Rahul Bajaj, the Head of the Bajaj group, is a living legend.
He has built Bajaj Auto into a top Indian and global company as well as the Bajaj Financial Services business. He is a man of many facets; head of a leading Indian business with a global footprint, an ex-Member of Indian Parliament, a prominent member of the World Economic Forum, a philanthropist, a respected spokesman for Indian industry and Indian society.
Born in a prominent industrial family which was deeply involved in India’s freedom struggle, he has for the last 50 years led Bajaj Auto Ltd, one of India’s most successful and globalized companies. In the last two decades, under his leadership, the Bajaj group has also become a leading player in the Financial Services sector in India with interests in consumer finance and insurance. The group has a turnover of USD 7.6 Billion, net profit of USD 1 Bn, a market capitalization of about USD 25 Billion and over 40,000 employees.
Rahul Bajaj was destined for a career in business. His preparation included a degree in Economics, another in Law, capped by a MBA from the Harvard Business School. Since 1968 he has been head of Bajaj Auto Ltd. and has lived in the plant premises at Akurdi, a rural suburb of Pune, near Mumbai. It is extremely rare to find a major industrialist anywhere in the world, who lives in a factory complex outside of town.
Bajaj Auto Ltd. is amongst the top 50 companies in India with a turnover of USD 3.6 Bn, profit of USD 450 Mn and a market capitalization of USD 9.4 Bn. It is the largest producer of 3-wheelers in the world and the 3rd largest producer of motorcycles in the world.
It exports 46% of its sales volume to 62 countries. It owns 48% of KTM AG of Austria, the 2nd largest motorcycle company in Europe.
Rahul Bajaj is the architect of Bajaj Auto’s success. When he took charge, it produced around 10,000 units a year. Currently, it sells 3.8 Mn 2 and 3 wheelers. The key reasons for its spectacular growth has been its products and their quality, investment in research and development, focus on volume growth and cost control and internationalization of its business. These policies were pursued even when India was a closed economy and such policies were not essential for its growth. It was his farsightedness to see the Indian economy as operating under an aberration and pursuing policies that were sound for an open economy.
Since the 1990s he has built big and strong companies in the Financial Services space. These now account for about half the market capitalization of the group and have been growing at a fast pace, with significant further potential for growth.
For almost a decade now, he has transferred the day-to-day running of the companies to the next generation in one of the smoothest and most successful successions in Indian corporate history.
Rahul Bajaj is a very grounded person, simple in his day-to-day life. He carries his success lightly. He is a person who is receptive to new information and perspectives and has little hesitation in adopting the perspective better suited to facts and with a better chance of success. Like wine he continues to improve with age.
“Do whatever you want, but be the best in what you do” is his credo. Along with it is a commitment to ethical conduct of business and the ability to work very hard. His work has been his life. His hallmark is his accessibility to all and he likes to wear an Indian dress on most occasions.
He is unafraid to call a spade a spade and is an outspoken spokesman of the Indian industry whose views are respected by citizens, industry and governments.
Between 2006-10 he was elected to the Upper House of the Indian Parliament (The Rajya Sabha) as an independent member with support that cut across party lines. He made friends across the political spectrum and raised issues of public interest. He carries forward his family’s legacy of philanthropy. Most of the funds are spent, through Bajaj foundations or otherwise, on education, health and programs that improve the livelihood of the poor in rural areas.
Rahul Bajaj’s vision, mission and hopes for the future include creating internationally competitive Indian companies. He believes that developing countries can be masters of their own destiny only by creating their own globally competitive firms.