Rahul Bajaj: An Outspoken Industrialist who transformed Indian 2 Wheeler Industry

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Rahul Bajaj Priya 1
Rahul Bajaj Priya 1

The whole manufacturing industry and India lost its proud son Rahul Bajaj, an eminent Industrial leader, and auto-motive extraordinaire who made Bajaj Group into a conglomerate of 40 companies into various verticals such as two-wheelers, electrical appliances, and financial services. It was his intellect and industry’s fortune that Chetak and Bajaj supermodel still stands as leading brands in the Indian Auto-Industry.

Rahul Bajaj, a pioneering visionary and fearless leader, who brought prominence to Indian two-wheelers segments passed away on February 12, 2022, at 83. The widely recognized industrialist is believed to be ailing for some time. Expressing grief on his death, the Bajaj Group stated that the industrialist died in the afternoon, in the ‘presence of his closest family members.’ 

Rahul Bajaj receives Padma Bhushan from President K R Narayanan

Born in Kolkata on June 10, 1983, as the eldest son of Kamalnarayan Bajaj, and the grandson of Jamnalal Bajaj, the Founder of Bajaj Group, he spend his childhood days at Wardha in Maharashtra, till the family shifted to Mumbai in 1946, just before Independence. He graduated from St Stephen's College in Delhi with a BA in Economics and got his Law degree from Government Law College, Mumbai. He did his MBA from Harvard in 1964, and because the CEO of Bajaj Auto at the age of 30. Married to Rupa Bajaj in 1961, he settled his family in Pune and had three children – Rajiv, Sanjiv and Sunaina.

After his father's demise, taking up charge as Managing Director of Bajaj Group in the year 1972, Rahul Bajaj led the remarkable growth trajectory of the company. It was under his leadership Bajaj Auto started manufacturing their own brand of Make in India scooters, iconic Priya and Chetak when Piaggio refused to renew its licence. One should remember the licence raj era, where Rajul Bajaj builds his company despite many government regulations in place. The 'Humara Bajaj' commercials which used to run in Doordarshan during the end of the last century, brings a nostalgic memory to many Indians till today.

Heading the Bajaj Group of Companies, Rahul Bajaj had been recognized as a might industrialist in various corporate circles. He made iconic contributions to the two-wheelers segment in the Indian Automobility. For his contributions to the Indian economy, Rahul Bajaj was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2001. 

Rahul Bajaj with his sons, Sanjiv and Rajiv

A nationalist, he was an ‘outspoken industrialist’ and the man behind India’s Automotive revolutions. He led many positions in the Chamber of Commerce, Industry associations like CII and SIAM during his professional career. He was also appointed the Chairman of Indian Airlines in 1986 by the Union Government. In 2006, he was elected to Rajya Sabha.

A visionary, he divided Bajaj Auto into three units – Bajaj Auto, Bajaj Finserv and a holding company. The measure was intended to focus on individual businesses and give control to his sons – Rajiv and Sanjiv Bajaj. He was the Chairman of Bajaj Group till last year May and stepped down steering the company for more than 50 decades. He was the Chairman Emeritus of Bajaj Group, till he breathed his last on 12th February 2022.

India Mourns: The Nation Lost a Visionary

Various associations, political and industry leaders including the Prime Minister and Govt. officials expressed fiercely condolences on the death of the industrial visionary. Paying homage and sharing condolences to the family and friends of Rahul Bajaj, Prime Minister Modi is remembered for his noteworthy contributions to the world of commerce and industry.

Former Union Minister and former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar shared his shock at the sad demise of the industry icon. He remembered Rahul Bajaj as the grandson of freedom fighter Jamnalal Bajaj who brought great transformation in the society, especially poor and middle class in the country. He told India lost an industrialist, who was a lighthouse for young entrepreneurs. 

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari remembered Rahul Bajaj not just as a successful entrepreneur, but a philanthropist with whom he had a personal relationship. Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that Rahul Bajaj was one who put the average Indian on two motorists wheels. Rahul Gandhi in his message shared that India lost a visionary in Rahul Bajaj. 

Anguished by the loss of an industry veteran, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) also expressed esteemed tribute to him. “Rahul Bajaj was a true and steadfast mentor for CII since its transformation in 1974. As President, CII in 1979-80, he presided over landmark initiatives in competitiveness and international engagement of Indian industry that guided its future. Likewise, in 1999-2000, his Presidency took forward the IT industry to catapult the country into the digital age. His passion for India’s progress will illuminate the annals of the Indian economy in times to come,” stated the statement from CII. 

Rahul Bajaj served CII as its President two times, had a long association with the country's largest Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and contributed and led various initiatives in competitiveness, technology, corporate governance, community development. 

Anand Mahindra in his message thanked Rahul Bajaj for letting him clamber upon his broad shoulders, advising, encouraging and cheering him to be bold. Expressing his grief on the death of Rahul Bajaj, Venu Srinivasan, Chairman, TVS Motor Company said, “Rahul Bajaj strode across the Indian industrial landscape like a colossus. He was among the few stars who created the Indian automotive industry. He was a pioneer who established a culture of quality and technology. He stood for high integrity in business and stuck to his principles. Rahul played a key role in industry bodies around the world like World Economic Forum and CII and was very well respected. He will be sorely missed.”

​ Rahul Bajaj with President Giani Zail Singh during his visit to MCCIA (image: MCCIA)

The Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA) paid tribute to the auto-motive leader and stated, “ACMA pays homage to the fearless man who revolutionized the two-wheeler industry in India – Rahul Bajaj. Your vision will keep inspiring us.” Rahul Bajaj was SIAM President during 1976-77 and made an invaluable contribution to the Indian Automobile industry.

“The entire Automobile Industry joins me in expressing our deep sorrow on the sad demise of Shri Rahul Bajaj, Chairman Emeritus at Bajaj Auto”, said Kenichi Ayukawa, President of SIAM. Mr Ayukawa further stated that Rajul Bajaj was a great industrialist who built an empire on sound principles and left a legacy that makes India proud with its presence in several countries. He added, “The greatness of his personality lay in his simplicity, accessibility, frank and honest communication just like his visionary entrepreneurship. SIAM pays homage to this great leader. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this tragic time. May God bless the departed soul.”

 Young Rahul Bajaj with President Rajendra Prasad (image: Bajaj Group)

Saddened by the demise of Rahul Bajaj, Aman Kulkarni, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, PolyWorks India, says, “An industry doyen has passed! Shri Rahul Bajaj carried a legacy of an industry and will be remembered for his charisma and his contribution to a brand that tugged the hearts of our nation!”   

Amar also stated, “Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to get several opportunities in the past & continue to interact with many people across Bajaj Auto. Every time I visit, I closely experience how his leadership and vision still permeates within the organization.”

Machine Maker pays a heartily homage to Rahul Bajaj, who steered the Auto-industries with his intellectual and worthwhile contributions. His sole efforts to serve the industries with convenient mobility solutions will remain, for years a great inspiration for the industries and manufacturing. 

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