The ₹1.43-lakh crore Bajaj Group is in a new phase of life after the demise of Rahul Bajaj, a larger-than-life figure who left an indelible mark as its chairman for 40 years. The patriarch, who died in February, had envisaged a business succession plan and ownership structure during the last phase of his life and implemented it through a Family Settlement Agreement (FSA), signed by around 25 members of the family in 2018. A family council now takes care of the family's as well as shareholders' interest in the business.
The Bajaj family council, which includes brothers Shekhar, Madhur and Niraj and sons of Rahul Bajaj — Rajiv and Sanjiv, now manages the business. Thanks to its focus, the aggregate market capitalisation of the group has gone up 12.9% to ₹8,91,942 crore in the last one year (as on August 16, 2022), boosting the family's wealth to ₹1,21,284 crore.
Despite the impact of Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the flagship consumer-lending business of the group, Bajaj Finance Ltd., posted a 59% growth in profit at ₹7,028 crore in FY22. The assets under management (AUM) increased 29% to ₹197,452 crore, and the company acquired over 9 million new customers, taking the total to 57.6 million as on March 31, 2022, a 19% growth year on year.
Another flagship company, Bajaj Auto Ltd., recorded a 10.2% rise in profit at ₹5,019 crore despite degrowth in sales volume of domestic motorcycles. The two-wheeler major has been able to offset the blip with increased exports, which account for around 53% of its total sales, and which touched a new high of 2.2 million units in FY22, a 22% growth year on year.
The Bajaj family, which prefers a low-key life, follows Rahul Bajaj's principle to the tee — Do whatever you think best, but be the best at whatever you do.
"Rahul Bajaj was always against the idea of doing 20 different things at a time and insisted on sticking to the knitting. So focus, focus and focus is our business philosophy and we want to become better every day," says Niraj Bajaj, chairman, Bajaj Auto Ltd.
The family has third, fourth and fifth generations working in the business. "We want to go on like this in the generations to come," says Niraj. Rahul Bajaj had also ensured that family members are qualified enough to take up leadership responsibilities. His sons Rajiv and Sanjiv graduated from Warwick and Harvard, respectively. From the fifth generation, Rajiv's son Rishab and Sanjiv's daughter Sanjali have joined the group's businesses.
The family controls the ownership through private trusts, over 10 holding companies, and personal accounts. There is no family head after the passing away of Rahul Bajaj. The family council meets often, at least once in one or one-and-a-half months, in Mumbai or Pune, and spends the whole day together. The last meeting had an 18-point agenda, including business and family matters. "The goal is to continue the values and principles of our elders —from Jamnalal to Rahul Bajaj," says Niraj.
"The problem with most business families is that the family comes first. In our case, the family comes second. We owe our reputation and existence to thousands of small shareholders who trust the Bajaj name and have put their hard-earned savings in Bajaj shares," he adds.
The family takes pride in the simple life and foundation laid down by founder Jamnalal Bajaj. "The market cap is only a number. What do we do with that? We want to succeed in what we are doing," says Niraj.