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Simplifying and bringing finance to all: Rakesh Makkar, CEO, Bajaj Auto Consumer Finance Ltd

For more than 3 decades, Pragati Leadership has been instrumental in recognizing, shaping and celebrating corporate leadership in the global corporate arena. Our unwavering focus has been on promising and delivering on the four-pronged goal of Purpose, People, Planet and Profit. And it excites us to rub shoulders with some of the most inspiring and successful leaders from around the world.

We instituted the Pragati Inspiring and Successful Leadership Awards to honor and celebrate these individuals who have led their organizations to business innovation and growth. Its second chapter recognized stellar leaders from the Manufacturing & Supply Chain, IT & ITeS, Banking, Financial Services & Insurance, Pharma & Chemicals, and Fast Moving Consumer Goods sector.

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A tough, unbiased selection criterion helped us evaluate excellence in leadership across these sectors. The jury of experts, each a prominent business personality, partnered with us as we identified this year’s deserving winners. We were glad to work alongside experts like Pradeep Mallick (Chairman, The Listening Post, and Former MD, Wartsila India), Dr. Niloufer Aga (Facilitator, Consultant, Coach at Pragati Leadership), Ninad Karpe (Founder & Partner at 100X.VC), and Dr. Apoorva Palkar (Vice Chancellor, Maharashtra State Skills University).

The winner of the ISLA “Setup and Scale Innovator” award went to Rakesh Makkar. A visionary in the field of finance, he has many exceptional achievements to his credit, including establishing and expanding finance businesses and working toward enabling financial inclusion across societal layers. He has spent over two decades sharing his expertise in banking, product design and digitalization, helping numerous finance companies scale up.

Reminiscing about his journey, Rakesh joked that no one would believe him today if he spoke about his school days. His father was called into school on numerous occasions and he even flunked math in college. He chose to change tracks and tried his hand at sports but soon realized that he wasn’t cut out for that either. What worked for him, though, was his belief. Rakesh says, “If you believe in yourself, you can make dust meet the sky.”

Despite his track record in math, he set himself an ambitious target and decided to pursue Chartered Accountancy. Rakesh was clearly proud of clearing that with merit. An MBA from IMT Ghaziabad came next; followed by a Leadership Program from Harvard. Rakesh went on to agree that “It seems unbelievable that the person who did so poorly in school pursued studies with such passion later in life.” According to him, “It’s all about passion. If you really want to do something, you can do it.”

Going slightly off-topic, Rakesh spoke about how he likes to keep pushing his boundaries. Since he’s always been keen on maintaining his fitness, he decided to set himself a personal challenge. He skipped 9320 times in the span of just one hour and went to create a record. He even invited the audience to check it up on YouTube.

Rakesh considers himself to be a serial entrepreneur. He traced his career trajectory, which began with Citi Financial, a startup working out of the garage where he went on to become a certified international trainer with CitiGroup, training people on risk. The next step was with Fullerton, a non-banking finance company. He spoke fondly about his time with Mr Kishore Biyani. Rakesh strongly believes that this Indian entrepreneur lost out to the digital age, else “He had the potential to become the next Amazon.” He helped build Future Money which has gone on to become Capital First.

Rakesh is at his fourth and current startup, Bajaj Auto Consumer Finance Company. His motto is to achieve success by “driving passion into the team”. He says that if you’re with the team, you can do anything. During his time at Fullerton, he worked in rural India. He remembered sitting down with his team and the villagers for discussions. That’s when Rakesh realized that “if the people are motivated and excited, they will achieve anything for you.”

Under Rakesh’s leadership, Bajaj Auto’s finance subsidiary has achieved impressive growth rates, and Rakesh’s unwavering commitment to financial inclusion is not only changing lives but also making a significant societal impact.