Born in Kolkata in 1938, Bajaj had taken charge of the Bajaj Group in 1965. He was just 27.
He made his two-wheelers a household name through the cult campaign of ‘Hamara Bajaj-Buland Bharat ki Buland Tasveer’, which brought slick world class advertising to Indian TV screens and a corporate brand campaign that resonated with the Indian public much before TV ads took off.
The Bajaj scooter eventually became the symbol and tool of socio-economic change. During his captaincy, the group soared to become one of the biggest in the sub-continent. Under his stewardship, flagship firm Bajaj Auto saw its turnover growing to Rs 12,000 crore from just Rs 7.2 crore, with the firm’s scooters becoming the mainstay.
Bold industry leader
Bajaj was seen as a bold industry leader who always spoke his mind even to those in the government.
In November 2019, at an event organised by the Economic Times in Mumbai where home minister Amit Shah, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and commerce minister Piyush Goyal were present, the veteran industrialist spoke about the government’s ‘stifling of criticism’, among other things.
“This environment of fear, it’s definitely on our minds. “You (the government) are doing good work; and despite that, we don’t have the confidence that you’ll appreciate criticism,” he had said.
Uday Kotak said in a tweet: “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.”
Rahul Bajaj: bold and fearless. A rare businessman who spoke truth to power. A proud Indian. Built world class ente… https://t.co/NHTr00MVtw
— Uday Kotak (@udaykotak) 1644664876000
‘Spine of Indian industry’
Harsh Goenka called him the ‘spine’ of Indian industry.
“The ‘spine’ of Indian business cracks. A close family friend, he was a visionary, straight talking and very respected for his value systems. An era ends! He leaves behind the two most capable sons in Indian industry, Rajiv and Sanjiv,” Goenka said in a tweet.
Bajaj was a former Rajya Sabha member and was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2001.
Bajaj is also credited with building the industry lobby, CII of which he was president for two terms.
He also held many other positions, including the chairman of Indian Airlines and chairman of the board of governors of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.
He was also a former chairman of the International Business Council, World Economic Forum and a former member of the South Asia advisory board of Harvard Business School.
Besides, he was a former member of the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.
The industrialist also spearheaded the CSR activities of the Bajaj Group of companies and charitable trusts including Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.
He had done BA (Honours) in Economics from Delhi University, a law degree from Mumbai University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Bajaj is survived by two sons, Rajiv Bajaj and Sanjiv Bajaj, and a daughter Sunaina Kejriwal.
(With inputs from agencies)