“A great prominent industrialist who created an industrial revolution in the country by producing two-wheelers, and at the same time, nurtured the heritage of his family’s political and social work”
Rahul Bajaj, an iconic, straight forward and outspoken entrepreneur of India, especially popular in manufacturing path-breaking two-wheelers, took up the reins as Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Group in 1965 as an inherited business. Under the leadership of Rahul Bajaj for more than three decades, the company has released many successful brands of two-wheelers like Bajaj Chetak and recently the highly sold top brand of motorbike Bajaj Pulsar etc. As a great strategist and business analyst, Rahul Bajaj visualized the necessity of safe and hazel free transport availability, for the average Indian household. He played key role in the design and development of Bajaj Chetak scooters in India. This shows his concern towards common-man. Even today, we see many two-wheelers and three-wheelers on Indian roads with the logo of Bajaj. Bajaj Group has a very old history of 85yrs (found in 1926 before independence); today the company takes pride to be in the list of top ten business houses of India, with a market cap of about Rs. 78,000 cr. and functions with deep social commitment and practices the highest norms of good corporate governance. Bajaj Auto ranks fourth in the world in manufacturing scooters (two-wheelers) and three-wheelers
Rahul Bajaj is an industrialist with new thoughts and ideas; therefore his entrepreneurial spirit is recognized internationally. He made up to his mark and established Bajaj Group as India’s top companies. He maintained his reputation with healthy competition and never involved in making business at the cost of others' ideas all the time and remained spotless and clean entrepreneur in the industry. At the time when Rahul started his business, strict licenses and permits predominantly invaded the markets. Liberalization in India has posed many challenges to the business and there was a deep slump in sale of scooters in 2001. None of these factors stood in the way of the strong entrepreneur from reaching the heights of excellence and investing in R&D for innovation and introducing high quality, performance, and new models of two-wheelers.
Under the helm of Rahul, Bajaj Group has diversified into various business verticals ranging from automobiles, home appliances, lighting, iron and steel, insurance, travel and finance; serving needs of all categories of consumers. Rahul Bajaj applied his cross-pollinated ideas on the growth of the company and turned it around from a company of Rs.72 million to Rs.46.16 billion. Bajaj group works in various corners of the globe across several countries in Latin America, Africa, Middle East, South and South East Asia. This was possible by striking decisiveness and assertiveness of Rahul Bajaj even at turbulent times and his great business acumen.
On personal front, he is more a human than a businessman. He is very liberal to his employees and gives them lot of independence and room to learn, create and innovate while at work. This makes his employees involved and interested in working in an open and friendly environment, which is not possible by coercion. This shows his empathy towards employees and his relationship with them. This resulted in smooth operations of Bajaj Group ever since and paved way for building a great organization. He often featured regularly in magazines like Asia week; Pune times etc. Rahul Bajaj became exemplary for young entrepreneurs of India, due to his achievements and worth following leadership qualities.
After completing his MBA at Harvard in USA, Rahul Bajaj returned to India with plans of extension of business. Rahul Bajaj started working as the CEO of Bajaj Group at the young age of twenty-six in 1965. He established Bajaj Group as top player in India with his tremendous efforts and seamless hard work. After thoroughly understanding the business environment as a whole, he set up factories at Akurdi and Waluj.
Rahul Bajaj was very much inspired by the famous Vespa scooters made by Piaggio of Italy and became the Indian licensee for the make in 1960. Bajaj Auto began manufacturing their first two-wheelers in the following year. In 1977 Piaggio of Italy, maker of vespa scooters filed patent infringement suit and blocked the sales of Bajaj scooters in United stated, United Kingdom, West- Germany and Honkong, after the expiration of technical collaboration agreement with the company. The export of Bajaj scooters was negated from Rs 133.2mn in year 1980-81 to Rs 54mn in year 1981-82. By the year 1970-1977, Bajaj Autos produced 100,000 vehicles, including the three-wheeler goods carrier early in the decade, the Bajaj Super and three-wheeled rear engine Auto rickshaw later.
