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Chairman's Speeches

Here's a list of all the speeches made by Bajaj Auto's Chairmen from 15th December, 2004.

  • Indian School of Business,
    Hyderabad
    April 9, 2017
  • India's 2.0 Reclaiming Tryst with Destiny
    Indore Management Association
    February 6, 2015
  • Rotary Club of Tilak Road, Pune – Revival of the Indian Economy April 30, 2015
  • Rotary Club of Mumbai South : Economic Situation of our Country April 23, 2015
  • Chairman's Speech - Rotary District Conference, Pune February 8, 2014
  • International Customs Day : New Delhi FEBRUARY 5, 2013

Rotary District Conference, Pune :

February 8, 2014 Print

D.G., Dr. Deepak Shikarpur, Shri Mukesh Arneja, Dr. Mashelkar, Ladies & Gentlemen,

I am grateful to Rotary International for bestowing this exceptional honor on me. I accept it in all humility on behalf of all my colleagues in the Bajaj group. They are the true architects of our success.

Rotary represents a good blend of individual development and civic mindedness which I believe is essential for the way forward for any country.

I have chosen to speak about The Way Forward for India. The economy, business and politics are the three areas I know a little about.

I am happy to note the presence of a significant number of ladies in the audience. They are the real life economists, sociologists and psychologists who run our homes on tight budgets and keep the family together. As I have said often, Indian fathers are ok, but Indian mothers are very, very special. Mere Namaskar.

To arrive at the way forward one has to understand where one is, develop a vision for the future and then draw a road map for achieving it.

So my talk is structured around 3 questions

  • 1. Where are we and why are we here?
  • 2. Where should we go from here? And
  • 3. What should we do to get there?

I. Where are we?

Let me enumerate our key strengths and weaknesses.

Our strengths are that:

  • - We have a very young population in a world which is ageing
  • - We are the world's largest democracy
  • - Our people are enterprising and hard working. I hardly need to say this to this audience, who represent these qualities in ample measure. We have the largest number of foreign CEOs of large global companies. Be it Anshu Jain of Deutsche Bank, Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Ajay Banga of Mastercard and now Satya Nadella of Microsoft. The depth of Indian talent, be it as entrepreneurs or as professionals, is strong and deep.

However, our weaknesses are:

  • - Our per capita income is low. It is 1/20th that of developed countries.
  • - On a wide variety of measures, be it in Ease of Doing Business or social parameters like corruption, human development indicators, we are in the bottom half of the world.
  • - We have some major economic reasons to worry about. Our growth rate is falling, our inflation is high, our imports are larger than our exports and therefore our currency is losing value. And, our governments continue to spend more than the taxes they collect. & The quality of our political system and public institutions (law & order, judiciary, education, health system) is declining.

So, the glass is half full and perhaps leaking.

Why are we here?

This is a controversial subject but we can conclude that for the last 50 years we have been badly governed.

As Kanwal Rekhi, a venture capitalist from Silicon Valley, who has mentored a large number of Indian entrepreneurs in the IT sector, put it , "we are a first rate people in a third rate system". But the system is not God given. It is a system that we created and continue to support, even if by default.

At the root of our non-performance is the primacy we accorded to the government rather than individual enterprise. Nani Palkhivala once described the period 1947-91 as a period of "collective madness". Of course, there were positive elements in the period, but that should not deter us from calling a spade a spade.

We have disregarded if not disincentivised the productive private sector of the economy, and incentivised the relatively “unproductive” sectors. Creation of surplus has to precede its distribution. This central fact has been disregarded, bankrupting our governments.

China too had its cultural revolution but they did not become prisoners of an unwise past. Each day one must be willing to look at the world with new eyes. This is not to be confused with inconsistency. Gandhiji wrote in "Young India", " my aim is not to be consistent with my previous statement on a given question, but to be consistent with truth as it may present itself to me at a given moment."

Over a period of time some maybe well-intentioned but incorrect principles, have come to be the corner stones of our public discourse. Essentially, they represent a belief that political expediency is more important than economic logic. Key amongst these are:

  • 1. Merit is not important in deciding about people
  • 2. There are free lunches available
  • 3. Dogmas are more important than outcomes, e.g. Nationalisation &
  • 4. You can have rights without responsibilities

One can see that these will lead to disaster because they are contrary to common sense. But they are the prevailing principles of our governance.

