How a Muslim Billionaire Thrives in Hindu India

Posted on September 11, 2007


September 11, 2007; Page A1, Wall Street Journal

BANGALORE, India — The world’s richest Muslim entrepreneur defies 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.

A native of Mumbai, 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 Mr. Premji a fortune of some $17 billion — believed to be greater than that of any other Muslim outside of Persian Gulf royalty.

Such success, Mr. Premji says in an interview, shows that globalization — a force Islamist activists decry as Western neocolonialism — is turning into “two-way traffic” that can bring tangible benefits to developing countries.

Mr. Premji’s rise is already inspiring some Indian Muslims to embrace the modern, globalized world. “He’s an icon. He shows that excellence has no caste and no creed, and that if one has excellence, one can make it to the top,” says Mohamed Javeed, principal of Bangalore’s predominantly Muslim Al-Ameen College. One of the students, Mohammed Nasseer, enthuses, “I’d love to become like Premji one day.” [more]

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