In 1980’s although it was tough time to get licenses and permits, Rahul as a man with will power succeeded in establishing factories at Akurdi and Waluj. In 1980, Bajaj Auto was India’s topmost scooter manufacturing company. After enjoying a decade of success, Bajaj Chetak was launched. The sale of two-wheelers was at its peak due to oil crisis and two-wheelers were cheaper in price, maintenance and more fuel-efficient as compared to cars. There was a very high demand for Chetak and the waiting time for the scooter was unbelievably high as 10yrs. In 1996, Bajaj Auto was the only large Indian company without any foreign investment or partnership.
The initialization of liberalization in India posed great challenges for Bajaj Auto, like threat of cheaper imports and FDI’s from top companies like Honda. In early 1990’s, when Rahul Bajaj was chairman of Bombay Club, he was one among people who strongly opposed liberalization. All the top players (Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Garelli) of the world entered the markets through collaborations and joint ventures. After the liberalization, the change in demographics shifted the interests of youngsters of India from scooters to motor cycles. Already Hero Honda captured the motorcycle market and was ahead of Bajaj. Bajaj was dominant and leading only in scooters market.
In 2001, recession and collapse of stock markets hardly hit the sales of scooters. Some business analysts even forecasted that there was every possibility that Bajaj Autos would shut down. However, Rahul Bajaj with high determination and great perseverance; reinvented and renewed his own ideology and briskly walked ahead with hope and set up an excellent factory at Chakan. He restructured the product-line and increased the productivity of workforce. He invested in R&D, came up with a new brand Bajaj Pulsar motorcycle, and gave a new direction to the company. The current models of Motorcycles Bajaj Autos sell are the XCD, Platina, Discover, Pulsar, Avenger and Ninja. Today Bajaj is market leader in motorcycles in Colombia, Central America, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Philippines, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya with the exports increasing consistently by 15%, with 891,002 units exported in 2009-10. Bajaj also stood top exporter of three-wheeler commercial vehicles with 19% growth every year, with 164,887 units exported in 2009-10. Rahul Bajaj is always imperative to focus on technology, pricing strategy, values, ethics, innovation, speed and perfection. The company not only manufactured scooters, motor cycles, and three -wheelers but also produced Bajaj ULC ultra-low-cost car.
Mr. Rahul Bajaj heads numerous responsibilities of the company; as an Executive Chairman and Head of Bajaj Group of Companies of Bajaj Auto Ltd. Mr. Bajaj served as the Chief Executive Officer of Bajaj Auto Ltd. since 1968. He served as Managing Director of Bajaj Holdings & Investment Limited until March 31, 2005. He served as Deputy General Manager of Bajaj Tempo Limited. Mr. Bajaj serves as Chairman of the Board of Bajaj Finserv Ltd., Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Company Ltd., and Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.Rahul Bajaj had an adventurous ride over the years, taking the organization to new horizons. On the way to his retirement, he is very much satisfied and contended with his professional career.
More about Rahul Bajaj
Born : 10 June 1938; Bengal Presidency, British India
Residence : Pune, Maharastra, India.
Nationality : Indian
Religion : Hinduism
Alma mater : MBA, Harvard University
Occupation : Chairman and Managing Director (since 1965) Bajaj Group
Marital Status: Married
Children : Two sons and a Daughter
Our country’s great industrialist Rahul Bajaj was born on 10 June 1938, in Bengal Presidency of British India. His origin is from Marwari family, Kolkata. Rahul Bajaj is son of Kamalnayan Bajaj and Savitri Bajaj; and is grandson of Jaman Lal Bajaj, who was the founder of Bajaj Group. Shishir Bajaj is younger brother of Rahul Bajaj. He married Rupa Gholap, a beauty queen, in 1961. Later he had two sons Rajiv Bajaj and Sanjiv Bajaj and a daughter Sunaina Bajaj who recently married Manish Kejriwal.
