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Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Mumbai (AFP): India’s second richest man, Azim Premji, has announced his retirement as chairman of Wipro, the company that he transformed from a small cooking fat firm into a global IT powerhouse.

“I wish to thank generations of Wiproites and their families for their contribution towards building our company to what it is today,” the 73-year-old said in a statement. “It has been a long and satisfying journey for me. As I look into the future, I plan to devote more time to focus on our philanthropic activities”

Premji has headed Wipro since the late 1960s, turning into a behemoth in IT, consulting and business services present in over 50 countries with $8.5 billion in revenues. Premji will step down as executive chairman on July 30, to be replaced by his son Rishad Premji, but will remain on the board as non-executive director and founder chairman.

In March, Premji pledged about 34 per cent of Wipro shares controlled by him to philanthropic activities through his foundation. India’s $150 billion IT sector has long been one of the country’s flagship industries as companies around the world take advantage of its skilled English-speaking workforce.

Known as the czar of the industry, Premji’s Wipro competed with Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys globally to export its software services to clients in Europe and the U.S. However Indian IT firms are undergoing a period of change in the face of automation and new technologies.