On June 4, Wipro, the Bangalore-based soaps-to-software company, finally put to rest swirling speculation over succession plans for Azim Premji, its 62-year old Chairman, when it announced that his elder son, Rishad, 30, would join the company at the end of the month. Rishad will initially work in the financial services vertical (under the supervision of Girish Paranjpe, a Wipro loyalist). Pratik Kumar, Executive Vice President (hr), Wipro, says: "It is only logical," that Rishad will eventually move on, from being just an employee, to the company's board as a director. "Rishad Premji is going to join Wipro at a level commensurate with his background and experience. His joining has been approved by the Board and is subject to shareholder approval.
This is required statutorily because he is a relative of a Director," a company statement read. Much like his media-shy father, Rishad too steered clear of making any media appearances, once his decision was made public (with the company's pr machinery even turning down requests for handout pictures), instead letting senior managers such as Kumar do all the talking.
While Wipro's had half a dozen vice-chairmen in the past, including the flamboyant Vivek Paul-who was also CEO of the firm's global it operations before moving to private equity giant TPG Group two years ago-Azim Premji has had a keen interest in the day-to-day functioning of the company. "It's unlikely that Rishad will be catapulted into the top spot or even into a senior management role quickly. It's likely that he will be given time to understand the nuances of the business before being pitch-forked into prominence," says Sridhar Mitta, Founder and CTO of e4e, an IT solutions and products company, and former President of Wipro.
According to Kumar, "Rishad could join Wipro's Board eventually, but at this moment there is no plan for this and we reiterate that such a move has nothing to do with Premji's succession." While the senior Premji has been chairman of Wipro for nearly four decades, he seems to have chosen the ideal industry for Rishad's initiation into the company. Beginning with his MBA at Harvard Business School, Rishad has had a strong finance focus, completing his stints first at GE, before his last spell as a business development executive at consulting giant Bain & Co.'s London office. Interestingly, the senior Premji has sought to demarcate ownership from management in the past, repeatedly telling the media that "you're confusing management with ownership." There's little room for such confusion now.