Ram Shahaney, former Chairman of Ashok Leyland, passes away

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on September 08, 2020

Under his stewardship, the company grew manifold in scale and scope to become a truck and bus behemoth in India

Ram J Shahaney (89), who played a major role in the growth of Ashok Leyland Ltd during his more than three-decade stint, passed away in Chennai on Tuesday.

Under his stewardship, Ashok Leyland grew manifold in scale and scope into a multi-location truck and bus behemoth in India.

Shahaney, who came from Jessop & Co in Kolkata, took charge as the first Indian Managing Director of Ashok Leyland in 1978.

Committed to technology, Shahaney led Ashok Leyland to come out with full air brakes and rear engines among others for the first time in India. He played a big role in bringing a new range of vehicles for the mass market. His tenure saw tie-ups with Hino Motors for engines and ZF for transmissions.

Shahaney was credited to have sowed the seeds for technology at Ashok Leyland as the commercial vehicle company successfully introduced products and services that have become industry norms.

Acknowledged for his leadership skills, Shahaney was also described as a champion of talent development at Ashok Leyland.

Industry watchers say Shahaney, along with another illustrious leader from New Delhi, Mantosh Sondhi, whose son Vipin Sondhi is now the MD of Ashok Leyland, brought in rich talent from the public sector to build the company.

Shahaney was primarily responsible for spreading the company’s manufacturing footprint in India with the establishment of facilities at Hosur, Bhandara and Alwar.

He was also instrumental in taking the company’s business beyond the borders to Sri Lanka and in forging a pivotal relationship with the Indian Army on the strength of which the company is today its largest supplier of logistics vehicles.

People always found Shahaney a ‘cool’ person. In one of the AGMs, a shareholder was seen yelling at the management saying they were looting the company. Shahaney, without losing his temper, replied that it was his (shareholder's) opinion and was not true. After the AGM was over, Shahaney said “hello” to the shareholder while keeping a smile on his face and walked on.

When a venture for car manufacturing partnership with Ducati was abandoned by the company during his tenure, the view was that Shahaney’s cool judgment kept the company well away from the car business, which could have become messy.

“Ram has been a great champion for the industry – not only for the role he played with the government but also with the international organisations. He was a pillar of strength not only for Ashok Leyland but also for AIEI, later named CII, when he was the President. The automobile industry will always remember with admiration and thank the significant contribution Ram Shahaney has made for its progress. He was a gentleman beyond measure. We will greatly miss him,” said Suresh Krishna, Chairman & Managing Director of Sundram Fasteners, a leading auto parts company of TVS Group.

In recognition of his meritorious service to Ashok Leyland, he was given the position of Chairman Emeritus, and he served till 2012. After his stint, he continued as an advisor to the Hinduja Group.

Published on September 08, 2020

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