A tete-a-tete with Mr. Rahul Bajaj


Q1. What are your views on philanthropy?

Rahul Bajaj: Philanthropy should be driven by basic ethics, originating in the way the organization does business. The first and foremost thing to have is basic ethics, followed by corporate governance for organizations and then Mr. bajajphilanthropy. Being ethical in business is the first step in doing philanthropy. An ethical mindset is a prerequisite to do good. At the Bajaj Group, we try to be fair to different categories of stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, vendors and the society. Doing business ethically and being fair to customers, employees, etc. is a way of business. This is a way of contributing to the society, and eventually leads to philanthropy. This value system is the legacy of my grandfather, Mr. Jamnalal Bajaj, who was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. The legacy was carried on by my father Mr. Kamalnayan Bajaj, who was a Member of Parliament and uncle, Mr. Ramkrishna Bajaj.

If you adopt unethical means in doing business, and then do philanthropy, I wouldn’t respect that kind of philanthropy. Philanthropy has to be done with the right mindset.

Q2. What about philanthropy specifically in India, when compared to the philanthropy of the west?

Rahul Bajaj: In India, it has been a tradition for the wealthy to take care of the downtrodden.

Let me give you my own example. I have been living in Akurdi along with my family since 1965. My children went to a local missionary studied with the children of the staff of the different companies operating in Pune. When we shifted the plant here there was nothing, but we built a house on the campus and lived here instead of staying in Mumbai and shuttling to Akurdi. It became much easier for the rest of the staff then to adjust because it was clear that we, as promoters, were not asking them to do something that we were ourselves not willing to do. Being here has enabled me to always enjoy good labour relations.

Our culture is different from the West. I don’t think that the western concept of giving pledge is applicable in India. I have a lot of respect for people who have pledged their wealth, but I don’t find that approach applicable here.

Q3. Do you view philanthropy as separate from the Bajaj Group’s CSR?

Rahul Bajaj: Philanthropy and CSR are separate. CSR is a complex subject and I don’t think the government has defined it well, or that it is well understood.  Philanthropy doesn’t necessarily include CSR, but CSR includes philanthropy. Both are important.

Q4. Tell us about the Bajaj Trusts. How do they operate, and how do you see them work going forward?

Rahul Bajaj: Niraj (Bajaj) can give you a more accurate picture of how the trusts operate, as he is the treasurer. We have a significant corpus that includes shares of Bajaj Group companies. We run operating trusts that implement our own programmes, as well as make grants to other institutions. As a group, we normally do not commit to amounts to be given in grants for the future. We believe that money should be donated only when there are surplus funds after doing whatever philanthropy we intend to do through our implementing trusts first. Geographically, our trusts will continue to focus on the four areas where they are doing work presently (Wardha, Sikar, Aurangabad, Pune). I would like to see more work being done in these areas, and if there are good organizations working in these areas, would also like to donate money to them.

In terms of grant making, we have given several crores (each) to IIT Bombay, Ruby Hospital, Pune, Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai, Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai, Mumbai University, SNDT University, Bhau Daji Lad Museum and many, many others. We have also recently started providing livelihood training to women living in slum areas in Mumbai with an aim to empower them. Minal Bajaj, my sister-in-law is overseeing the effort. She also oversees all the awards that are given by the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.

Q5. Any views on doing philanthropic work jointly, along with other individuals?

Rahul Bajaj: I am happy to share and exchange information with others, but I feel that doing philanthropic work jointly can lead to multiple disagreements and clashes on priorities and values, unless the collaborators are all like-minded. However, if there are interesting projects or organizations that can be supported or co-funded by a group of four to five like-minded individuals, with all the individuals as trustees, I am open to looking at them.


Q1. What are your views on the state of philanthropy in the country?

Niraj Bajaj: People have traditionally given according to their means but not spoken about their philanthropy.  The left hand should not know what the right hand has given. But of late, I have felt that communicating is important, to motivateNeeraj Bajaj others to give. In our family, we are still guided by the legacy of our late grandfather. While we do not have as simple a lifestyle as him, we try to live up to his ideals of integrity.

Q2. Tell us a little about how the multiple Bajaj Trusts operate.

