Rahul Bajaj: The man who made ‘Hamara Bajaj’, passes away at 83

Swaraj Baggonkar | Updated on: Feb 12, 2022
 Rahul Bajaj

Rahul Bajaj | Photo Credit: -

Bajaj was a former Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and a recipient of the Padma Bhushan

Industrialist and head of Bajaj Group, Rahul Bajaj passed away today at the age of 83, battling ill health since the past few weeks. One of India’s most animated businessmen, known for his bold and revered comments, Rahul was formerly the chairman of both Bajaj Auto and Bajaj Finance.

Born on June 30, 1938 in Kolkata, Rahul was the grandson of freedom fighter Jamnalal Bajaj founder of the Bajaj Group who was also affectionately addressed as the ‘fifth son of Mahatma Gandhi’.

Rahul graduated from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi in 1958 before earning a degree in law form the Bombay University. He went on to pursue MBA from Harvard Business School before being appointed to lead Bajaj Auto in the 1960s.

Credited with making brand Bajaj a household name through the launch of blockbuster models such as the Chetak and Priya in the 1970s, an identity later cemented by the marketing tagline ‘Hamara Bajaj’, he successfully steered the company through The Emergency, License Raj and Economic Liberalisation that began in the 1990s.

From being openly critical of controversial decisions made by the present-day government including demonetisation and the pandemic-induced lockdown that significantly impacted businesses, Rahul was also the unofficial spokesperson of the eight-member ‘Bombay Club’, which lobbied for protection against the economic liberalisation of 1991.

“Let us also hope we do not react to the epidemic by declaring more lockdowns. For these will destroy business, employment and the economy without necessarily controlling the spread of the disease,” Rahul had said to shareholders of Bajaj Auto the final time as its Chairman.

Bold & fearless

“Rahul Bajaj: bold and fearless. A rare businessman who spoke truth to power. A proud Indian. Built world class enterprise. I am truly honoured to know him. Will miss him,” Uday Kotak, Chairman and Managing Director, Kotak Mahindra Bank.

One of Rahul Bajaj’s biggest accomplishment could be the split of the Bajaj empire and the smooth transfer of his power to his two sons – Rajiv and Sanjiv – which was carved out of a monolith called Bajaj Auto. As per the agreement the automobile business went to elder son Rajiv while the finance business went to Sanjiv.

His other big corporate break-through came with the amicable settlement with his estranged brother Shishir Bajaj who is the head of the other Bajaj Group that is engaged in energy, sugar and consumer care.

Venu Srinivasan, Chairman, TVS Motor Company, said, “Rahul Bajaj strode across the Indian industrial landscape like a colossus. 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.” 

Bajaj was a former Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India. He has been the chairman of Indian Airlines, former chairman of the board of governors of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

Rahul was also a former chairman of the International Business Council, World Economic Forum; a former member of the South Asia advisory board of Harvard Business School and a former member of the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.

Published on February 12, 2022
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