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December 16, 2006

Entrepreneur Shifted Business from Crisco to Computers

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 12/16/2006 07:23:00 PM

Azim Premji, the founder of Wipro Limited(ADR) (NYSE WIT), a giant in Indian IT outsourcing, gave a great speech at Stanford on how he transformed his company from a company making vetegable oil to one of the largest outsourcing companies in the world. For you entrepreneurs out there, Azim has a really inspiring message: "Failure is essential to generating new ideas."

Premji, who over the course of a 40-year career helped transform Wipro from a family-owned vegetable oil business (Western India Vegetable Products Ltd.) into one of the largest outsourcing companies in the world, said failure is a critical ingredient in innovation. He added that innovation is what enables young startups to upset the existing balance of power.

Some key lessons Azim Premji learned:

Failure is an option. Azim Premji, chairman of the Indian outsourcing giant Wipro Technologies, told a Graduate School of Business audience, "It is impossible to generate a few good ideas without a lot of bad ideas. Failure should be forgiven and forgotten quickly." Premji appeared as part of the GSB's "View from the Top" speaker series.

Small is an advantage. "In every market, at every juncture, there are significant scale advantages that make the largest companies appear invincible. Yet time and time again, upstart technologies create disruptions and they change the rules of the game," Premji said. He used the example of Skype, which became the first company to offer voice-over-Internet phone services on a broad scale years after all the established phone companies had started talking about the process.

Seek new market opportunities. Premji is widely recognized as the innovative business leader who shifted his company "from Crisco to computers." That gradual evolution started during the 1970s, when IBM exited the Indian market, leaving more room for local computer manufacturers. Wipro began assembling its own machines and later set itself up as a provider of computer and information technology services to global firms operating in India. Years later, as computers became more commoditized, Wipro again shifted to a stronger focus on servers and offered global research-and-development labs for hire, where a range of Western high-tech and consumer-products companies could conduct critical research at a lower price.

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