10 Companies That Completely Reinvented Themselves

Wipro Technologies chairman Azeem Premji speaks during the announcement of his company's financial results at its headquarters in Bangalore, India in 2013. Wipro started out selling vegetable oil. STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images

Wipro is one of the world's largest and most successful IT services companies. Known as the "IBM of India," its 145,000 global employees serve more than 900 clients in 61 countries [source: Wipro]. With billions of dollars in annual revenue from IT outsourcing and software engineering, it's more than a little surprising to learn that Wipro is short for Western India Vegetable Products.

In 1945, Wipro began manufacturing and selling vegetable oil to Indian housewives. Over the next two decades, the company diversified into soaps, detergent, talcum powder, light bulbs and other consumer goods. It wasn't until 21-year-old Azim Premji took over the company from his father in 1966 that Wipro first expanded into IT [source: Rao].

Premji moved the company's headquarters to Bangalore — India's Silicon Valley —in the 1980s, and started building PCs and designing enterprise software. Today, more than half of Wipro's $6.9 billion revenue comes from the U.S., where it provides outsourced research and development and IT consulting services [source: Wipro]. Wipro still sells toiletries, lighting and other consumer goods under a corporate subsidiary called Wipro Enterprises Limited.