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Honoring the Indian Business Leaders of the Year 2009

By Thomas Gilles, Partner, Baker & McKenzie

 

Geneva, 29 June - The global economy has been in turmoil for much longer than most of the international community had hoped and anticipated. However, India has not been affected to the same degree as other major economies and has shown signs that it may recover more quickly. India 's staying power and resilience, even in these difficult times, owes a lot to the tremendous entrepreneurial spirit of the business leaders driving its economic growth and development.

A jury, led by Horasis and Baker & McKenzie therefore took the opportunity at the first Global India Business Meeting to recognize and honor two business leaders who exemplify this entrepreneurial spirit: Mr. Rahul Bajaj, Chairman of the Bajaj Group and Mr. Pramod Bhasin, Founder, President and CEO of Genpact.

The Bajaj Group, which was founded in 1926, is, today, one of India 's top 10 enterprises. Bajaj Auto, the group's flagship company, is currently ranked as the world's fourth largest manufacturer of motorcycles. While it took Bajaj Auto ten years to produce the first 100,000 vehicles, the company today sells over two million vehicles per year.

Genpact is the largest business process outsourcing company in India and a leader in the globalization of services and technology and a pioneer in managing business processes for companies around the world. Genpact started in 1997 as the India-based business process services operations of GE Capital and became an independent company in 2005, now giving work to over 36,000 employees.

When the jury reviewed the business profiles of the award winners, it was particularly impressed by certain features, which seem to be key factors to their success: Both awarded have anticipated the internationalization of the Indian economy. Both play an active role in civil society and both possess a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit.

Baja as well as Genpact groups have internationalized – organically and through acquisitions – over a long period of time: Bajaj Auto began importing and manufacturing motorcycles in India more than 50 years ago. Today, Bajaj Auto has expanded its operations to Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. The 27 entities of the Bajaj Group operate on a global scale in a diverse array of industry sectors. In addition to the auto sector, the Bajaj Group also operates in the financial, household appliance, steel, travel, and infrastructure sectors, among others. Furthermore, since 2001, the Bajaj Group and the German financial giant Allianz are operating two joint ventures in the insurance industry.

Right from the beginning, Genpact pursued a very aggressive internationalization strategy, making the move to Mexico after merely one year of operation. From there, the company took country by country. Today, Genpact has a global network of over 35 operations centers in 12 countries: India, China, Guatemala, Hungary, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines, Poland, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, and the United States.

Mr. Bajaj and Mr. Bhasin both understand the importance of social responsibility and play an active role in civil society. Mr. Bajaj has been a member of the Indian parliament since 2006. Before joining the parliament, he was an outspoken supporter of India 's continued growth and development, once famously declaring: ‘I will not support one political party or the other, but I will support India.' The Bajaj Group itself also has established numerous foundations and trusts designed to serve local communities throughout India.

Under Mr. Bhasin's leadership, the company founded numerous programs to actively engage its employees in social projects, among them: Employees donating a small part of their salary to credible local charities; skill-based volunteering programs that 'Teach a man to fish' versus simply ‘Giving a man a fish'; mobile computer literacy classrooms - five fully equipped buses used to offer computer training to over 6000 students across towns in Rajasthan. Pramod Bhasin also serves as chairman of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), the premier trade body and the chamber of commerce of the IT and business process outsourcing industries in India with more than 1200 Indian and multinational companies as members.

Both awarded business leaders possess a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit: Back in the 1970's, when India was characterized more by a heavy regulatory framework than opportunity for development, Bajaj Auto's production of motorcycles was capped at 24,000 per year. Bajaj Auto exceeded this cap by more than 25%. In recalling these days, Mr. Bajaj once said: ‘If I had to go to jail for the excess production of a commodity that most Indians needed, I didn't mind.' When the two-wheeler segment saw liberalization in the early 1980s, the market saw large Japanese manufacturers trying to sweep the market. However, Bajaj was able to not only secure its market share but rather increased it. After Bajaj Auto was hit hard by the recession and the stock market collapse of 2001, some predicted that the days of Bajaj Auto were numbered. However, under Rahul Bajaj's leadership, Bajaj Auto was able to re-invent itself, invested heavily in R&D, built new factories and emerged stronger than ever.

Mr. Bhasin has always been on the forefront of innovative solutions in a sometimes harsh business environment. Not only was he a visionary in business process outsourcing, very early convincing the then mother-company General Electric to set up a call center in India , in a time when the availability, reliability and cost of telecommunication in India presented major obstacles for BPO companies. He also hired employees over fifty years of age to benefit from the bigger experience and limited fluctuation among employees and was one of the first give part-time jobs to housewives to do data processing in their homes. When Genpact became an independent entity in 2005, Genpact's revenues rose from USD 490M to USD 1.04BN in only three years. Even in times of crisis, Genpact is making large profits – Mr. Bhasin summed his company's advantage during these difficult times very nicely: ‘Where else will companies go if they want 30-40% savings?'


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