R J Shahaney, Ashok Leyland’s first Indian managing director from 1978 till 1998 and chairman till 2010 passed away earlier today after a brief illness.
Shahaney is remembered as a person of sharp intellect, attention to detail and boundless energy despite the long hours he put in. He set the bar of performance high and pushed all his colleagues relentlessly for perfection, which he led by example through sheer diligence and application and had a tough exterior and yet a very humane approach to addressing people issues.
After his tenure with the CV maker, 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. 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. Even after his retirement, he was always available to share his wisdom and was a personal friend of the Hinduja family. A towering personality, he will be sorely missed by a generation of professionals who interacted with him.”
Vipin Sondhi, MD and CEO, Ashok Leyland said, “While I did not have the good fortune of working with Shahaney directly, I had the privilege of knowing him personally. I have always looked up to him and what he has done for Ashok Leyland, he had the courage and resilience like no one else. His vision has inspired leaders of all generations and Ashok Leyland is fortunate that we had a leader like him. His contribution to the Company and the industry is unparalleled. He was part of our family and we all will truly miss him.”
He was a visionary architect who laid the strong foundation in manufacturing, engineering and technology for the company. The OEM says in an era when Ashok Leyland, 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 has been credited with setting up the company’s Hosur, Alwar and Bhandara plants. The CV maker says through his singular efforts he forged technology alliances for engine, gearbox, cabin as well as development efforts for multi-axle vehicles and defence vehicles.
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 RJ 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 Ashok Leyland 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 Ashok Leyland from 12,500 vehicles per year to 40,000 vehicles. The thriving defence and international businesses at Ashok Leyland are his legacy. Shahaney was a blue-blooded technocrat. Nothing excited him as much as engineering and technology. 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. At every place, the road had been laid with vision and hard labour, and one simply had to walk the easy path. They don’t make people like him anymore. May his soul Rest In Peace.”