They have created the entitlement state and are responsible for a negative work culture.

The task of overturning these incorrect principles is not easy. Large groups now have vested interest in keeping them going. But, to continue an unsatisfactory arrangement is courting disaster.

A nation progresses when its people and government are pro- growth and reform oriented. This is the lesson of human history, be it Rome or Egypt or China. Whenever a nation opts for status quo and its elite seek refuge in rent seeking, it declines. The greatest threat to a nation is not external but self-inflicted economic and/or social imbalances.

Our country is a place where contradictions often co-exist. We have a growth oriented people but a rent seeking political, bureaucratic and at times business class. This is why our progress has been poor. But this is also the reason why we have reason to hope.

II. Where should we go?

It is obvious that we have to grow and grow fast, to provide employment and a decent living to all our people. Growth is sustainable only if it is inclusive, only if it is environmentally friendly.

We also need to articulate and realise the Idea of India, which combines the best of our past and the best of human values. Where parental income is not a barrier to good health and education, where talent is encouraged, achievement celebrated and the less strong can also live with dignity. A country retaining its age-old humanism and tolerance of differences. A country that retains its soft power in offering an alternative, attractive way of life that celebrates life, to the world.

Is this possible?

The banishing of poverty is an economic question and the idea of India a societal one. I for one believe that both are possible.

The global scenario is marked by economic power resting with developed countries in Europe, North America and Japan. The history of the last 200-300 years is a story of catch up. UK forging ahead, then being chased by Germany, then US and then Japan. In the last 50 years South Korea has made the grade. China has progressed fast in the last 30 years.

First, a country competes on cost, then on quality, then on innovation. This means that countries can play catch up. Miracle economies should be the norm. It is Non development that is the puzzle.

The world is now relatively open. The barriers are of technology, which too can be surmounted by determined effort.

First, a country competes on cost, then on quality, then on innovation. This means that countries can play catch up. Miracle economies should be the norm. It is Non development that is the puzzle.

Also, there is a global value chain and one can both source globally and be a supplier. The idea of India is something that is innate to our civilisation. We have merely to remain steadfast to it. We have to know our roots and pass them on to succeeding generations.

III. How do we get there ?

We have to reform our political and economic systems. I say political first, because it is our politics that has distorted our economic system. Without political change there cannot be economic change.

Political System

How do we make the political system more productive; and accountable and responsive to our society's needs ?

The individual is the center of all change. As Gandhiji said it, “be the change you want to see”. All of us have to hold fast to values that we believe are good for us and the society.

This, at the political level, means that each one of us should vote. And we must vote for the right candidate. Middle class apathy to the political process has to end. Also, law should prevent criminals from contesting elections.

We need to have government funding of elections to go to the root of the rot in the political system, which lies in election funding. We also need to hold elections only once every five years, simultaneously for the states and the centre. This was so for four elections till 1967. Electoral political expediency will then be a once in five year phenomenon rather than the current eternal theme song.

Economic System

China's development has been facilitated by it becoming a factory for the world. With wages now rising in China, revaluation of the Yuan & the desire of foreign countries/ companies to diversify their risk, a huge opportunity exists for India to attract investment in manufacturing. We have already seen investment move to Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam for manufacture of clothing. If we modify our labor policy, provide the required infrastructure and a hassle free environment, a very large number of jobs, at least a Million, can be created in India in the organised sector, within the next 3 years. Present policy is only leading to low paying contractual jobs in the unorganised sector and increased imports from China.

Also, large industry should be dispersed and kept away from existing large cities by the State Governments providing the needed facilities in areas where they want to attract industries.

We need a change in government attitude from being a controller to a facilitator. At the very least, governments should stop being a hindrance to business. In other words we need to provide good governance and effective delivery of public services.

We also need a serious review of government spending. Subsidies need to be reviewed and resources moved from unproductive to merit based subsidies targeted at those who need it. Money should be spent on productive investment in sorely needed infrastructure, be it electricity or roads or ports or irrigation.