Rahul’s family has been very closely associated with the Indian Politics since pre-independence days. Rahul Bajaj has a personal association with major politicians of India like late Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, senior political leaders like Sharad Pawar etc. Rahul Bajaj as of now is serving as a member of the parliament.
Even after managing Bajaj Group for more than three decades and gaining lot of influence and popularity, he is man of explicit simplicity and humbleness; even today, he introduces himself under the banner of Bajaj Company. He is exhaustively workaholic and never likes to take a break. In twenty years of long stretch from 1965-1984, he took a leave of just 4 days. This would probably be the reason why Bajaj Group emerged as a company of excellence with smooth and friction free operations. He always tends to extend the meetings until he totally gets the clear picture of the matter in discussion.
Rahul was always inclined towards leadership since childhood. Since ten years, he is heading the Indian delegation in the international convention organized by the World Economic Forum every year. He has a great affinity towards industrial groups; therefore, he contributed immensely in making the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) into an influential body. He is also the donor member of Indo-British Partnership Initiatives. He often featured in many magazines like Asia week to Pune times. The journalists in Pune approach Rahul Bajaj for opinions on different financial and other issues.
His health has forced him to cut down the working hours in Bajaj Auto, yet he did not take a complete retirement. Even today, he takes care to inspect the vehicles ready to be dispatched. This shows his keenness on the company and all its activities. Rahul lives peacefully in a spacious home within the factory premises in Akurdi, with his wife Rupa. His sons Rajiv and Sanjiv look after the company now. But, Rahul is always Present to guide them, and to ensure that his beloved company moves to achieve greater heights.
Awards and Honors
Rahul Bajaj received numerous awards for his great contribution to the Auto industry. Few among them are mentioned here:
In 1975, he received the "Man of the Year" award from National Institute of Quality Assurance.
Rahul Bajaj was appointed as Chairman of Indian Airlines in 1984. This was the first instance that someone from the private sector was given such responsibility.
Business India honored him as “Businessman of the year 1985”.
In 1988, Pune Municipal Corporation recognized him for his achievements.
Bombay Management Association rewarded him for his service in the field of Management, in 1990.
On behalf of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the French Ambassador Mr.Jerome Bonnafont presented the honor of “Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honor” to the CEO of Bajaj Auto, Rahul Bajaj. The French have numerous divisions in the Order and the title awarded to Rahul Bajaj is of the highest distinction. The industrialist was given this honor in gratitude of his noteworthy career as a businessman, and for his successful management of Bajaj Auto.
Rahul Bajaj Chairman, of Bajaj Auto Limited was conferred the Alumni Achievement Award by the Harvard Business School (HBS) from where he did his MBA in 1964, The award was given at a function, which took place at the HBS campus on 30th September 2005. Rahul Bajaj is the only Indian HBS MBA to receive this award so far.
For his contribution to Indian industry, he was awarded the nation's third-highest civilian honor, the Padma Bhushan, in 2001.
He was listed twentieth on the Forbes "India's richest 40" list of people with a net worth of US$1.1 Billion
Economic Times and Ernst & Young bestowed their "lifetime achievement" awards on him in November 2004.
Rani Durgavati University conferred the degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) in March 2005.
Success Mantra of Rahul Bajaj
As a leader of success, Rahul Bajaj followed certain leadership traits and guiding principles for which he strictly adhered.
His decisions were clear-cut
For instance when India was liberalized Rahul Bajaj was very clear that he already has achieved competency in scooters segment and he need not go for collaboration in scooters segment and he has to continue the operations as usual. The demand for scooters was high and the supply was limited. Therefore, he stuck to his norms and stood up to the government to give licenses and allow the expansion to produce more scooters. Therefore, Bajaj teamed up with Kawasaki of Japan to produce one of the most fuel efficient and attractive two wheelers (motorcycles) for the Indian market. On the contrary, to the new leadership practices, Bajaj never believed in delegating authority to all. He always keeps himself at the helm of things. He gave a patient hearing to all others ideas. However, the final decision was made at his discretion.