Niraj Bajaj: There are about 45 trusts in all. They are registered in Mumbai and Delhi. Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation (JBF) is the flagship foundation.  Apart from JBF, some of the other key trusts are Jankidevi Bajaj Gram Vikas Sanstha (JBGVS), Kamalnayan Bajaj Charitable Trust, and Jamnalal Bajaj Seva Trust.

The trusts do implementation work as well as make grants to other credible organizations. The direct implementation work that the trusts do is primarily focused in four areas: Pune, Aurangabad and Wardha districts of Maharashtra, and Sikar district of Rajasthan. Pune and Aurangabad districts in Maharashtra we focus on are districts where the Bajaj Group has operations. Sikar in Rajasthan is close to our heart as it is the birthplace of Jamnalalji.  Wardha is our ‘karmabhoomi’ where Jamnalalji invited Gandhiji to live in our home. In the areas we work in, we try to get engaged in a holistic manner, with all aspects of development.

Q3. Any specific reason behind having such a large number of trusts?

Niraj Bajaj: When we started, all trusts were charitable, non-tax paying entities, holding some shares of group companies. In 1973, government legislation took away the tax exemption status of trusts holding shares of companies. This legislation was effective for trusts holding shares after 1973, trusts that held shares prior to 1973 continued to enjoy tax exemption. Bajaj Auto has had an outstanding history of success. The company was growing at a stupendous rate, and was issuing bonus shares every few years. Had the bonus shares been added to the corpus of the existing trust, even the ones issued earlier to 1973 would lose tax exemption. So, we thought that it was a better idea to create separate trusts with the bonus shares. That was how more trusts were created.

 Q4. Have you thought about merging some of these trusts?

Niraj Bajaj: We did some work on trying to merge the multiple trusts some years ago, but we realized that that this could lead to spending too much time on possible tax litigation.

 Q5. Is the corpus of the trust largely in the form of Bajaj Group company shares?

Niraj Bajaj: Yes, largely, but not hundred per cent. The trusts together hold about  5 per cent of Bajaj Group company shares. It amounts to a corpus of about Rs. 5000 crores in the form of shares and a few hundred crores in government securities and fixed deposits.

 Q6. So, the current level of operating expenditure is totally derived from the income from the corpus?

Niraj Bajaj: Yes, it is in the range of Rs. 80 crores per annum currently. Next year, it should grow to about Rs. 100 crores. Bajaj Trusts  in principle do not accept external contributions.

Q7. Any thoughts on starting new institutions or funding institutions?

Niraj Bajaj: We have started institutions within existing ones – e.g. the nursing college within the Kamalnayan Bajaj Hospital and the engineering college coming up in Shiksha Mandal. Our biggest concern is that money should be spent well. We would like to fund at least one or two major public institutions in Mumbai, like we did for the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, but since they come under the purview of the government, the process sometimes becomes long winded and cumbersome.

Q8. How do you select which organizations you make grants to?

Niraj Bajaj: Our primary criterion for making grants is credibility of the Organization. Our grant making is not focused on specific cause areas, but ideally should benefit the poorest of the poor. We give to organizations based on recommendations of friends and well wishers, or if we know the leader of the effort as we find this to be more trustworthy than just giving to strangers. For instance, we have made a donation of about Rs. 10 crores to Sankara Nethralaya. We have also made grants to IIT Bombay when Rahul bhai was the chairman of IIT. We have four chairs there and an innovation centre is coming up. We sponsored the renovation of the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai. It is India’s second oldest museum and was in a dilapidated state. After the restoration efforts, it is one of the finest museums in India. We obviously can’t give to all those who request, and we don’t have a large team in place to evaluate the different requests in too much detail. So, we largely go by recommendations from our friends and family, while doing some homework on the work being done by the institution, and its reputation.

Q9. Are Bajaj Trusts primarily grant making or primarily implementing?

Niraj Bajaj: We are approximately evenly split across grant making and implementing ourselves.

Q10. Do you have a team specifically dedicated to the Trust’s activities?

Niraj Bajaj: We do have a small team (5 people) and Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation has another 7-8 people. This is in addition to the grass root level team for all the implementing organizations, which could run into hundreds of staff, doctors, teachers and volunteers.

