Have lost ‘hamara Bajaj’, say many leading Indian business leaders as they remember their large-hearted, fearless, nationalist friend and his deep sense of humour.

The passing of Rahul Bajaj, a veteran industrialist, whose name became synonymous with Bajaj Auto, on Saturday in Pune, has left India Inc., grieving. Have lost ‘hamara Bajaj’, say many leading Indian business leaders as they remember their large-hearted, fearless, nationalist friend and his deep sense of humour.

Zia Mody, co-founder and managing partner, AZB & Partners, sad at losing “a good honest friend” described him as “a giant of a man, who was incredibly strategic and also fearless.” She also saw in him “a family man.”

Calling him a ‘no nonsense’ man who would call a spade a spade, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, executive chairperson, Biocon Ltd and Biocon Biologics Ltd, says, her “dear friend with a terrific sense of humour and a very large heart” was “an iconic figure in India Inc.,” and one who shared a special bond with her “when it came to our common views on policy matters. He used to often say that the only other person apart from him who was honest about budget ratings was me!,” she says.

Integral to the making of ISB

Pramath Raj Sinha, founder and chairman, Harappa Education, who first met him just as a 32 years old, recalls his close interaction. Initially at McKinsey and later more closely as the founding dean of the Indian School of Business. He says, Rahul Bajaj or Rahul Bhai, as he used to refer to him always, “was absolutely critical to the creation of ISB and was passionate about seeing India build a truly international education institution that was no less in quality and stature than the globally best.”

Ability to disconnect after leaving

“Off course in my McKinsey days, I have seen him completely charged and larger than life in his running of Bajaj Auto. But what also stood out was his ability to disconnect after leaving. Once he handed over the reins to his sons, he never interfered. He was a true leader and also very inspiring as a person.” On his insistence that ISB should be located in Maharashtra, he did try and looked at places like Pune, Khadakwasla but even though his heart was in Maharashtra, he was always objective and wise about whatever worked best for the institution and once convinced was quick to change his stance and give his best to support whatever is best.”

True Nationalist

Remembering his other leadership traits, Pramath Raj Sinha says, “lot of people who got intimidated by his forcefulness did not realise that behind that forcefulness was a person who was very open, considerate and collaborative. Also, he was a true nationalist and believed that you should have your heart in your country and wear it on your sleeve too.”

Camaraderie & Competition

Like many of the industry leader friends of Rahul Bajaj who recall the great sense of humour that Rahul Bajaj had, Pramath Raj Sinha also recounted the long rounds of laughter that he and the other members on the board of the ISB shared with Rahul Bajaj. “He used to make us laugh and he would pull everyone’s leg and in particular that of Sunil Munjal, who was his competitor (Hero MotoCorp), but it was all in good spirit and nobody took it the wrong way and would indulge him and like him for his signature style.”

Bombay Club & global beliefs

Economist and author Dr Sanjaya Baru, who has also worn several other hats including that of media advisor to former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and as the editor of leading Indian financial dailies, including Financial Express in the past, knew Rahul Bajaj closely over the years. Dr Baru, who as the former secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) got to interact more closely with Rahul Bajaj, remembers Bajaj as “one business leader who spoke with courage.”

Recalling one of his interactions with Rahul Bajaj, Dr Baru says, “when I teased him about the Bombay Club objecting to PV Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh reforms, he would say that he was never opposed to more global competition because Bajaj was a global company that succeeded in the global market.”

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Rahul Bajaj was a giant of a man, says India Inc