With Blessings from Bapu, The Father of the Nation..."Jamanalalji is the man of the people - a fisher of men who had the knack of gathering people around him and inspiring them with his idealism." - Mahatma Gandhi Words of praise indeed, from the man who inspired a nation. One of Gandhiji's most ardent disciples, Jamanalal Bajaj believed in simple living and high thinking. His work among Harijans and underprivileged sections of society exemplifies his lifelong commitment to Gandhian ideals.We all at the Bajaj Family, and Kamalnayan Jamanalal Bajaj Foundation are proud to trace our roots to India's freedom struggle. Mahatma Gandhi himself actively supported and encouraged the first sugar plant opened in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh in 1931 to facilitate self- sufficiency of sugar production in the country. To our humble roots in the villages of UP, to a global presence in markets around the world, we have put India on the world map. From Gaon (village) to Global.. Bapu, the Father of the Nation, would be proud.
Shri Jamnalal Bajaj: The Gandhian Capitalist - 1889 - 1942.
Jamnalal Bajaj was an extraordinary man living in extraordinary times. From an early age, destiny carved out a unique role for young Jamanalal. At the age of five, he was adopted by Shri Bachhraj Bajaj, a wealthy merchant in Wardha. Throughout his life, he was a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi. When he was just 18 years old, Jamanalal renounced his wealth to Bachhrajji and wrote a letter to this effect to the merchant. But Jamanalal was also an astute businessman. He was the founding father of the present-day Bajaj Group of companies. However, his business interests were the means to a larger and holistic end. Very active during India’s freedom struggle, Jamanalal was a philanthropist who delighted in donating most of his wealth for worthy causes. Jamanalal established Bachhraj Factories, Bachhraj & Company, Hindusthan Sugar Mills (now Bajaj Hindusthan Ltd), Hindusthan Housing and Mukand Iron & Steel. Today, each of these companies has grown into a mega-enterprise in its own right. It was Jamanalal’s foresight in picking the right business at the right time that generated phenomenal growth. From the beginning, Jamanalal was always more involved in social and philanthropic activities rather than business. He first met Mahatma Gandhi in 1915 after the latter’s return from South Africa. Soon thereafter, Jamanalal began to assist in Gandhiji’s activities. He became increasingly involved, and committed to, the Mahatma’s programmes and India’s freedom struggle. Jamanalal was elected Treasurer of the Congress party in 1920. From the very beginning, Jamanalalji was in search of a spiritual mentor. He was delighted that, in Gandhiji, he found precisely such a holistic and spiritual philosopher and a wise counsellor. In 1920, Jamanalal requested Gandhi to consider him as his own son. Gandhiji found the request overwhelming and irresistible. He promptly agreed to his disciple’s request. Jamanalal had the rare distinction of being regarded by Gandhiji as his own protege. This showed Gandhiji’s affection for the young Jamanalal. But more importantly, it also demonstrated the Mahatma’s appreciation of the qualities that the young Jamanalal displayed in his personal, social and business life. When Gandhiji said that “Wealthy men should become trustees of their wealth for the common good,” he had Jamanalal mainly in mind. In 1920, Jamanalal took part in the Swadeshi movement and in the movement for eradication of untouchability. In 1928, he opened the doors of his family temple, the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir at Wardha, to all, including Harijans. It was the very first temple in India to welcome Harijans. This temple celebrated its centenary in the year 2008. Jamanalal made Wardha the centre for Gandhiji’s economic and social development programmes. He established the Satyagraha Ashram in Wardha in 1921. When Gandhiji called Vinovaji to Wardha, Jamnalalji got inspired with his actions for down trodden. Jamanalal similarly established the Gandhi Seva Sangh in 1924 to assist families of committed Gandhian workers who participated in the Satyagraha movement. In 1936, Gandhiji wanted to shift to a rural habitat. Jamanalal then offered a large piece of his land in Segaon to house his Ashram. Gandhi changed the name of the village to Sevagram and lived there till 1945. Bajajwadi in Wardha became a guest house and a favoured rendezvous of eminent national leaders visiting Wardha to meet Gandhiji. The meetings of the Congress Working Committee were also frequently held there. The famous Quit India resolution was adopted by the Congress Working Committee at its meeting in Bajajwadi in July 1942. Jamanalalji was thus the main pillar of strength to Gandhiji. Gandhiji himself admitted that “It was an easy thing for me to rely on Jamanalal to carry out my wishes. No one has identified himself so much with every one of my activities as he”. In fact, Jamanalal liberally assisted worthy causes as a matter of duty. When Jamanalal expired in 1942, Gandhi wrote in the newspaper ‘Harijan’: “Whenever I wrote of wealthy men becoming the trustees of their wealth for the common good, I always had this merchant prince principally in mind”. In sum, Jamanalal Bajaj was a ‘Seth’ and a ‘Sadhak’, a businessman and a spiritual leader at the same time. He was a man of the people. His head was sometimes in the clouds, but his feet were always on the ground.