Q11. What are your views on beneficiary contributions to projects?

Niraj Bajaj: We strongly believe that all stakeholders need to be committed to the project. For example, we have finalized funding a new management college by SNDT University, called Jankidevi Bajaj Institute of Management Studies. The total cost of the project is approximately Rs. 14 crores, of which we have agreed to give Rs. 7 crores, in keeping with our principle of making sure that all stakeholders have a commitment.



 1. Bajaj Trusts – Origin

The Bajaj Trusts today comprise of around 45 different trusts, carrying forward the legacy of the late Shri Jamnalal Bajaj, the founder of the Bajaj Group of companies. Jamnalal Bajaj was a freedom fighter, social reformer, humanitarian and a devoted follower of Mahatma Gandhi. He was adopted as his fifth son by Gandhiji. He took active part in India’s freedom struggle, but his forte was the constructive work propounded by Gandhi. Jamnalalji undertook pioneering work in the field of upliftment of the ‘dalits’ or the downtrodden, education of women, Go-seva (Cow protection), propagation of Hindi, spread of Khadi (hand spun and hand woven cloth) and the development of village industries.

In line with the Gandhian principle of trusteeship of wealth, Jamnalal Bajaj felt that wealth was a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of the people. And this belief laid the foundation of the family of Bajaj Trusts, as he had willed his share in the family’s wealth to charitable purposes.

2. Jamnalal Bajaj Seva Trust – the first trust

After Jamnalalji’s death, Kamalnayan Bajaj, his elder son, felt it was his sacred duty to fulfil his father’s wish to put into practice Gandhiji’s theory of trusteeship. In consultation with Gandhiji and other members of the family he created a public charitable trust of Jamnalalji’s personal assets including his share in the joint family property. This charitable trust, Jamnalal Bajaj Seva Trust was the first Bajaj Trust, established in 1942. Gandhiji himself drafted the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the trust and finalized its objectives. This trust was set up with an initial corpus amount of Rs. 500,000 (in 1942), which was Jamnalalji’s share in his family’s wealth.  Initially, the trust assisted Sarvodaya workers and Gandhian constructive programmes.

3. Evolution

The trust gradually expanded to other areas of development, and started to focus on youth, livelihoods training, education, medical care and famine and flood relief.

In 1960, at the suggestion of Acharya Vinoba Bhave, the trust purchased about 400 acres of land on the outskirts of Bangalore to establish an International Sarvodaya Centre – Vishwaneedam for promoting agriculture, dairy development, rural development and training local women and youth for self-employment. Vishwaneedam’s activities are centred around providing benefits free of cost and improving lives. Vishwaneedam is involved in the following activities:

  • Organizing youth camps and seminars for promoting Gandhian values and Sarvodaya activities;
  • Managing balwadis, where mid-day meals, milk, pick-up and drop and health check-up are provided to students;
  • Training rural womenfolk in tailoring and embroidery;
  • Running a computer training centre; and
  • Conducting eye camps and medical camps.JB Seva Trust Page 10

In 1961, the trust made a donation to the University of Mumbai for establishing the first management institute in Mumbai, the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS).

Today, the Jamnalal Bajaj Seva Trust looks after the maintenance of Bajajwadi at Wardha, which was a national guest house in the pre-independence days and also works to promote arts and culture through the Kamalnayan Bajaj Hall and Art Gallery.

The Bajajwadi has historical importance. At Jamnalalji’s instance, Gandhiji came to stay in Wardha. Soon, Wardha became the centre of Gandhiji’s constructive and political activities. Eminent national leaders from all over the country used to stay in Bajajwadi, whenever they would come to meet Gandhiji. Meetings of the Congress Working Committee were also held here.

Over the course of years, several other trusts were established, focusing on different objectives. Some of these are the Jankidevi Bajaj Gram Vikas Sanstha (JBGVS), Jamnalal Kaniram Bajaj Trust, and Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.

4. Guiding Philosophy

The Bajaj Trusts implement programmes at the ground level as well as make grants to other organizations. The trusts operate with the belief that in general, development projects should eventually become self sustainable and should not require a regular infusion of funds by a donor.  When making grants, they fund capital expenditure to help set up initiatives. However, they do not make a commitment to fund initiatives or operating expenditure over a long term, because of the inherent belief that initiatives should strive to become self-sustainable.

