Prominent business tycoon and India’s 19th richest person, Rahul Bajaj is the Chairman of Bajaj Group, owned by one of India’s 10 biggest corporate families. A no-nonsense, unabashedly confident straight talker, Bajaj took over the company in 1965 and helped bolster its revenue to Rs 425.54 billion today from Rs 72 million then.
The Bajaj Group dates back 92 years to pre-independence India, founded by industrialist, philanthropist and freedom fighter, Jamnalal Bajaj in 1926. Rahul Bajaj grandfather, Jamnalal Bajaj, had bought a sugar and steel mill, while in 1945, his father, Kamalnayan, had started Bajaj Auto. Born on June 10, 1938, to Kamalnayan and Savitri Bajaj in the Bengal Presidency, Rahul Bajaj completed his education with a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard University and took over as Bajaj Auto’s Chief Executive Officer in 1968 at only 30 years of age.
Before liberalisation, India functioned on socialistic principles, severely curtailing companies’ profits. Hence, Bajaj Auto was limited to producing 20,000 units of motorcycles a year, far lower than the public demand. Customers had to wait a decade for the delivery of the beloved ‘Chetak’ scooter. In such an environment, increasing costs would have been the simplest solution. Not so for Rahul Bajaj, who defied regulations to produce around 25,000 two-wheelers a year based on the ‘Economies of Scale’ principle. His grandfather was often referred to as Mahatma Gandhi’s fifth son and was sentenced to two years of imprisonment in Nasik Central Jail, and even his wife Janaki Devi Bajaj was arrested for six months.
Further, Bajaj’s parents, too had been incarcerated for Indian independence. This made him fearless of arrest, and he continued to produce 25 per cent more than the limit so that he could provide customers with a high-quality, affordable product. Not one to compromise on his business ethics, Bajaj once said, “Take care of the customer. If you cheat him, give him bad quality, charge him more than you should, he will not buy and you are in trouble. This is not a charity mindset. It is an enlightened, ‘good businessman’ mindset.”
Following this dictum, the Bajaj Group today comprises of 37 companies and its bellwether, Bajaj Auto, is the world’s fourth biggest manufacturer of two-andthree wheelers. On July 2, 2018, Bajaj Auto announced that its total sales had surged 65% to 4,04,429 units in June.
A strong business ethic, natural business acumen and ability to see opportunities where others find obstacles, have made Bajaj what he is today. A Member of Parliament since 2006 and a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2001, Bajaj is an example of what every entrepreneur should aspire to be.