After 50 years, the patriarch of Hamara Bajaj will hang his boots

NEW DELHI: The man behind Hamara Bajaj is ready to hang his boots. After leading one of the most popular and beloved two-wheel brands in the country for almost half a century, Rahul Bajaj He has finally decided to call him one day.

Bajaj, 81, known for never hesitating to say what he thinks, sometimes even because of the disgust of the ruling political regimes, will leave his executive position in Auto Baja since late March to become non-executive president.

While Bajaj had already taken a back seat when it came to taking active business decisions years ago, this would be the first instance when he officially gets into a non-executive position. Bajaj ’s sons - Rajiv and Sanjiv - are already experienced hands at spearheading the family’s automobile and financial businesses, respectively, with the patriarch playing more of an elder statesman’s role than being a part of day-to-day affairs.

“Due to certain commitments and other preoccupation, Rahul Bajaj has decided not to continue as a whole-time director of the company after expiry of his current term on March 31, 2020… The board of directors placed on record its gratitude and sincere appreciation for the immense contribution made by Bajaj in the development, growth and success of the company through his dynamic and exemplary leadership over the last five decades,” the company said in a formal statement.

Bajaj had become a director of the family business in 1970, and has lived through a lifetime where two-wheelers progressed from being seen as luxury products that enjoyed waiting lists to become commuter, everyday products. I successfully managed the transition from the license-raj era (pre-economic liberalization) and was successful in growing as he staved off competition from foreign players. Bajaj was one of the leading faces of the so-called ‘Bombay Club’ that had reservations against opening up of the economy. He had been dubbed a ‘protectionist’ then as he made a case against opening of the Indian market to foreign companies, which he feared could mean end of homegrown business empires.

But more than launching a challenge to establishments (last seen in December 2019 when he spoke about the government's ability to receive criticism at an ET event in the presence of the Interior Minister Amit Shah and finance minister ), Bajaj was more accommodating when dealing with a major structural transition within his own crown jewel Auto Baja . As elder son Rajiv decided to phase out scooters in 2009 and focus on motorcycles that he saw as the ‘future’, the elder Bajaj reluctantly gave space to the son, while never shying away from expressing his reservations.

“… If I have to be honest, I am not convinced. I differ to his judgment… He (Rajiv) gets tired of explaining it to me quite often. I am not convinced (that) it is the right solution, ”Bajaj had said. “… Who knows tomorrow we may come back (in scooters) with a bang.” Bajaj just made a re-entry into scooters earlier this month (after more than a decade) with an electric vehicle, and called it 'Chetak', one of the company's legendary scooter brands.