Another strong belief is that government schemes should be leveraged in all areas of development. In fact, wherever the trusts’ implementing organizations work for social causes, they try to ensure that the government funds approximately 80 per cent of all development programmes. Bajaj Trusts fund approximately 10 per cent of funding requirements, and ensure that the local community takes responsibility for the projects, and puts in the remaining 10 per cent.  The Trusts have a geographic focus, primarily focusing on four areas – Pune, Wardha and Aurangabad in Maharashtra (where the group has operations currently) and Sikar in Rajasthan, which is the birth place of Jamnalalji.

5. Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation (JBF)

The Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation was established in 1977, and since then has been promoting Gandhiji’s constructive programmes and honouring people who have aligned themselves with the foundation’s causes. The foundation has instituted four annual awards, each carrying a cash prize of Rs. 5,00,000, a citation and a trophy to encourage people to continue with their exemplary work. Awards are given in four categories:

  • Award for outstanding contribution in the field of Constructive Work.
  • Award for Application of Science and Technology for Rural Development.
  • Award  for outstanding contribution for the Development and Welfare of Women and Children  (Instituted in the memory of Smt. Jankidevi Bajaj)
  • International Award for Promoting Gandhian values outside India. (This Award is presented to an individual of foreign nationality)

The first two Awards were instituted in 1978. The Award for Women was instituted in 1980. The International Award was instituted in 1988 to commemorate the birth centenary of Jamnalal Bajaj.

Some famous Indian awardees include Anupam Mishra, Gandhian, author, journalist, environmentalist, and water conservationist who works on promoting water conservation, water management and traditional rainwater harvesting techniques; late Baba Amte, an Indian social worker and social activist known particularly for his work for the rehabilitation and empowerment of poor people suffering from leprosy; Ratan Shastri, founder of Banasthali Vidyapith and a notable champion of women education.

On the occasion of the Jamnalal Bajaj Birth Centenary, the Foundation conferred on Dr. Nelson Mandela, a Special Award of Rs. 5,00,000, a Citation and a specially sculptured Trophy in 1990.

 6. Jankidevi Bajaj Gram Vikas Sanstha (JBGVS)

This Sanstha, named after the Padmavibhushan late Jankidevi Bajaj, wife of late Shri Jamnalal Bajaj, was established in 1987. The main objective of this trust is to act as a catalyst for the participation of rural community in improving their quality of life. Presently this is done in remote and backward villages in Khed and Maval talukas of Pune, Paithan and Gangapur talukas of Aurangabad.

JBGVS targets seven of the eight Millennium Development Goals (across 70 villages directly). It has staff strength of 35, and has 100 onsite volunteers. Volunteers come in very handy in establishing relationships at the grass root level and ensuring that development work in villages becomes self sustainable over a period of time, with commitment from villagers.

Seva sansthans run by JBGVS impart skill based education to women, and provide day care for children. Seva sansthans do not promise employment. Instead, they focus on making the recipient of the training or education to be employable.  At the grassroot level, JBGVS targets to partner with the government, UNICEF, World Bank etc. The sanstha trains rural women to operate like aasha behens (government), collecting health information, providing recommendations on medications. Volunteers are trained as midwives for child deliveries. Mobile vans with a doctor and other supporting facilities regularly visit as per schedule. The volunteers and staff make sure that the new born child and mother are given the special diet under the ICDS 21 day nutrition programme.Mobile clinic & Pulse Polio Page 17

One of the keys to the success of JBGVS in working at the village level has been the sanstha’s ability to maintain close relations with the village governance bodies and leverage contacts in government departments for agriculture and health. The sanstha operates through “link workers” in villages. Link workers are well connected to the village sarpanch. There is one link worker for every four or five villages. JBGVS consciously stays away from political fabric of villages.

