius Design, UK-based consultancy Capco, among others.

    The company was also selected as a strategic partner by UK-based Metro Bank to drive IT transformation. Wipro had also announced a collaboration with IBM to develop hybrid cloud offerings to help businesses.

    When the COVID-19 pandemic hit India in March 2020, Wipro and its philanthropic arm Azim Premji Foundation committed Rs 1,125 crore towards tackling the unprecedented health and humanitarian crisis.

    In July last year, the company said it would invest  $1 billion to expand cloud transformation capability.

    In April 2021, Wipro reported its best fourth quarter earnings. The firm recorded 3.8 percent year-on-year rise in net profit in its recent quarterly earnings report for FY22. 

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