Veteran industrialist Rahul Bajaj, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 83. After taking over at the Bajaj Group in 1965, Rahul – who was named by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru – led it for four decades and became a global manufacture before handing over the keys to the flagship Bajaj Auto to son Rajiv Bajaj in 2005. Company built. In his lifetime itself, Rahul’s ‘Hamara Bajaj’ not only sparked nationalism, but also empowered and changed the lives of millions of middle-class Indians. If the Bajaj ‘Sunny’ gave wings to the free-spirited young girls of the newly liberal India, the company’s motorbikes became the product of choice for the Indian youth – anticipating the changing demographics.
Today, the combined market capitalization of the business empires of Bajaj Auto, Bajaj Finance, Bajaj Finserv and Bajaj Holdings & Investments Ltd is over Rs 8.4 lakh crore.
PV Narasimha Rao, who shot political in 1991 and scripted the first chapter of India’s economic reforms, stood on the ground, unlike many other large groups, including Bajaj, Modi, Mafatlal, Singhania and Thapar. While Rahul Bajaj led the Bombay Club – a group of top industrialists including HS Singhania, Lala Bharat Ram and CK Birla – to demand protection for the domestic industry, he did not stop modernizing. “They didn’t let those arguments get in the way of developing globally competitive products,” said Naushad Forbes, co-chairman of Pune-headquartered Forbes Marshall and director of the board of directors of Bajaj Holdings.
Expressing condolence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Shri Rahul Bajaj ji will be remembered for his remarkable contribution to the world of commerce and industry. Beyond business, he was passionate about community service and was a great conversationalist. I am hurt by his death. Condolences to his family and friends. Calmness.”
“He was a very unique person. He was both a competitor and a friend. He was also a friend of my father and he considered him as his mentor. He had very clear values, a strong distinction between right and wrong and he was a He was an institution builder. He not only built his company, but he was also a big leader for the industry,” said Sunil Kant Munjal, President, Hero Enterprise. He added, “He had to show the mirror to anyone regardless of his position. I had no hesitation and he was a straight and fearless person,” he said.
Months after the 2002 Gujarat riots, when the Confederation of Indian Industry was hosting the then Chief Minister Modi in New Delhi, Rahul Bajaj apparently asked him whether Gujarat was safe for investors during a ‘question and answer’ session.
More recently, in November 2019, he spoke his mind in his speech in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Railway and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal. Addressing a gathering of top industrialists including Mukesh Ambani, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Sunil Bharti Mittal during an ET Awards event, Bajaj said, “None of our industrialist friends will speak, I will say openly… An atmosphere has to be created. .. in UPA-2 we could have abused anyone… you are doing a good job but still we are not sure that you will appreciate if we criticize openly.’
Bajaj, who hailed himself as an “anti-establishment”, said what other industrialists were afraid to say. Responding to his concerns, Shah said that there is no need to be afraid, but if you are saying that there is a certain kind of atmosphere, then we will have to make efforts to improve the atmosphere.