DOWN MEM­ORY LANE

Business Today - - COVER STORY > BAJAJ -

RAHUL BA­JAJ, 80, the pa­tri­arch of the Ba­jaj Group, cher­ishes the iconic mo­ments in his 53 years of il­lus­tri­ous pro­fes­sional life while talk­ing to Busi­ness To­day. “There were chal­leng­ing mo­ments,” he says, pulling up the sleeves of his shiny off-white kurta. He is less in­volved in the day-to-day busi­ness now but watches ev­ery busi­ness move his sons Ra­jiv and San­jiv make, and shares his crit­i­cal opin­ion.

When Rahul Ba­jaj had joined Ba­jaj Auto in 1965, its sole plant was in Akurdi (about 19 km away from Pune city), which was to­tally iso­lated then. But he left be­hind his life in South Mum­bai (then Bom­bay) and moved to Akurdi, build­ing a house in­side the plant area, where snakes were reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to his home. “I told my Bom­bay friends who asked me about it that I did not want to be an ab­sen­tee land­lord,” he says.

The oc­to­ge­nar­ian in­dus­tri­al­ist is still a worka­holic and stays late in the of­fice at the head­quar­ter of Ba­jaj Auto at Akurdi.

His elder son Ra­jiv Ba­jaj is based in the neigh­bour­ing build­ing in the same premises, but younger son San­jiv moved to a tower close to Pune air­port about 10 years back. How­ever, San­jiv and his fam­ily stay at the house in­side the old fac­tory com­plex at Akurdi.

Rahul’s wife, Rupa, who passed away in 2013, never com­plained about the change to a sim­pler life, Ba­jaj re­mem­bers. All his three chil­dren – two sons and daugh­ter Su­naina Ke­jri­wal – grew up in Akurdi. “The fac­tory work­ers saw us ev­ery day and con­sid­ered us one of them,” he says. “Both my sons went to the same school and col­lege in Pune, and later stud­ied en­gi­neer­ing at Warwick in the UK.”

Rahul Ba­jaj has five grand­chil­dren – four grand­sons and a grand­daugh­ter.

Ba­jaj shares his pas­sion for driv­ing the Chetak scooter, which he had cre­ated in the 70s. “But I don’t have a scooter to ride nowa­days,” he says jok­ingly. Nowa­days he flies out of the city in his chop­per.

Ba­jaj has worn many hats out­side of busi­ness as well. He was a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment un­til 2012. Rahul’s cousin Ni­raj Ba­jaj was the In­dian ta­ble ten­nis team cap­tain be­fore join­ing the fam­ily busi­ness, and re­ceived the Ar­juna Award.

Rahul, who is known to be out­spo­ken with his views, was hon­oured with Padma Bhushan in 2001. Elder son Ra­jiv is also open with his views on pol­i­tics, while San­jiv is more a busi­ness per­son.

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