Shri Kamalnayan Bajaj: The Consolidator - 1915 - 1972.
Kamalnayan Bajaj, the eldest son of Jamanalal Bajaj, started shouldering family responsibilities from an early age. After completing his education in Cambridge, University in England, Kamalnayan returned to India to assist his father Jamanalal, both in business and in social service. During India’s freedom struggle, Kamalnayan interestingly chose not to court arrest. His purpose was to keep himself free to help those actively engaged in the freedom movement. Keenly conscious of the legacy of his reputed family that he had to carry forward, Kamalnayan once wrote to his father, that “It is no joke to be the son of a big man.” Kamalnayan was a man of strict principles, which he never swerved from. He had earmarked a large portion of the income from his family business for public causes and social service programmes, the mantle of all of which he had inherited from his father. He always had a sense of a larger social mission, transcending the dictates of business and the bottom line. An astute businessman, Kamalnayan envisaged immense potential in India for manufactured textiles. But he did not pursue the profit in that business because of the firm commitment of the Bajaj family to khadi, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. Clearly expounding his philosophy and his perspective, Kamalnayan observed, “The various industries I am connected with should generate profit. But if any move on our part goes against national interests, I would condemn it and would not be party to it, even if it meant a loss in the bargain.” Every new business venture that Kamalnayan got into, eloquently testified to his legendary business acumen. With tremendous foresight and a spirit of zestful enterprise, Kamalnayan acquired ailing industrial units and then miraculously turned them around. He went on to expand the business by branching into manufacture of scooter, three-wheeler, cement, alloy casting and electricals. In 1954, Kamalnayan took over active management of the Bajaj Group companies. Besides being an insightful businessman, Kamalnayan was also a philanthropist driven by the passion for serving society at large. He was elected thrice as a member of the Lok Sabha between 1957–1971 from Wardha constituency in Maharashtra. Kamalnayan Bajaj passed away in May 1972 at the age of 57.
Shri Ramkrishna Bajaj : The Bridge - 1924 - 1994.
Ramkrishna Bajaj was the younger son of Jamanalal. He became the patriarch of the Bajaj family after the demise of his elder brother Kamalnayan Bajaj in 1972. Ramkrishna looked to Kamalnayan as his mentor. In addition to shouldering business responsibilities, Ramkrishna’s energies were largely directed towards the social service and social welfare programmes of the Bajaj Group. He was of the firm conviction that he could make an impactful and meaningful contribution to the community through social work. As a child and a teenager, Ramkrishna was brought up under the direct supervision of Mahatma Gandhi. When Gandhiji initiated the Quit India Movement in 1942, Ramkrishna was hardly nineteen. Earlier he had courted imprisonment with the permission of the Mahatma. In 1942, there was no need for him to court arrest. He was a wanted man and was quickly arrested and sent to jail. He spent about three years in jail, where he studied politics, economics, literature and the humanities in general. Ramkrishna had a flair and panache for working with youth. He was elected as the Chairman of World Assembly for Youth (India) in 1961. He also held the office of the Managing Trustee of the Indian Youth Centres Trust, which conceived and created the Vishwa Yuvak Kendra in 1968, a trail-blazing organisation in youth development. Ever the benevolent patriarch, Ramkrishna Bajaj passed away in 1994. Almost a century after Gandhiji made this famous observation, it still holds true. To embrace rural India in our economic reforms is to empower ourselves as a nation. We have always believed in seeding progress at the grassroot level. We adopt villages in remote regions to form a larger Parivaar. Today, over 2 million people are within our fold. We work hand-in-hand with kisaans to improve yields and enhance production.
“The soul of India lives in its villages.”- Mahatma Gandhi
In an ever-changing world, our agricultural roots and down-to-earth approach may not appear “futuristic”. However, as Gandhiji said, “in nature’s books, the debits are always equal to the credits”. “We may utilize the gifts of nature just as we choose, but in her books the debits are always equal to the credits.”- Mahatma Gandhi
While corporate social responsibility is a relatively new concept the world over, for us, it is a way of life. Social responsibility is hardwired in our DNA. During the initial years, Jamnalal Bajaj distributed profits among farmers who worked in the cane fields. As our efforts paid off, rural communities prospered. Our business philosophy built roads, Schools, Hospitals and continues to build the lives of millions of kisaan families. Several new initiatives are underway in accordance with global best practices for sustainable development.
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”