Premji turns nostalgic over 40-year association between Wipro, IISc

Team Udayavani, Sep 13, 2019, 11:35 AM IST

Bengaluru: Founder-Chairman of Wipro, Azim Premji turned nostalgic on Thursday at the Indian Institute of Science here, where the company’s information technology business was born four decades ago.

Addressing Convocation 2019 at IISc, he recalled that in 1979, Wipro approached the newly set up Centre for Scientific and Industry Consultancy at IISc for a consultancy project.

The city-headquartered company had then just set up its information technology division, having decided to diversify into IT.

“The institute constituted a committee to advise us on what computer we should make,” Premji said.

The consultancy project involved surveying literature on the computers being made all over the world.

And it was also a platform for technical discussions, conceptualisation and design review between Wipro’s R&D team and IISc.

“It was here (IISc) that we began to think about what chips, bus and microprocessor should be used in the first Wipro computer,” he said.

Apart from the transfer of technology and expertise, IISc helped build the R&D manpower of Wipro.

The first employee of Wipro IT division was an M Tech student at IISc and was hired to anchor the project in its initial stages.

Sridhar Mitta from ECIL joined Wipro soon after.

In the first few months, they worked out of the Digital Lab at IISc.

“This really was the birth of our IT business – what is now the globally successful business by which Wipro is most known across the world. So, it would be quite accurate to say that Wipro IT business was born in IISc. This is our birthplace,” Premji said.

He said Wipro’s association with IISc has continued over the past 40 years, and the company has continued to recruit from IISc and do collaborative projects at the cutting edge of technology.

“…for example, we are together doing a project on ‘driverless cars’ and building India’s first indigenous ‘Metal 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing) Machine,” the IT czar said.

According to him, there are two big lessons from this story (Wipro-IISc association).

“The first one is that collaboration matters more than we realise. We must encourage and foster collaboration across different sectors – across education and research institutions, industry, civil society and government,” Premji said.

“The second lesson is that the role and contribution of good and open-minded institutions in society cannot be measured in money terms,” he said.

“They have far-reaching and deep impact. We must build more such institutions, which pursue excellence in their chosen fields – and are deeply engaged with society.”

Speaking on the occasion, former ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar emphasised the IISc has a great responsibility in using the heritage.

“We have a huge heritage of looking at life in its totality and seeking the truth of life. It is appropriate to look at whether the onslaught of Western thinking on human development might have overshadowed the knowledge seeking,” he pointed out.

He said the issue of consciousness and matter remains a matter of big debate, though humans improved their ability to build an appropriate technological tool to comprehend life and its survival on our planet Earth and possible presence elsewhere.

“While we have a huge knowledge base in the area of consciousness, our ability to build tools and techniques to comprehend life has lagged behind significantly with respect to advanced countries,” the former ISRO chairman said.

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