Some key programmes include:

  • “Mango growing” programme – with NABARD, in which the sanstha is working with 1000 tribal families around Pune for the fourth year. 900 of these families are landowners and 100 landless. Currently, they have 900 acres under cultivation. The sanstha give cows or goats to the landless families, and encourage them to sustain the income by breeding more.
  • Irrigation: By involving the local government and villagers, the sanstha has done work in cement dams, earthen dams, soil conservation and ensured that 90 wells across 6 villages get water throughout the year. The project is managed by the sanstha, but the money is transferred to a special account opened at the village for this purpose.
  • Funding cowsheds and cows:  The sanstha gives a part of the funds required for constructing a cowshed, and makes sure that all requirements of compost bed, outlet, water etc. are met. A 21 day period is allowed as pilot test, and if the cow does not perform as per expectations (milk yield), the beneficiary can return the cow. Since 2005, 250 cows have been given. Currently the fourth phase is on. The 250 cows have multiplied to 850 cows and have generated Rs. 5.27 crores in the area.
  • The sanstha has been partnering with the Rotary Club of Pune (North) since 2005, and helping distribute mixed breed cows to villagers.
  • The sanstha enables villagers to apply for grants to the government for various community projects. In keeping with the principle of ensuring stakeholders’ commitment, villagers pay 10% (to ensure commitment and ownership of the project).
  • Recharging wells in Wardha villages – Sanstha is addressing the issue of scarcity of drinking water in Wardha by recharging wells in the village, increasing their storage capacities. Villagers put in 10% of the funds required (5% labour plus 5% diesel), Bajaj Trusts put in the rest. The sanstha organizes a committee in the village to carry out the de-silting work in the summer. There are currently no government schemes for de-silting.

JBVGS works on making villages self supporting and equipping local teams with the skills and capabilities to administer themselves. After verifying the capability of the villages periodically, JBGVS hands over and opts out of the ‘good’ villages, and adopts another ‘weak’ village, so that the good work goes on.

7. Kamalnayan Bajaj Hospital, Aurangabad

The Kamalnayan Bajaj Hospital is a top notch, multi specialty hospital started at the initiative of Madhur Bajaj in 1989, with intent to provide world class healthcare facilities to everyone in the Marathwada region, irrespective of their socio economic status. This hospital, located in Aurangabad, was established by a trust – the Marathwada Medical and Research Institute (MMRI), which is wholly managed by the Bajaj Group. It started operations in 1990 as 60 Bed hospital & research centre, and has now expanded its capacity to 250 beds.

The hospital has a plot area of 7.5 acres, built area of 100,000 sq. feet. Specialties include cardiology, nephrology, neuro and spinal surgery, nuclear medicine, oncology, radio therapy specialities in addition to regular branches. The hospital is well equipped with a CT scan, MRI, mammography and ultrasound. It has 4-5 operation theatres and a critical care unit.

The hospital is self sustaining operationally, but is funded by Bajaj Trusts for capital expenditure.

While offering top notch health care to patients, the hospital extends its services to the economically weaker sections of the society either free of cost or at a subsidized rate through a special programme. Annually, the hospital has been providing relief for close to 55,000 patients on OPD basis, and close to 7,000 patients admitted to the hospital for various treatments. It also has an intensive care unit and cardiac care unit, with a capacity of 22 beds, and an occupancy rate of more than 95%.

The hospital ties up with JBVGS to conduct health check-up camps in over 600 villages in the Aurangabad district, where more than 32,000 patients have been given treatment and medicines free. Free treatment to the tune of Rs. 2.5 Crores has been rendered to the needy. JBVGS, working actively at the village level, is very well aware of the status of health in villages, as well as medical requirements. The success of the health camps comes from the synergy between the hospital and JBVGS. Knowledge about the conditions at the village level, and familiarity with villagers ensures that the needy get the free medicines and treatment.

Kamalnayan Bajaj Hospital page 21

8. Kamalnayan Bajaj Nursing College

The Kamalnayan Bajaj Nursing College (KBNC) was established in 2010 by the Kamalnayan Bajaj Hospital and the MMRI, and offers 4 year degree course in basic B.Sc. Nursing. KBNC has invested over Rs. 10 crore in excellent infrastructure facilities of international standard, including state-of-the-art laboratories, a library with computer lab allowing free Internet access, and hostels for boys and girls.

