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The stranger who put life back into Rajiv Bajaj's life

N Sundaresha Subramanian  |  Mumbai 

When Ash, the master of ceremonies, asked Rajiv Bajaj, the Business Standard CEO of the Year, to say a few words after receiving the award from Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan today, the man of the moment seized it with a quick repartee, saying he’d utter “more than a few words”.

“Brevity is not a family strength,” Bajaj said, an obvious reference to father and patriarch Rahul Bajaj, who loves to air elaborate views on all things under the sun. The audience, comprising a Who’s Who of India Inc, responded with huge applause.

“The award seems to say to me that I might I have touched a star. I think this is the case because of the 8,000- strong shoulders I have stood upon. Strongest of those are three. That of Joe, head of R&D; Pradeep, head of engineering; and Ravi, head of business development...They deserve this award much more than me,” Bajaj said, adding, “We work, play and party together, and have also made mistakes together.”

Describing the three of them as his ‘karmic brothers’, he said, “We were not born in the family but we were born to the same karma”. For 21 years, these four worked “with just the one goal, to build the best motorcycles in the world”.

Bajaj then launched into a mysterious story about a stranger who met him on a flight and put “life back into his life”. About three years earlier, when the auto maker was embarking on the new strategy that eventually would put him on the BS awards podium,. Bajaj was on a flight when the lady sitting next to him asked why he was so tense.

“I don’t think I was anxious, but she seemed to think so. She started talking to me about my life She didn’t stop talking for the next two hours. When we landed, I was quite relaxed. I was grateful to her,” he said.

A couple of years later Bajaj met her again. He went to her, expecting a pat on the back, narrating his success with the new strategy. “But all that she asked was about my son’s piano lessons. Thank God for some people who put life back into our lives,” Bajaj said, puzzling the audience about the identity of this benevolent stranger.

“I am going to thank my wife, she has a big part in it,” he said. Then looking at the CM, he added, “When you go back home, Sir, you please thank your wife on my behalf. “Because she was that kind lady I met on the flight,” Bajaj concluded. The chief minister was visibly moved, and the applause from the crowd was deafening.

Most other winners chose to congratulate their employees and customers. N K Nanda of NMDC, for a change, dedicated the award to the people of places like Chhattisgarh where they do mining.

Prashant Jain of HDFC AMC, the Equity Fund Manager of the Year, was a sharp contrast, as he chose to thank the companies, “who did all the hard work”. “We do the easier job of investing in these and holding on to them,” he added.

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First Published: Thu, March 29 2012. 00:47 IST