Rahul Bajaj is the chairman of Bajaj Auto. He was born on June 30, 1938 in Kolkata. Rahul's grandfather Jamnalal Bajaj founded the Bajaj Group in 1926 and his father Kamalnayan Bajaj succeeded him un 1942. Kamalnayan started the precursor to Bajaj Auto. Within three years he expanded into new businesses, including cement, electrical appliances and scooters.
Rahul Bajaj graduated from St Stephen's College in Delhi in 1958 and also earned a degree in law from Bombay University. Then he went on to pursue MBA from Harvard Business School in the US and became CEO of Bajaj Auto in 1968.
Rahul Bajaj's journey as an entreprenuer
Rahul Bajaj became a part of his father's group as Deputy General Manager. He was in charge of key departments in the company like marketing, accounts, purchase, and audit. etc. Under the guidance of Naval K Firodia, CEO of Bajaj Auto, Rahul learnt the nuances of the business. Later Firodia and the Bajajs parted ways. After his father passed away in 1972, Rahul was appointed the Managing Director of Bajaj Auto. Under his leadership the company witnessed tremendous growth. Rahul Bajaj built the firm in the 1970s and '80s. He grew the company’s revenues to join the Billion-dollar club. It was through his initiative that Chetak and Bajaj Super models rose to prominence in the Indian market. Originally based on Italian Vespa Sprint, Chetak was an affordable means of transportation for millions of Indians for decades and is remembered as 'Hamara Bajaj'.
Bajaj sales hit a low point around 2001 after market liberalisation saw Japanese competitors like Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki introduce new motorcycles and change the dynamics of India's market. But, it soon recovered from the loss with effective marketing and promotion. Bajaj Auto reinvented itself and came up with Bajaj Pulsar Motorcycle.
In 2008, he split Bajaj Auto into three units - Bajaj Auto, finance company Bajaj Finserv and a holding company. His sons are now managing the day to day affairs of the company.
Rahul Bajaj has been the president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).
Awards and recognitions
He was appointed the chairman of Indian Airlines in 1986 and was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2001. In June 2006, Rahul Bajaj was elected to Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra. In 2005, he resigned as chairman, his son Rajiv became the Group's managing director. In 2013, the Bajaj family won the 'Distinguished Family of the Year' award. They won the award for dedicating their wealth and time for the public good.
The family runs schools like balwadis, vocational and technical training institutes, which includes adopting ITIs. They train rural women in tailoring and embroidery. They have set up hospitals and rural development programmes under the umbrella of Jankidevi Bajaj Gram Vikas Sanstha.
Rahul Bajaj's 'fearless' approach
He is known in corporate circles as the man who does not mince words when it comes to any matter of national interest or echoing corporate India's woes.
On November 30, at an awards event organised by the Economic Times in Mumbai, Rahul Bajaj said that he was “born anti-establishment”.
Rahul Bajaj has always been regarded as plain-spoken and his friends call him 'fearless'. In the 1970s, when Italy's Piaggio didn’t renew Bajaj's license, he began manufacturing his own brand of scooters with names like Chetak and Super.
Under Indira Gandhi, the government regulated production under a system called the License Raj. Owing to the restrictions, buyers had to book and wait for years to receive scooter. However, Rahul protested against the License Raj. In an interview, Rahul said that if he had to go to jail for production of a commodity that most Indians needed, he didn't mind.
On November 30, he triggered a sharp debate on Twitter after he said that there is an atmosphere of fear in the country and people are afraid to criticise the government.
"When UPA II was in power, we could criticise anyone, now an atmosphere of fear exists," Rahul Bajaj said. He mentioned the NDA government's lack of action against mob lynchings and BJP MP Pragya Thakur’s recent remarks on Nathuram Godse to a room of India Inc veterans and top political leaders. The veteran industrialist's candid remarks were well received by the critics of the incumbent government.
Rahul Bajaj and Bajaj family's wealth
Rahul Bajaj owns 10% stake in Bajaj Auto, 10% in Bajaj Finserv and 24% of Bajaj Holdings & Investment. He also owns a 2% stake in Bajaj Finance and 14% in-home appliance.
His net worth is estimated to be at $4.4 billion. According to Forbes India's 100 Richest People in 2019 list, the Bajaj family's net worth stands at $9.2 billion and it is the 11th richest family in India.