Kamalnayan Bajaj - page 14

KamalnayanBajaj –Architect of theBajajGroup
1938 to 1942was a difficult period for theBajajGroup.
The trading, cotton ginning andpressing, and real estate
businesseswhich Jamnalal had so carefully nurtured
were doingwell, but themanufacturing businesseswere
in trouble. A change in theBritishRaj’s sugar policy in
1937negatively impacted the family’s sugar business.
But what really hit the groupwas the acquisition of
Mukand Iron&SteelWorks in 1939.
Its promoter, LalaMukandLal, was aGandhi
supporter. The re-rollingmills and foundry inLahore
and atReayRoad, Bombaywere virtually new –
Lal hadbought the equipment andbuilt the plants
barely two years earlier, but was unable to run them.
OnGandhi’s suggestion Jamnalal bought the business.
Jamnalal couldnever refuseGandhi anything.
And Jamnalal invitedhis friend JeewanlalMotichand
Shah, yet another follower ofGandhi, tobe a partner
in the business.
The cash crunchwas painful, but not the real
problem. Jamnalal andShahwere out of their league.
TheTatas and local Lahoremillswere experienced
competitors.Mukand’s plant operationswere not
even running properly. The furnaces hadnot been
erected fully. The foundries spluttered. Power supply
was erratic. By the time the newmanaging agents
(JeewanLtd) got their act together,WorldWar II broke
out and theBritishRaj took control of India’s iron and
steel industry.
By 1940 a depressed Jamnalal virtually retired from
all business activity.He resigned as chairman and
director of the group’s three big businesses: steel, sugar
and real estate. RameshwarDas Birla took over as
chairman of the companies,Kamalnayan as director. At
Kamalnayan’s suggestionRamkrishnawas sent to the
sugar operation atGolagokarannath,UnitedProvinces.
Helping and learning fromRameshwarprasadNevatia,
their brother-in-law, wouldbecomeRamkrishna’s first
major business responsibility.
By July 1941 Jamnalal was in ahigh state of anxiety.
Fearing a downturn similar towhat Indiawent through
afterWorldWar I, Jamnalal seriously thought of selling
offhis shares inHindustanSugarMills andMukand
Steel, andwas dissuaded fromdoing soby theBirlas.
OnFebruary 11, 1942, Jamnalal passed away.
On the 12thday,Kamalnayanwore Jamnalal’s cap. In
his diaryRamkrishna, 18 years old, wrote,Kamalnayan
“has tonow shoulderKakaji’s responsibilities.Now, for
takes the place of father. Imust alsobehave
withhim in thatmanner.”
Thispicturewas takenatBajajwadi,Wardha in1954when Jawaharlal
Nehrupaidavisit. RamkrishnaBajaj ison theextreme left, Kamalnayan
on theextreme right andRameshwarprasadNevatiabehindNehru.
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