Rahul Bajaj passes away at 83

‘Hamara Bajaj’: He was among the stars who created Indian automotive industry, said Venu Srinivasan.

‘Hamara Bajaj’: He was among the stars who created Indian automotive industry, said Venu Srinivasan.

Rahul Bajaj, 83, one of India’s leading industrialists and chairman emeritus of Bajaj Auto Ltd., passed away in Pune on Saturday, a senior group official said.

A grandson of the industrialist, freedom fighter and group founder Jamnalal Bajaj, Bajaj helmed the eponymous group of companies, which have a presence across industries including automobiles, general and life insurance, and consumer finance, for almost four decades till 2005.

After assuming a leadership role in 1965, he steered the diversified entity during India’s transition from a closed economy to a liberalised one. Bajaj drove the flagship Bajaj Auto to expand its product portfolio with the Bajaj brand finding a foothold in global markets while warding off emerging competition from Japanese motorcycle makers mounting a challenge to the company’s scooters.

‘Bajaj Chetak’

Under his stewardship, Bajaj Auto saw its turnover surge to ₹12,000 crore, with the firm’s scooters becoming the mainstay. The Bajaj Chetak scooter became an aspirational symbol for middle-class Indian families, across the 1980s and ‘90s, with the ‘Hamara Bajaj’ ad jingle becoming synonymous with their hopes of a better future.

“Rahul Bajaj strode across the Indian industrial landscape like a colossus. He was among the few stars who created the Indian automotive industry,” Venu Srinivasan, chairman of TVS Motor Company said in a condolence message. “He was a pioneer who established a culture of quality and technology. He stood for high integrity in business and stuck to his principles,” Mr. Srinivasan added in a tribute to his one-time business competitor.

‘Fortright, courageous’

One of the India’s most successful business leaders, and given to candour, Bajaj was elected to the Rajya Sabha in June 2006 and remained a member till 2010.

“He was a great visionary and a forthright and courageous individual who expressed his views fearlessly,” said Sanjay Kirloskar, chairman Kirloskar Brothers Ltd. “And he was a warm human being,” Mr. Kirloskar added.

Known for his outspokenness, in November 2019, at an event organised by the Economic Times in Mumbai where Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal were present, the veteran industrialist spoke among other things about what he contended was the government’s ‘stifling of criticism’.

“This environment of fear, it’s definitely on our minds. “You (the government) are doing good work; and despite that, we don’t have the confidence that you’ll appreciate criticism,” he had said at the time.

Bajaj was a recipient of many awards, including the Padma Bhushan.

He also held several other leadership positions, including as the chairman of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and chairman of the board of governors of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

Bajaj was a former chairman of the International Business Council, World Economic Forum and a former president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

“Rahul Bajaj was a towering leader for Indian industry and his sad demise leaves a huge void in our business ecosystem and India has lost one of its tallest leaders in industry,” said T.V. Narendran, president, CII. The CII President highlighted that under Bajaj’s stewardship, the first codification of corporate governance norms in the country happened way back in 1998, well before any regulation or law came into being in this important space.

( With PTI inputs )

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2022 2:38:10 am |