Sunday, February 04, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 05: No fire in his belly?

(Cross-posted on the Seventh Heaven.)

Here on a cold winter evening near the arctic, I was enjoying a 40 winks,when suddenly a unique Cathedral/Stephanian sounding voice came over CNN. I got up with a start to see a familiar face on the TV.

It was none other than our 54er Cathedralite and 58er Stephanian Rahul Bajaj.

Here is the transcript of his interview by Andrew Stevens. (To see the video of the interview please click on this link):

The Board Room: Interview of Cathedralite/Stephanian Rahul Bajaj

PUNE, India (CNN) -- He is one of corporate India's elder statesmen. The man, who for nearly 40 years, provided transport for the world's second most populous country. Rahul Bajaj has now handed the reigns of the $7 billion U.S. Bajaj Auto to his son Rajiv, to spend more time in politics. But he is still chairman and still very much a part of the company he took over from his father in 1968. In a business landscape that is increasingly run by hired executives, family succession at Bajaj remains as strong as ever. Rahul Bajaj spoke to CNN's Andrew Stevens.

Bajaj: The reputation of the Bajaj family, leave alone my reputation and almost the entire wealth of the Bajaj family is represented by the equities we own in these companies and today the best in the world have to exert and exert like mad to survive leave alone prosper so if my son whom I wanted to take over was not good enough, was not the best, I wouldn't put him there and not because I would have become charitable to somebody else. It is in our enlightened self interest, his interest, our interest, the family's interest.

Stevens: So how did you prepare for the succession? How did you make sure that a family member was the best one to lead the company?

Bajaj: You can't. You can only try. To be the CEO you require many things. Books have been written on it and business schools teach that. According to me first is something in the person himself or herself. The genes, the DNA. To me they make a difference. The foundations are extremely important. So DNA or genes, upbringing and education. But then I think the person should not forget what we try to teach our children, the rest is up to them. You cannot teach beyond a limit.

Stevens: You gave your son Rajiv a difficult task of turning around a motorcycle division. If he hadn't achieved success there, and he did, would he still be the chief executive officer of the company?

Bajaj: Probably not. When he joined, the first few years he was on the shop floor he was an engineer and learning a lot and then when I started handing over power it was not to convert a scooter division into motorcycles and the 3 wheelers were earning very good money and they still are, it is to get prepared to prepare him to become the CEO of the company to take over from me and he started doing very well.

Stevens: As with all family companies there can be charges of nepotism leveled at you. What do you say to those sorts of accusations?

Bajaj: My first reaction if I find that in a company or in the government or politicians, if somebody is grooming a son, well the desire and obviously you call it nepotism or you want to keep it in the family, it is there. Good or bad, that is for people to judge. As far as I am concerned, it is good. I think a family guy, if he is a professional if he is competent, he has the advantage of continuity. He will not go somewhere else for getting twice the salary, he has the commitment, he doesn't need stock options he already has all of those. So there are great advantages. The whole problem in family management is if the guy isn't competent and you still put him in the chair.

Stevens: You were the chief executive officer for 38 years. How difficult was it to let go?

Bajaj: It was not at all difficult. I was dying to do it. To succeed you need to have a hunger in your belly. You need a fire in your belly and I had that for all of those years. And they have it now and I don't have that fire in my belly for Bajaj Auto but I have that fire in the belly and that hunger to do something, whatever little I can do, for my country. And that was one of the reasons why when I was approached I decided to get into the Rajya Sabha which is our upper house of parliament.

I wrote to Rahul and complimented him on his forthright views about handing over the Bajaj empire to Rajiv.

If you want to read a hard-hitting interview that Rahul had with the rude and ungentlemanly Doscoite Karan Thapar, please go to this link:

Does Sonia pay my salary: Bajaj

In it, he said:

Rahul Bajaj: Where did you go to school Karan?

Karan Thapar: Is that relevant?

Rahul Bajaj: It is very relevant because your logic is illogical.

Karan Thapar: If it is relevant I will tell you. I went to Doon School, Cambridge, Oxford and I know a lot about politics.

Rahul Bajaj: I went to Cathedral, St. Stephens, and Harvard, slightly better than you in every respect. So I understand logic. But I am a humble man unlike you.

Hope you can note the style of a professional journalist as Andrew Stevens against a ruck maker for the sake of ruck making, as Karan Thapar. Rahul certainly gave Karan a rough time. Well done Rahul!

I hope Rahul can make a difference in India sitting as an Independent in the Rajya Sabha!