Rajiv Bajaj On The Importance Of Sharp Focus

Murali Gopalan
19 Jul 2023
01:34 PM
4 Min Read

The Managing Director of Bajaj Auto says that companies will need to narrow their focus if they need to retain talent in today’s world.

Bajaj Auto

“My favourite marketing mantra are these three words: Narrow Your Focus,” Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director, Bajaj Auto, told Mobility Outlook in a recent telephone interview.

He said it was important for companies to understand the value of “narrowing your focus” in order to become world-class. “Sometimes, there is a fear that if they do so, they will not be able to grow and become big enough. But that is not true!” he added.

He then cited some examples to drive his point home. “I always tell people that by selling a cup of coffee, look how big Starbucks has become. By selling one burger, look how big McDonald’s has become,” continued Bajaj. 

Once companies “think like this” and get their focus sharp and clear, then “you will never be short” of good people who will be able to deliver. “The reason your people fail to deliver is because your strategy is not correct,” he reiterated. 

The context of the conversation was the company’s recent initiative, Bajaj Engineering Skills Training (BEST). As part of this effort, Bajaj Auto will join hands with top universities and engineering colleges and set up state-of-the-art laboratories. The idea is to provide advanced skill training to engineering graduates with both degrees and diplomas.

While dwelling on the theme of sharp focus and why there are cases of companies and engineering graduates sometimes not being in sync with each other on goals, Bajaj said the issue was not with the graduates or employees but with the companies concerned. 

According to him, graduates are getting their education and ready to perform in companies in India or abroad. The problem occurs when companies often do not have a well-thought out strategy based on sound principles.

Problem Of Plenty 

“Then when your understanding of brand is not clear and, therefore deriving from that, when your approach to technology is not clear and, deriving from that, when your strategy of products is not clear…then you are a bit of a child in a toy store being attracted to everything and don't know how to make choices,” explained Bajaj.

He then cited the example of Steve Jobs, the late Co-Founder and CEO of Apple who had once alluded to having many options before him but his responsibility or objective was not so much which one to choose but which others to say no to. (To recall the complete quote: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”) 

That, according to the Bajaj Auto MD, was the meaning of focus because by saying no to the rest, it wasn’t because Jobs thought they were not attractive or worthy enough. On the contrary, when all 10 opportunities in the market “that are before you are attractive, and yet you consciously say no to nine and focus on putting every man, minute and every rupee behind one at the exclusion of all other nine which are equally attractive… that is the power of focus”.

Power Of Specialisation 

Bajaj went on to say that every professional demonstrates such focus. There are outstanding sportsmen who can play more than one game but to succeed they need to narrow their focus. Abhinav Bindra, as a case in point, “could have probably excelled” in more than one sport. Not only did he choose to focus only on shooting but “within that he chose to focus on a segment” of shooting. 

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Similarly, when someone wants to be a painter, he/she excels in a certain genre of painting. An aspiring Michelin star chef chooses to focus on a certain segment of cuisine and “not everything from idli sambar to pasta”. Likewise, a great doctor focuses on one specialty and the list goes on.

Bajaj then recalled the quote of Sun Tzu, the Chinese military strategist who is known for ‘The Art of War’ classic: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” This essentially meant that the victor is “the one who has in his thought made his strategy so sound” that he knows that if he goes to war to execute the strategy, he is bound to win and there is no way he will lose.

Bajaj also cited another quote, this time by the late Bruce Lee, the Chinese-American martial artist and actor, who had also said something similar on the subject: “The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus.”

Getting back to the BEST initiative and the need to impart specialised skills to the next generation of engineers, Bajaj said there “are possibly” three levels of engineering students/ graduates: at the very top are those who have done a degree from wherever they have studied, at the next level are those who have done the diploma and then an ITI. 

“In the future, one may even look at people who are still in the process of studying and working towards one of these three goals,” he added.  From the company’s point of view — for each of these three categories — there is a need for people to have a more complete education and exposure to industry practices. 

Raising The Bar 

It is not the kind of current traditional practice which is taught in institutions but really cutting edge practices. This has been structured under four modules: mechatronics, motion control and sensor technology, robotics and automation and finally, Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. 

The idea behind BEST is helping these youngsters learn not just hardcore technologies but also manufacturing methodologies like kaizen, TPM etc. “So it is not only tools and techniques but processes and systems,” said Bajaj.

For a period ranging from a few weeks to months, the company will be in partnership with “excellent colleges and universities” to be able to offer this kind of exposure and experience to students so that they become much more industry-ready not only in knowledge but also their skills. 

“This is the need of the hour where, on the one hand, Indian manufacturing has to be world-class and competitive. At the same time, it is obviously something that Bajaj Auto is well positioned to do. We are able to leverage our own know-how, our own people who have created the entire content and hardware in terms of equipment to create a factory/ laboratory of the world,” elaborated the MD.

Hence, there is a “very good alignment” between what is needed in society and what are the competencies of Bajaj Auto. The company felt that this should be the focus area of its efforts and most of its CSR money has gone into this area. 

According to Bajaj, the experiment with Banasthali Vidhyapeeth in Tonk, Rajasthan “has gone off very well” while there is another tie-up in place with Symbiosis International University of Pune. More such collaborations will follow where the idea is to “offer this opportunity to thousands of students across the country”.

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