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Everyone in India knows the brand Bajaj. A lot of us have countless memories of riding Bajaj Chetak with our friends. Remembering those good old days always brings a smile to our faces. This smile wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the veteran industrialist, Rahul Bajaj.
Born on June 30, 1938, Rahul Bajaj was the chairman of Bajaj Auto. The Bajaj Group was founded by Rahul’s grandfather, Jamnalal Bajaj in 1926, and helmed by his father, Kamalnayan Bajaj, in 1942, who was the precursor to Bajaj Auto.
Rahul Bajaj was a graduate of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and also had a degree in law from Mumbai university. Later, he went to Harvard Business School in the US to obtain an MBA degree. After completing his education, he joined the Baja Group in 1965 and became the CEO of Bajaj Auto in 1968.
He started his journey in Bajaj as a Deputy General Manager and took charge of integral departments in the company like audit, marketing, accounts, purchase, etc. He was learning the traits of business from the then-CEO of Bajaj Auto, Naval K Firodia.
Kamalnayan Bajaj passed away in 1972, which led to the appointment of Rahul as the Managing Director of Bajaj Auto. His leadership saw the company grow exponentially in the 1970s and 1980s. Bajaj joined the billion-dollar club, and that was mainly because of the infamous Chetak and many more supermodels that grew popular in the Indian market. One of the main reasons for Chetak being a superhit was that it was an affordable means of transportation for the entire country for decades and to date is remembered as ‘Hamara Bajaj’.
Despite being such a loved brand, Bajaj Auto found it difficult to match the Japanese competitors like Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda that introduced new motorcycles and changed the way India looked at them. As a result, Bajaj sales hit a low point in 2001. However, they came back into the market, and this time with a much better product. The Bajaj Pulsar Motorcycle helped Bajaj reinvent itself and become a hit brand once again.
In 2008, Rahul Bajaj split Bajaj Auto into three units- Bajaj Finserv (finance company), Bajaj Auto, and a holding company. His sons took over and are now managing the day-to-day activities of the company.
Apart from creating a successful company like Bajaj, Rahul was also appointed as the chairman of Indian Airlines in 1986 and received the Padma Bhushan award in 2001. He was also elected to the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.
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He decided to pass on the torch of Bajaj to the next generation in 2005, as he resigned as chairman and his son Rajiv Bajaj took over as the Group’s managing director.
He was known to be fearless and a man who did not mince words when it came to any matter of national interest or echoing corporate India’s woes. Not only was he a business tycoon, but he was a very humble and inspiring human being. Sadly, he passed away on February 12, 2022, a revolutionary who will always be missed.