Our people are fully supportive of continuing work: Rajiv Bajaj

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on June 29, 2020

Rajiv Bajaj, MD, Bajaj Auto   -  PAUL NORONHA

Bajaj Auto’s MD believes that despite the Covid outbreak at his plant, people are realistic

Bajaj Auto’s Waluj facility in Aurangabad recently reported of 140 Covid-19 infections. The company stated in a press release that two employees, with underlying conditions of hypertension and diabetes, ‘unfortunately succumbed’ to the infection. The company’s Managing Director, Rajiv Bajaj, puts the entire issue in context in this interview with BusinessLine. He also reiterates that the Waluj workforce completely understands the situation. Excerpts:

What is the current situation at your Waluj facility?

The plant is operational even today. We have not been producing on some Saturdays for a while now because the demand is simply not there. Though even on Saturdays, export packing and dispatches are still on at the plant.

Are your people at the facility worrying more at this time?

People understand the reality; they know not only what is happening in the Bajaj Auto factory but also in other organisations. They have seen that the spread of the virus is inevitable beyond a point.

Our workmen appreciate that we did not resort to layoffs or cut back on their salaries even when the union offered a voluntary reduction. They know that we have scrupulously put all precautions in place and even distributed homoeopathic remedies free to them, their families and to the community at large. They have also told us that they are fully supportive of continuing work. The point is that people understand these realities, they are reading what is happening elsewhere in the country. People are willing to understand; they have no vested interests.

What would you say to those likewise who say it is important for you to stand in solidarity with the country now up against the Chinese and not talk of business being impacted?

Firstly, we have all expressed our remorse every time a life is lost like this. The point, however, is that if one is sourcing from China, one is not doing this because one loves China but because it makes business sense. Government downwards, everybody is sourcing from China.

Secondly, if I am sourcing ₹1,000-crore worth of China, that is making me competitive and helping me also export, say ₹15,000 crore worth of goods. Exports are almost half of our production and giving me the chance to employ 25,000 of the 50,000 people that are employed in our supply chain. So, are we to make ourselves uncompetitive in the business and sack those people?

Finally, even if the Centre says that we need to move away from sourcing from China, which I certainly do not agree with, it will be done but will take time.

Some States are complaining that the public is not cooperating with masks and social distancing. What do you have to say about this?

Like every other country, you have to strike the correct balance between lives and livelihoods which we did not do in the lockdown period. Today, we are getting the balance right in the unlock period because we understand that the economy needs to move. We should unlock rapidly with the young people who are in the 20-60 age group unless they have any particular medical history.

That is all that should have been done from the beginning: the young and healthy, with masks and social distancing in place, should have always been allowed to work. Unfortunately, we went to the other extreme.

Now we are finding the balance right, but unfortunately even now, some States are continuing to behave erratically which disrupts the industrial supply chains. They tell you that they are doing this for optics so that the media and people know that we are doing something.

I said this previously also: sometimes when execution seems to be very difficult, you need to ask yourself whether your idea is correct in the first place. If your execution is becoming so difficult, maybe your idea itself needs a review.

Published on June 29, 2020

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