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Harder doing philanthropy than running a business: Wipro’s Azim Premji
On Thursday, Wipro founder and celebrated philanthropist Azim Premji, joined an esteemed cadre of business leaders, when he became a recipient of the 19th MMA – Amalgamations Business Leadership Award.
The first recipient of this prestigious award was JRD Tata, after which the likes of Arvind Mafatlal, V Krishnamurthy, Verghese Kurien, KM Mammen Mappillai, C Rangarajan, NR Narayana Murthy, Sunil Bharti Mittal, FC Kohli and Ratan Tata have been honoured with it.
In his acceptance speech, Premji talked about the twin influences in his life – his mother, a doctor who never practiced, but championed the cause of philanthropy (setting up at the age of 27 a first-of-its-kind paediatric hospital, remaining chairperson till 78) and Mahatma Gandhi (for his relentless and uncompromising pursuit of truth).
Exhorting wealthy people to earmark a substantial portion of their wealth for societal good, the doyen of IT industry admitted philanthropy was more complex than doing business. The issues, were subtler and those involved in social services saw recognition rather than money as incentivisation. While success in business had taught many things, preparing entrepreneurs in several ways, philanthropy, he felt, brought in more humility.
Teachers, who are often blamed for dereliction of duty, are a committed lot with perhaps 20 per cent of them not setting benchmarks.
But that is a statistic applicable for a company too, he sought to point out. Teachers were largely a devoted lot with 20 per cent of them doing outstanding work. They do much more work than those in companies, Premji said.
At monthly workshops held by the Azim Premji Foundation on Sundays for four hours, the teachers would come at their own expense with an intention to equip themselves better to teach children. On the other hand, if corporate workshops were held on a Sunday, attendance becomes an issue, he added.
Premji also talked about model leadership. Gandhi was able to manage this. Without any formal power or position, he was able to impact the milieu as his moral leadership influenced millions of lives.
Earlier, dignitaries including A Venkataramani, President, MMA and MD, IP Rings, Mallika Srinivasan, Chairman, TAFE, N Vaghul, former Chairman, ICICI Bank and Vikram S Kirloskar, CMD, Kirloskar Systems, shared their experiences. Kirloskar said his friend Ashutosh Wasnik (a professor at Brown University, who is now with the Premji foundation), pointed to Premji’s generosity, as the Wipro founder had given away $2 billion in funds, which exceeded the endowment fund earmarked at the University.