After succeeding for more than a decade in two-wheeler and three- wheeler markets and reaching the top positions, many people suggested Rahul to foray into four-wheeler market. Rahul thought that the four- wheeler market was crowded by domestic as well as foreign carmakers, and he called it as Prudence. He did not do it because his philosophy was that “if you cannot be in the top two positions, you had no business to be in the business, you simply have to get out”.
He is impatient with workers' strike. He does not understand why the workers strike. His logic is they should work more and be paid more. Moreover, he speaks plainly. He tells it as it is, this made government and media to mis-quote him many times. But, he was fair and outspoken and did not care about what others thought of him.
Honesty paid him back
Rahul Bajaj is one of the most admired businessmen in India. He strongly believes in hard work than anything else, and follows his beliefs. He has been a very honest businessman and never bribed others through out his career to achieve any personal gain or success. He built his fortune with his own ability and always walked in a right path.
Rahul Bajaj always stated: We approach our responsibilities with ambition and resourcefulness. We organize ourselves for a transparent and harmonious flow of work. We respect sound theory and encourage creative experimentation. Moreover, we make our workplace a source of pride. We believe in transparency- a commitment that the business is managed along transparent lines like fairness to all stakeholders in the company, especially to minority shareholders, Disclosure of all relevant financial and non-financial information in an easily understood manner, Supervision of the Company's activities by the professionally competent and independent board of directors.
Lifelong lesson of Rahul Bajaj from Harvard Business School
"The case method teaches you how to gather and understand the facts of a situation and then how to analyze and make a decision. Nevertheless, even more important, this process requires you to think really hard. In my career, nothing has been more important than that."
Golden advices to current students
"Integrity and character matter. Without them, no amount of ability can get you anywhere. In addition, you need courage; courage to make difficult decisions, for example, and courage to oppose something if your conscience tells you that you are right." Rahul Bajaj suggests MBA professionals to imbibe four essential qualities to succeed in the new millennium; Listen effectively, Think like an entrepreneur, Cross-functionality, Smart work combined with hard work.
Rahul Bajaj’s view on growth of an economy
Rahul Bajaj feels that world has become a seamless place to live in. The biggest problem with the country is apathy to create wealth. He feels that bloated structures and unproductive systems need to be dismantled. The need of the hour is efficient mechanism with free and fair competition.
Rahul Bajaj an outspoken person
“When Bill Gates visited India one man has courage to speak out his mind” Not all CEOs were starry eyed with the hype around Bill Gates visit to India. Leading the list of skeptics was CII past president and Bajaj Auto Chairman Rahul Bajaj. He created a flutter at CII’s CEO forum by virtually brushing aside Mr. Gates concern for digital divide in developing countries such as India, reports our Delhi Bureau.
“What are we talking about? At the crux, is the increasing income inequality among nations and within a nation, with the spread of globalization digital divide is only the means, the end is per capita income, and once that is taken care of, the former will vanish on its own,” Mr. Bajaj told the audience.
Speaking after Mr. Gates and India telecom pioneer Sam Pitroda, Mr. Bajaj said, “I know Sam and Bill can solve all our problems. But, what problem can they solve. The main challenges facing the country are not digitization of access to technology. We need to provide the basic social infrastructure to our citizens; health, education and effective governance.”
He also took pot- shots at the repetitive praise heaped on India’s higher education system, especially the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). “Education doesn’t begin and end with the IITs. What really matters for the nation’s well-being is our school and university education system, both of which are in a real mess.” Mr. Bajaj didn’t spare Microsoft and its products either. “My company also uses many of the software products and solutions sold by Microsoft. It’s another matter that they should be cheaper and better.”
Few Quotes by Rahul Bajaj
“I don’t know if reservations are the ultimate goal or not but I can tell you that I am completely opposed to mandatory reservation” “If we had done it 10yrs ago, people would have asked what is there in India. But for the last few years, the whole world has been looking at India and investing in India, so there is an Indian story to be told” “There will be a backlash from those who don’t benefit from the system.”