Rahul Bajaj, the former chairman of Bajaj Auto, died today in Pune at the age of 83 after a long battle with cancer. Bajaj was born in Kolkata on June 10, 1938 to Kamalnayan Bajaj and Savitri Bajaj, a Marwari businessman and his wife. Three generations of the Bajaj and Nehru families had a strong tradition of intergenerational friendship. Indira Gandhi and Kamalnayan, Rahul's father, both attended the same school.
People began posting tributes to him on social media as soon as word of his death spread.
In 1965, Rahul Bajaj took on the mantle of the Bajaj Group after the death of his father. Bajaj Auto's turnover increased from Rs 7.2 crore to Rs 12,000 crore under his tenure, making it the country's biggest scooter manufacturer. Rahul began transitioning control of the business to his son Rajiv in 2005. He then promoted Rajiv to the position of Managing Director of Bajaj Auto, which many believe saw a surge in demand for the company's vehicle products both domestically and internationally.
The first Bajaj scooter was built in a garage
Founded during India’s Freedom movement, Bajaj is India's second-largest two-wheeler manufacturer. As a renowned manufacturer, Jamnalal Bajaj (1889–1942) actively participated in the Indian Independence movement. He was the adopted son of Mahatma Gandhi, and Rahul got his name from India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
In 1926, Jamnalal established Seth Bachraj & Company, a trading enterprise in which he was the sole shareholder. Bachraj Trading Corporation was founded by Rameshwar Nevatia, his son-in-law, and his two sons, Kamalnayan and Ramkrishna Bajaj, when their father-in-law passed away in 1942 at the age of 53.
The firm began selling two and three wheeled vehicles in 1948, using imported components. Bajaj produced its first scooter in Gurgaon, India, in a shed at a garage. The Bachhraj Trading Corporation established a manufacturing unit in Kurla, which was eventually relocated to Akurdi, after this. Bajaj and Firodiaz built up separate operations to produce two- and three-wheeled automobiles in this location. As of 1960, Bajaj Auto was the company's new name.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Bajaj scooters became so popular that people waited for deliveries for months.
Later on, there was a dispute between Rahul Bajaj and Firodia family regarding the division of business. After a long legal battle in September 1968, Firodiaz got Bajaj Tempo and Rahul Bajaj became the Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Auto. His competitors then were Escort, Enfield, Epii, LML and Kinetic. All of them had 25% share in the two wheeler market and 10% in the three wheeler market then. The rest was locked by Bajaj.
Despite his failing years, Bajaj never lost his penchant for being outspoken, often landing on the wrong side for speaking truth to power. Many would remember the December night of 2019, for Rahul Bajaj’s disarming comments to Home Minister Amit Shah at the ET Awards. Bajaj began his tirade against the government, who he blamed for creating an atmosphere of fear, with the words: “I was born anti-establishment…”
Many say these words defined the man.