DOWN MEMORY LANE
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.