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RC Bhargava remembers Jagdish Khattar: The former Maruti MD who blazed a trail in Indian automobile industry

The success of Maruti under Jagdish Khattar was only to be expected and was no surprise, writes RC Bhargava, chairman of India’s largest automobile company.

April 29, 2021 / 12:02 PM IST

I had my first conversation with Jagdish towards the end of 1992 when we were looking for a suitable replacement for me as Managing Director of Maruti. It did not take me long to realise that he would meet all the requirements exceedingly well.

What made him stand out was his bright and quick intellect. He had an open mind, willing to learn and try new things and he was excellent at managing people and running the industry, besides being highly articulate and a very good communicator.

I then had to persuade him to give up his stellar career prospects in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), convincing him that Maruti had more to offer and would give far greater job satisfaction. He was convinced, gave up the IAS and joined us in 1993.

The then government did not appoint him as the Managing Director when I retired in 1997. They ignored the strong advice of Suzuki (Maruti’s Japanese parent) and did not even formally ask my views.

It was only in 1999 that the new government not only appointed him as the Managing Director but also decided that government should gradually exit Maruti and list it on the stock exchanges.

The success of Maruti in the years from 1999 until 2007, when Jagdish retired, is well known and documented. The public issue of Maruti shares, in a very difficult market, was a huge success.

The benefits of privatisation and listing have been enjoyed by all shareholders as the company created huge value for the country. The success of Maruti under Jagdish was only to be expected and was no surprise to me.

Jagdish was a man of many interests and qualities. He came from a family of entrepreneurs who had business in Dera Ismail Khan in the North West Province.

Early on he almost took up a career in Bollywood. His mind was always active, thinking of new ideas, and he could never be satisfied with what had been accomplished. He was devoted to his delightful family. They had innumerable friends and admirers and he and Kiran were wonderful hosts.

His loss is irreparable, not only to the business world but to all his friends. May he rest in peace.

RC Bhargava
first published: Apr 29, 2021 12:02 pm