Premji among 30 greatest entrepreneurs of all time


New York : Wipro group's Azim Premji has been named by BusinessWeek magazine as one of the 30 greatest entrepreneurs of all time, joining legendary personalities like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Thomas Edison.

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Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh's Grameen Bank is the only other South Asian on the list, which acknowledges these entrepreneurs not just for the entrepreneurial skills but also for transforming the lives of people of their times.

While Premji was selected for building a leading IT company as the industry was growing and then expanding into the global market by adhering to rigorous standards, Yunus' "key takeaway" was that he imagined what would happen if a bank extended credit to people who would never traditionally receive it and in the process creating a system that empowered the poor by helping them become entrepreneurs.

"Premji inherited his father's struggling food oil business when he was a 21-year-old student at Stanford University," the magazine wrote of Premji, 62.

"Now that business, Wipro, is one of the leading IT companies in India and a growing player in the global market. After making the company profitable and expanding from food oil to other consumer goods, Premji led Wipro into the nascent tech economy in the 1970s."

It added that Premji put a premium on quality and standards to build a reputation for Wipro that would reassure Western companies hesitant to move services overseas, a move that helped him land clients like General Electric.

"Premji is also a hands-on manager involved in day-to-day operations, even making sales calls himself," BusinessWeek stated.

About Yunus, the magazine stated that the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner founded a banking system 30 years ago to lend small amounts of money to the rural poor in Bangladeshi villages.

"Most of the low-interest microloans go to women, who use them to start their own profit-making enterprises, mainly in agriculture, crafts, or services," it stated.

"Grameen Bank now has 2,422 branches, employs more than 20,000 people, and has loaned more than $6 billion since its founding. Borrowers own most of the equity in the bank. The company has been profitable in all but three years since it was founded."

Among the other living entrepreneurs to make it to the list are Microsoft chief Bill Gates, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and flamboyant British entrepreneur Richard Branson.

The others on the list are: Zheng He (1371-1433), Benjamin Franklin (1706- 1790), Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), John Jacob Astor (1763- 1848), John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), Thomas Edison (1847-1931), Milton Hershey (1857-1945), W.K. Kellogg (1860-1951), Joseph Horn (1861-1941) and Frank Hardart (1850-1918), Henry Ford (1863-1947), Ray Kroc (1902-1984), Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919), Estée Lauder (1907-2004), Ernest Gallo (1909-2007), Thomas Watson Sr. (1874-1956), Thomas Watson Jr. (1914-1993), Sam Walton (1918-1992), Earl Graves (born 1935), Andy Grove (1936), Ralph Lauren (1939), Martha Stewart (1941), Steve Jobs (1955), Jeff Bezos (1964), Michael Dell (1965) and Pierre Omidyar (1967).