The College has a well qualified teaching staff with high profile degrees in nursing and management. KBNC has plans to start P.B.B.Sc (N) and M.Sc (N) programmes, a research centre for allied health sciences, and short term training programmes for healthcare professionals. KBNC offers several types of scholarships with support from the Government of Maharashtra, Social Welfare Office, and MUHS, Nashik.

9. Institute of Gandhian Studies, Wardha

The Institute of Gandhian Studies was established in Wardha in 1987 in memory of Jamnalal Bajaj and offers a spectrum of courses, conducts research and seminars, provides counselling and evaluation services and undertakes publications on various aspects of Gandhian thought and action. It offers courses on peace, non-violence, conflict resolution, inter religious courses on main religions, as well as courses for workers of trade unions, panchayat raj and rural activists.

Gandhiji strongly advocated conservation of natural resources, and it is only fitting that the institute’s campus has become the venue if the first district level Renewable Energy Education Park of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Govt. of India.

10. Shiksha Mandal

The Shiksha Mandal was established in 1914 by Jamnalal Bajaj and has grown into a group of 8 colleges at Wardha, Nagpur and Jabalpur in diverse disciplines. The Mandal is associated with developmental activities in rural areas, vocational education through Community Polytechnic and other programmes.

The Mandal has been a pioneer in higher education in Central India. It has student strength of approximately 10,000 and a faculty of 450. Most of its institutions are run on grant basis. However, newer institutions like the Management Institute at Nagpur and Agriculture College at Wardha, and new courses in older institutions like the Post Graduate Program at the Science College at Wardha, are being run on a no-grant basis.

Shiksha Mandal has always been a National Institution and aims at being a role model for privately managed higher education institutions, both, in terms of both quality and affordability. It has always followed an income blind policy of admissions. It has stood for ethical conduct in managing its institutions and is enjoys an outstanding reputation on this account. Many eminent personalities including Harish Salve, Udayan Sen, Ramesh Chandak and Justice Ravi Deshpande are alumni of the Shiksha Mandal.

The Mandal is supported by the Bajaj Trusts. A new Rs. 50 Crore engineering college is being planned, which will be operational in 2014.Shiksha Mandal Wardha page 29

11. Other Activities

In addition to the activity of the trusts, the Bajaj Group has also contributed to Industrial Training Institute (ITI) up gradation. The government has a programme through which it allots interest free loans to industry organized institute management committee. Bajaj is currently helping four ITIs to upgrade. Bajaj has donated machinery to one of the ITIs.

Also under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) is an urban antiretroviral therapy (ART) centre for HIV/AIDS therapy. The centre is in its fourth year currently, and is considered the model ART centre by Naco, CII and global funding agencies.

The Bajaj Family’s involvement

Jamnalalji dedicated his life to shaping a glorious reality for India. He upheld the highest standards of integrity in his personal life and business. His wife Smt. Jankidevi Bajaj was as much a persona in her own right, as she was a dedicated wife to Jamnalalji. She didn’t think twice before giving up her luxurious lifestyle when Jamnalalji adopted the Gandhian way of life. Their legacy was carried on by their two sons, Kamalanayan Bajaj and Ramkrishna Bajaj.

Today, Kamalnayanji’s elder son, Rahul Bajaj is the head of the Bajaj Group. After Ramkrishnaji’s death in 1994, Rahulji has guided the initiatives of the Bajaj Trusts and increased the scope of activities manifold. Under his leadership, the group has gained its leadership position in the industry and remained true to the social vision of its founders.

Today, each of the family members champion one of the areas. Shekhar Bajaj focuses on Wardha, Madhur Bajaj on JBGVS and Samaj Seva Kendra, Kumud Bajaj on Kamalnayan Bajaj Hospital, Aurangabad and Niraj Bajaj in IMC, Ramkrishna Bajaj National Quality Award and Olympic Gold Quest. Niraj Bajaj is also the treasurer for the Bajaj Trusts. The women in the family get involved in a big way with different philanthropic initiatives of the trust. Ms. Minal Bajaj, wife of Shri Niraj Bajaj, runs “Hamara Sapna” targeted to empower women living in slum areas of Mumbai with livelihood options, and is also the honorary director of the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation.