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August 6, 1999


The Rediff Business Special/ Azim Hasham Premji

Work harder, smarter, and India will offer
whatever you want

Azim Hasham Premji, chairman, Wipro Corporation. Today represents a transition from the world of preparation into the real world of contribution. I feel it is the appropriate time for me to leave with you (today's students) a few messages, based on my own experience, which might help you in your quest for success in your life.
The first message is that hard work is the most critical ingredient of success. If you wish to succeed in your profession in future, you will have to work only harder. Your peers will bring in similar credentials. The only way you can move ahead is by unstinting hard work.

There is no debate between whether you need to work smarter or harder. You have to work both smarter and harder. If Wipro has come out on top, compared to a number of other blue chips of yesteryears, it is not because of extraordinary ability or resources, but by the sheer dint of hard work.

I personally put in a 90-hour work week. Any future leader who is not prepared to put in this scorching pace of work will be left behind.

Email this special to a friend The second thought I wish to share with you is that hard work must be towards a purpose. You have to identify a purpose that inspires you, challenges you and gives you tremendous satisfaction to pursue. Once you identify your purpose, that permeates to your very being, you will be propelled by restless intensity towards achieving it. Then, you can work with a single-minded, determined, unwavering perseverance.

When I returned from Stanford more than three decades back, Wipro was a small organisation located in Amalner, a tiny hamlet in Jalgaon district. I was suddenly propelled into a role for which I had little preparation. Initially, I found the prospect fairly daunting.

Then I realised that this enormous challenge brought with it an enormous opportunity. An opportunity to create a very different kind of organisation based on values. It took a tremendous amount of effort to reach where we have reached today. But if I had not been completely fired by the vision that kept me going during difficult times, I do not know if I could have kept up the relentless work that was necessary.

The third message is that do not ever stop learning. The greatest benefit of engineering is that is teaches you the discipline of process thinking as applied to real life problems. Given the rapid changes in technology and myriad business situations that throw up new and different avenues to apply your knowledge, you have to constantly keep learning.

What is important is not your existing knowledge alone, but your ability to keep refreshing it dynamically. You have learnt to learn. But the zest to use this ability on an ongoing basis must come from within you.

The fourth message is that do not wait for opportunity to come your way. Actively search for opportunities and grab them when you see them. Long ago, I learnt that the future is not what happens to you, but what you make of it.

I have heard of young achievers lamenting the lack of opportunity in our country that drives them to seek jobs overseas. You can create your own opportunity and our country can offer whatever you want in life, provided you do your bit.

When I look back, I realise that Wipro was not blessed with the abundance of resources like the multinational corporations. What accounted for its success was its integrity, unshakable self-confidence, determination and effort to better global competition, relentless work towards achieving this and its ability to acquire world class processes, develop world class teams and attract world class leadership.

I think its success is a testimony to the fact that if you get your fundamentals right, it is possible to succeed being in India as much as being a Non Resident Indian anywhere in the world.

I have nothing to say for those who study or work abroad with a view to return and contribute the richness of the experience back to the nation.

My message is only for those who feel that staying overseas is the only way they can utilise their talent. I would like to emphasise that there is enough opportunity, not only to be highly successful in India, but also to return, in a small measure, the sacrifice and investment made by the nation and your alma mater to make your graduation from this coveted institute (the IIT) possible.

I think the last point is extremely important to derive personal satisfaction from success. Whether it is wealth of knowledge or business wealth, it brings enormous "trusteeship" along with it. To discharge this trusteeship honorably is a tremendous responsibility. It is a bigger job in terms of challenge than creating wealth in the first place.

I hope you will be able to apply my messages in your lives for success and satisfaction.

I look forward with hope and expectation that you will utilise your talent in shaping the destiny of your profession and our nation.

Azim H Premji is chairman, Wipro Corporation, and has been rated by Forbes as the richest Indian. The article is adapted from his lecture at the 37th convocation of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, on August 6, 1999.

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