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Atlanta inspires me,” says Azim Premji

March 2008
Atlanta inspires me,” says Azim Premji

Ranked amongst the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2004, and often described as one of the richest Indians, Azim Premji is one of the foremost icons of India’s legendary growth story, and particularly, its IT revolution. Premji led Wipro from a fledgling $2 million cooking oil company in 1966 to a $1.76 billion global IT services organization.

A select group of prominent community activists, business leaders and media personalities of Atlanta Indian community were invited to a dinner meeting with

Premji at the Banquet Hall of Palace Restaurant on Thursday, January 29. The meeting was hosted by Dr Jagdish Sheth and TiE-Atlanta.

Premji was in town in conjunction with Wipro’s interest in Atlanta as the company’s first U.S. based software development center. “I always feel warm about Atlanta. I have visited many places in the world. What really stands out in Atlanta is warmness of the people and genuineness of the community, customers and journalists, and I feel at home here. It is really a wonderful feeling,” he said in a speech at the dinner meeting.

According to Premji, one of the important factors that stood out in favor of Atlanta was the hunger of young people here. The role of the Georgia government’s support also played a part in the decision. “We are quite bullish about what we can achieve in Atlanta. We already have a customer base here,” said an optimistic Premji.

Earlier, Dr. Jagdish Sheth, a world authority in the field of marketing, and the Chair of Marketing in the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, introduced Azim Premji. In his welcome address, Dr. Sheth described Premji as a living legend. He said that Premji has a knack of identifying talent and bringing out their best, and for human transformations. “It is my experience that I have seen hundreds of successful entrepreneurs who have started their careers at Wipro. It is a great starting. People tell me how Wipro created a culture. Dr Sheth added that what he also liked about Premji is that wealth had not affected him. “He is equally comfortable with presidents, prime ministers, etc., but also with the people working on the streets.”

The evening held a special surprise when writer Salman Rushdie walked in and took his seat at the front table soon after the agenda for the evening had begun. Rushdie, who is currently teaching at Emory, had accepted Dr Sheth’s invitation to the program.

After Premji’s speech in which, amongst other things, he shared the reasons why Atlanta is at the top of the shortlist of cities that Wipro is considering for its U.S. expansion, he entertained questions from the audience, and in the process, shared his insights on leadership qualities, the state of education in India and the U.S., and the role Wipro is playing in helping recruit quality teachers in higher education. He also spoke of the U.S. deficit of quality IT workers and the need for policymakers to address that.

- Ravi R. Ponangi

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