Indian industrialist Jamnalal: the man behind the legendary ‘Bajaj’ vehicles

Karl Lyimo

THE Indian industrialistcum- philanthropist behind the seemingly ubiquitous ‘Bajaj’ motor vehicles across the globe, JAMNALAL BAJAJ, died at the tender age of 57 on February 11, 1942.

But his legacy in the road motor transport stakes is phenomenal… Born on November 4, 1884, Jamnalal founded the Bajaj Group of Companies in Year-1926. Today, the Group boasts 24 companies, with six of them – including Bajaj Auto Ltd, Bajaj Electricals Ltd, and Bajaj Hindusthan Ltd – listed with some of the world’s renown Stock Exchanges.

Undoubtedly, my esteemed readers are today familiar with three-wheeler vehicles popularly known as ‘Bajaj’ that ply metropolitan streets, weaving in and out of traffic jams as they ‘easily struggle’ to move commuters and cooked food mammies from Points A, B, C, etc to Points D, E, F, etc… Well, squarely behind the contraptions was Jamnalal Bajaj who, on Nov. 29, 1945, added ‘Bajaj Auto Ltd’ to his ‘Bajaj Group of Companies,’ based in Pune, India.

Manufacturing ‘Bajaj’ motorcycles, auto rickshaws, cars – and, of course, threewheelers – ‘Bajaj Auto’ netted 530m US dollars out of 3.4bn US dollars in gross revenues in FY-2015/16, with around 9,100 employees!

Ranked the world’s largest three-wheeler manufacturer – followed by ‘Piaggio’ of Italyand ‘Mahindra & Mahindra,’ also of India [See Deccan Chronicle; March 15, 2016] – Bajaj Auto is India’s 23rd largest publiclytraded company by market value (Market capitalisation) in May 2015: 9.5bn US dollars.

It was ranked at Number- 1,416 on the Forbes Global-2000 List for Year- 2012! Oh, there’s much that’s interesting on ‘Bajaj’ – both the person and the machines! Suffice it here to say that – although ‘Mister Bajaj’ died relatively young: at only 57 years – the man did wonders not only for his country India, but also for the wider world, both as an industrialist and as a philanthropist. [Just go to ; Wikipedia, etc, for the juicy details].

Talking of ‘Bajaj’ vehicles, the other day I stumbled upon some pieces I’d penned in the past on the ubiquitous little motorised gremlins – and which were graciously published in assorted newspapers.

One, for example – published in ‘The Citizen- Tanzania’ on September 24, 2008 – was titled ‘Passing up the Shangingi for a Tuk-Tuk needs heart!’ This brazenly challenged the Government of the Day to take a Leaf out of the Book of the late President of Burkina Faso [‘The Land of Upright People’], Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (1949- 87).

A Military Captain, Marxist Revolutionary, pan- Africanist Theorist and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to his assassination on October 15, 1987, Sankara sold most of the government fleet of ‘Mercedes Benz’ vehicles in 1984, and ‘ordained’ the ‘Renault-5’ (the cheapest car sold in Burkina Faso at that time) the official service car of government. Ministers and other principal officials! In that article, I ‘invited’ the Tanzania Government to do likewise.

Just imagine the savings that the country would make if it sold off even three-quarters of the 40,000 ‘official’ 4-wheel-drive vehicles (‘ma-Shangingi’) that ply urban tarmac roads 99.9 percent of their service life, rarely going ‘off-road!’ Indeed, I’m not saying that ‘Dodoma’ should go for ‘Bajaj’ tuk-tuks instead… NO, Sir – and Madam, to be politically correct!

It needs madness to do that… As President Sankara postulated at an August 21, 1983 Press Conference in Ouagadougou: “You can’t carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness! In this case, it comes from nonconformity: the courage to turn your back on the old formulas; the courage to invent the future... We must dare to invent the future!”

‘Bajaj’ vehicles may be good in terms of purchase price, running and maintenance costs, as well as being the/an answer (of sorts) to heavily-congested carriageways – in the latter case: easily weaving in and out of traffic lanes, and even onto road pavements and footpaths!

But, then again the twinstroke- engined little monsters are a bane on the Environment – just as much as their bigger cousins, especially the diesel-engined, black smoke-spewing ma- Shangingi, are major environment polluters! Indeed, modernising engine technologies could reduce the environmental shortcomings. But, perhaps the only major way of saving on energy is to go for smaller, more economical engines, not more and more of the road-hugging behemoths!

But, change is inevitable, as Sankara hinted. A few years ago, the Bajaj taxi/hire business was illegal in Tanzania – and, therefore, untaxed. When it was clear that it was a booming business, the ‘little things’ were countenanced, legalised, licensed and (hopefully) taxed!

All that notwithstanding, however, some authorities – as well as business rivals like car-hire and commuter bus operators – still look askance at Bajaj and ‘boda boda’ motorcycle hire service providers! Tanzania needs to rationalise the related issues so as to arrive at pragmatic and efficacious modalities.

Anyway: Cheers, Jamnalal Bajaj and the others – wherever you might now be

! [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.].

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