And, we require a business climate that is conducive to investment needs, to be created by streamlining procedures to fast-track infrastructure projects. Reforms to address skill shortages, and to ease labor regulations also need to be implemented. These structural reforms will not only boost growth but will pave the way for sustained growth.

We have to strengthen the provision of public goods like education, health and infrastructure so that the poor have an opportunity to participate in growth. If governments fail then the private sector should assist in augmenting supply of public goods.

Of course, it is companies that compete, not countries. But macroeconomic factors and the social dynamics of a country, play a significant role in determining company competitiveness.

We in the private sector have to significantly improve the quality of our corporate governance and speed up the economy's rate of growth by enhancing our competitiveness. There is a need for business to earn societal legitimacy.

There are two kinds of capitalism. Market based and cronyism based. Cronyism based benefits only a few individuals, implies corruption and gives capitalism a bad name. What we need is market based capitalism. Unless we make this distinction we risk the rejection of capitalism by people at large. Today in the public mind, Indian business is largely of the crony kind. Events like Coalgate, 2G spectrum sale, illegal mining of iron ore, give credence to such a belief. Business requires public legitimacy to function. This legitimacy is not strong anyway in our country and has to be built assiduously.

Before I conclude, ladies and gentlemen, let me say a few words about our current political situation.

The results of the four state elections in November/December 2013 point to a change of regime. We are also seeing a new national leadership emerge in the Congress and the BJP. Also, regional parties and a third front cannot be wished away. AAP is an interesting development. AAP, in my view, reflects the re-engagement of the middle classes with the political process, which is a good development. The middle class may or may not stay with AAP depending on its performance. Corruption going on back foot is a positive sign as long as anti-corruption drive does not become a witch-hunt and lead to policy paralysis.

In conclusion

I am a realist but a forward looking realist. As someone said "Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes time. But vision with action can change the world."

We must articulate and commend whatever is in our national interest. We must rise above narrow considerations that we have become accustomed to. The purpose of my comments today is to stir a dialogue so that we can start to break this logjam.

A leader is one who takes us where we would not have gone on our own. We need such leadership at all levels, in all fields. Nation building is the solemn duty of every citizen. We citizens have to reclaim our republic. I expect Rotarians to lead in this endeavour.

Taking India Forward is a challenging task. It will be a long and difficult journey. But achievers seek tasks that challenge their will. When beset with difficulties, we would do well to remember Churchill's dictum: "Never flinch, never weary, never despair."Or, as Vivekananda said, “Rest not till your work is done.” Into that heaven of freedom let my country awake.

Jai Hind.

  • Public Life and Businessmen Shri Pravinchandra Gandhi Award for Excellence in Public Life - Mumbai August 28, 2012.
  • Building Indian businesses 12th CII Marketing Summit 2012 - Mumbai August 27, 2012
  • Chairman's speech - Rotary Club Nagpur December 8, 2012
  • Chairman's speech - at Banasthali University September 25, 2011
  • Chairman's speech - Siam Annual Convention,New Delhi September 7, 2011
  • Chairman's speech - Naples June 27, 2011
  • Chairman's speech - National Defence College, New Delhi March 30, 2011
  • Chairman's speech - Rotary Club Kolkata February 11, 2011
  • Chairman's Article - Times Of India January 24, 2011
  • Chairman's speech - SPU, Vallabh Vidyanagar December 15, 2010
  • Chairman's speech JAI HIND HIGH SCHOOL & M.U. COLLEGE OF COMMERCE January 6, 2009
  • Chairman's speech at Prof Ramlal Parikh Memorial Lecture 2008, Ahmedabad January 6, 2009
  • Chairman's speech in All India Management Association November 22, 2008
  • Chairman's speech in Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi October 1, 2008
  • Chairman's speech on Realising the Indian Dream WIEF November 23, 2006
  • Chairman's speech at Mumbai University, Industry Academia November 17, 2006
  • Chairman's speech in Rajya Sabha on 23rd August,06 August 23, 2006
  • Chairman's speech on Taking India forward, Lecture at Delhi January 10, 2006
  • Chairman's speech at India Today Conclave February 25, 2005
  • Chairman's speech at Symbiosis Convocation December 29, 2004
  • Chairman's speech at BMA Golden Jubilee Lecture December 15, 2004
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