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Honoring the Indian Business Leaders of the Year 2009
ByThomas Gilles, Partner, Baker & McKenzie

The global economy has been in turmoil for much longer than most of the international community had hoped or anticipated. However, India has not been affected to the same degree as other major economies and has shown signs of a more rapid recovery. India’s strength and resilience in these difficult times is in no small part attributable 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.

‘If I had to go to jail for the excess production of a commodity that most Indians needed, I didn’t mind.’ 
Rahul Bajaj,Member of Parliament and Chairman, Bajaj Auto, India
Rahul Bajaj and Pramod Bhasin, the Indian Business Leaders of theYear, withThomas Gilles and Frank-Jürgen Richter

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

Genpact is the largest business process outsourcing company in India, a leader in the globalization of services and technology and a pioneer in managing business processes for companies around the world. Genpact was established in 1997 as the Indian base of GE Capital’s business process services operations. Genpact became an independent company in 2005 and now employs over 36,000 people.

When the jury reviewed the business profiles of the award winners, it was particularly impressed by three features, each of which seemed to be a key factor to their success. First, both Mr. Bajaj and Mr. Bhasin anticipated the internationalization of the Indian economy; second, both play an active role in civil society; and third, both possess a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit.

Both the Bajaj Group and Genpact have internationalized – organically and through acquisitions – over a sustained 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 have operated two joint ventures in the insurance industry.

Rahul Bajaj, Chairman, Bajaj Auto, during the opening plenary
‘Where else will companies go if they want 30-40% savings?’ 
Pramod Bhasin, Chief Executive Officer,Genpact, India

From its establishment, Genpact pursued a very aggressive strategy of internationalization, expanding operations to Mexico after its first year of independent operation. Following this move, the company continued to expand rapidly across the globe.Today, Genpact has an international network of over 35 operation 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.” In this spirit, the Bajaj Group has established numerous foundations and trusts designed to serve local communities throughout India.

Under Mr. Bhasin’s leadership, Genpact founded numerous programs to actively engage its employees in social projects, including projects allowing employees to donate a small portion of their salary to local charities; skill-based volunteer programs designed to “teach a man to fish” as opposed to “giving a man a fish”; mobile computer literacy classrooms installed on five fully equipped buses that are used to offer computer training to over 6000 students in Rajasthan, India’s largest state.

Mr. Bhasin also serves as chairman of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (“Nasscom”), the premier trade body and chamber of commerce in India for more than 1200 Indian and multinational member companies in the IT and business process outsourcing industries.

Thomas Gilles with the two award winners

Both award winners represent the best of India’s tremendous entrepreneurial spirit.In the 1970’s, a time when India’s economy was characterized more by an onerous regulatory framework than the 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%. 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 began to liberalize in the early 1980s, Japanese manufacturers made an aggressive push to gain control of the market. In spite of these efforts, Bajaj Auto not only secured its market share, but increased it.After Bajaj Auto was hit hard by the recession and the stock market collapse of 2001, some predicted that the days of BajajAuto were numbered.However, under Mr. 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 among the vanguard in providing innovative solutions, even in adverse business climates. He emerged as a visionary in the field of business process outsourcing, convincing then-parent General Electric to set up a call center in India at a time when other business process outsourcing companies flinched at the perceived lack of infrastructure in India.

In addition, he was among the first employers to specifically target employees over fifty years of age as a stable and experienced core workforce. He also was among the first employers to give part-time jobs to housewives, allowing them to do data processing from their homes.When Genpact became an independent entity in 2005, Genpact’s revenues rose from US$490 million to US$1.04 billion in just three years. Even in times of crisis, Genpact has been able to maintain large profits.

In a concise summary of Genpact’s competitive advantage during these difficult times,Mr. Bhasin has stated: “Where else will companies go if they want 30-40% savings?” Mr. Rahul Bajaj and Mr. Pramod Bhasin excel in leadership, innovation, global reach, and economic performance and thus truly deserve to be honored as Indian Business Leaders of theYear 2009.

Pramod Bhasin, CEO,Genpact,making a point during the plenary session on global trade and investments

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