In a special report, the WSJ said that Premji defied all the conventional wisdom about Islamic tycoons. “He doesn’t hail from the Persian Gulf, he didn’t make his money in petroleum, and he definitely doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve” – to emerge as one of the top 25 richest men in the world.
According to popular business and lifestyle magazine, Forbes, Premji is the 21st richest man in the world and the second richest Muslim in the world. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud is the richest Muslim in the world at No.13 ($20.3 billion).
“Azim Premji has tapped India’s abundant engineering talent to transform a family vegetable-oil firm, Wipro Ltd, into a technology and outsourcing giant. By serving western manufacturers, airlines and utilities, the company has brought Premji a fortune of some $17 billion,” the WSJ report said.
In the report entitled, ‘How a Muslim billionaire thrives in Hindu India,’ WSJ said Premji was way ahead of Russia’s metal and real estate baron Sulaiman Kerimov ($14 billion), Kuwait’s Nasser Al-Kharafi ($11 billion), Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Al Amoudi ($8 billion), UAE’s Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair ($8 billion), Russia’s Iskander Makhmudov ($8 billion), Saudi’s Maan Al-Sanea ($7.5 billion) and Saudi Arabia’s Sulaiman Al Rajhi ($7.5 billion) to emerge as the richest Muslim entrepreneur in the world.
WSJ also quoted Premji as saying in an interview: “We have always seen ourselves as Indian. We’ve never seen ourselves as Hindus, or Muslims, or Christians or Buddhists,” adding that his secular and globalized outlook has helped him taste financial success.
However, success comes at a price, WSJ noted. “To many in India’s Muslim community, Mr. Premji’s enormous wealth, far from being inspiring, shows that success comes at a price the truly faithful cannot accept. They resent that Mr. Premji plays down his religious roots and declines to embrace Muslim causes; in a nation where people are pegged by their religion and where Hindus freely flaunt theirs,” Yaroslav Trofimov, the writer of the article, said.
“Mr. Premji has mentioned his Muslim background so rarely in public that many Indian Muslims don’t even know he shares their heritage. None of Wipro’s senior managers aside from Mr. Premji himself are Muslims. The company maintains normal working hours on Islamic high holidays. Among its 70,000 employees, there’s only a sprinkling of Muslims,” Trofimov said.