Rahul Bajaj: A Visionary Businessman and Fearless Critique
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Two-wheeler is an important mode of transportation in India. With owning a car being considered a luxury, possessing a motorcycle or scooter still remains one of the important goals for several Indian households. The aspiration to buy a two-wheeler received a massive boost in the 1980s and 1990s when the ‘Hamara Bajaj’ jingle found its way to households.
After 50 years of steering the growth of India’s second-largest motorcycle maker Bajaj Auto, the 81-year-old director, Rahul Bajaj announced his plans to step down from the executive role on March 31, 2020. Rahul will serve as the non-executive chairman with effect from April 1, 2020.
“Due to certain commitments and other pre-occupation, Rahul Bajaj has decided not to continue as a whole-time director of the company after the expiry of his current term on 31 March 2020,” the company said in a statement.
According to reports, Rahul has been moving away from the day-to-day affairs of the company over the last few years and is handing over the responsibility of the company to his sons Rajiv and Sanjiv Bajaj.
Hamara Bajaj Ruling Hearts
Rahul served as a director of the company since April 1, 1970. He was last re-appointed by the company’s board for a five-year term with effect from April 2015.
During his leadership over the five decades, Rahul took the company to new heights. With the successful ‘Hamara Bajaj’ campaign, the company reached the hearts of millions in the country and became a lot more than a just vehicle for commute.
Owning a Bajaj scooter during the 80s was not only a matter of pride, but was also considered a fruit of hard work and labor by middle-class Indians. Apart from this, its two-wheeler model, Bajaj Chetak gained immense popularity among the middle-class. Chetak—named after the legendary horse of Indian warrior and the 13th King of Mewar, Maharana Pratap—had populated the roads in India during the 1990s.
Early Life of the 85-Year-Old Business Tycoon
Bajaj group was founded by Jamnalal Bajaj in 1926. The group, which is said to be one of the largest conglomerates in India, consists of 37 companies. Its flagship company Bajaj Auto, which was incorporated in 1945, is reportedly ranked as the world's fourth-largest two- and three-wheeler manufacturer.
Jamnalal’s grandson Rahul was born in 1938. He completed his schooling from The Cathedral and John Connon School and graduated in economics from St. Stephen's College in Delhi in 1958. Following this, Rahul went on to complete his degree in law from Bombay University and pursued MBA from the Harvard Business School in the US. He succeeded his father Kamalnayan Bajaj and became CEO of Bajaj Auto in 1968.
According to reports, within three years of his stint at the helm, Rahul expanded into new businesses, including cement, electrical appliances and scooters. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2001 and was also elected to Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra in 2006.
According to Forbes India's 100 Richest People in 2019 list, the Bajaj family's net worth stands at $9.2 billion. The Bajaj family is also ranked as the 11th richest family in India.
Apart from being a veteran businessman with decades of experience, Rahul is also famous in the corporate world because of his outspoken and fearless nature. Rahul has been on the forefront for pointing out loopholes in government decisions and never minced his words.
“When UPA II was in power, we could criticize anyone, now an atmosphere of fear exists,” Rahul said in December 2019 at an event being attended by home minister Amit Shah, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and railways and commerce minister Piyush Goyal.
He took the potshot at the Narendra Modi-government and said there is fear in the industry and no industrialist is saying it publicly. He openly criticized the government for not taking effective action against lynching and not taking Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur to task for praising Nathuram Godse in Parliament.