Rich tributes paid to RJ Shahaney, Ashok Leyland Chairman-Emeritus

Ashok Leyland, the flagship Company of the Hinduja Group and a leading commercial vehicle manufacturer, lost its Chairman Emeritus, RJ Shahaney on Tuesday, after a brief illness. Shahaney was Ashok Leyland’s first Indian MD and he served in that capacity from 1978 till 1998 and subsequently as Chairman until 2010.
RJ Shahaney, Ashok Leyland Chairman-Emeritus
RJ Shahaney, Ashok Leyland Chairman-Emeritus


He was a visionary who laid the strong foundation in manufacturing, engineering and technology for the company, the magnificent edifice we see now. In an era when AL, being a foreign company, faced challenges for growth, he had the courage to embark on an expansion plan that was to grow the company manifold.   He had been President of SIAM and AIEI (CII) besides being Chairman of IndusInd Bank. After his tenure in AL, he led Ashok Leyland Project Services and was involved in many Hinduja Group activities such as Hinduja National Power.
Dheeraj Hinduja, Chairman, Ashok Leyland, said, “We mourn the loss of a great leader, ally and friend. Mr Shahaney was with Ashok Leyland and the group for over three decades, leading the Company to where we are today. Under his able leadership, we expanded our footprint and manufacturing capacity.”
R Seshasayee, who was with Ashok Leyland for over three decades and was the MD between 1998 and 2011, shared his thoughts and experience of working with Shahaney: “I had the privilege of working for him for three decades, and watching him at close quarters. Everyday was a new learning experience for me and every action and thought, a new enlightenment. He was undoubtedly a key architect of Ashok Leyland’s growth and success.
“In the seventies when, Indian industry, and AL in particular, being a foreign company, was hamstrung by the stifling licence raj , he had the audacity to launch an expansion plan that was to grow AL from 12500 vehicles per year to 40000 vehicles. Hosur, Alwar and Bhandara plants were his creations. He knew how to navigate the treacherous labyrinth of the permit/ quota system, without ever swerving from the path of rectitude, a rare skill.
“The thriving Defence and International businesses at AL are his legacy. Mr Shahaney was a blue blooded technocrat. Nothing excited him as much as engineering and technology. The foundations of AL’s engineering excellence were laid strongly by him. He faced no fatigue in mind or body. He expected the same energy from his colleagues and was unrelenting in his pushing for results. In my over thirty years of working with him, there were exactly three occasions when he complimented me for my ‘ good work’. Yet, I knew I had his silent encouragement when I did well, though no error would be forgiven.
“He was unparalleled in his capacity to straddle the micro and the macro with equal ease and focus. He would not omit to correct a grammatical error in a project proposal, while dealing at the same time with future technology changes, that the proposal might have failed to address.
“Although he had a tough exterior, he had a kind heart. There was an occasion when I had to sack a senior manager, who was found to have been guilty of dishonesty. Unfortunately, the person had just been detected to have had cancer. Mr Shahaney endorsed my recommendation to terminate his services, but readily agreed to bear all medical expenses for his treatment.
“Mr Shahaney’s contribution to the growth of Indian industry, and in particular, automotive industry, was seminal.

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