After 50 years at the helm, Rahul Bajaj steps down from executive role

Topics Rahul Bajaj

Rahul Bajaj
After several decades at the helm, Bajaj group patriarch Rahul Bajaj will step down as chairman of the holding company, Bajaj Holdings & Investments, Bajaj Auto, and Bajaj Finserv.

Bajaj Auto, the maker of the Pulsar brand of motorcycles and RE three-wheelers, said on Thursday that the 81-year-old business leader, who has been a whole-time director and chairman of the automobile making arm since April 1, 1970, would take a non-executive role.

He oversaw the successful transition of Bajaj Auto from the ‘Hamara Bajaj’ days through its popular Chetak brand of scooters to the World’s Favourite Indian — Bajaj now sells its motorcycles in over 70 countries. Bajaj, who played an active role in the affairs of the company till 2005, took a backseat in group companies, passing on the baton to the elder son, Rajiv Bajaj, for the auto business, and for the financial services business to the younger son, Sanjiv Bajaj.

Bajaj’s resignation from the top post comes against the backdrop of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) rule that calls for a separation of the posts of chairman and managing director of top 500 listed companies. It also says the chairperson of a company's board should be a non-executive director and should not be related to the MD or CEO. The rule has now been deferred by two years.

“The tenure of appointment of Rahul Bajaj as executive chairman is expiring on March 31, 2020. Due to certain commitments and other preoccupation, Bajaj has decided not to continue as a whole-time director of the company after the expiry of his current term on March 31, 2020,” the company said in a notification to the stock exchanges on Thursday. 

The company will seek shareholders’ approval through a special resolution, it said. On Wednesday, Bajaj Finserv, the group’s financial services business, also notified Bajaj’s resignation as chairman, including from subsidiaries Bajaj Finance and Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.

Popular for his plain speak and harsh critique of the government’s policies since the pre-liberalisation era, the Padma Bhushan awardee is a Harvard Business School alumnus. 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, 2019, at an awards event organised by the Economic Times in Mumbai, Rahul Bajaj said he was “born anti-establishment”.

In the 1970s, when Italy's Piaggio didn’t renew Bajaj's licence, he began manufacturing his own brand of scooters with names like Chetak and Super.

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