Rudratej Singh, President and CEO, BMW Group India, passes away
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Rudratej Singh, president and CEO of BMW Group India who passed away this morning. It’s terrible, terrible news that has shaken up the entire automotive industry, taking away one of its stars; a rare CEO with experience on two as well as four wheels.
Rudy was the first Indian to be appointed CEO of a big German car manufacturer when he took over last August from Vikram Pawah, who had moved back to Australia. And by all accounts he was doing a good job of steering the ship in the right direction, aided by a slew of brand new cars and SUVs. He was still undergoing his induction in Munich when the new X7 and updated 7 Series were launched and then, on not a month went by when we did not meet on a launch or event. It began with the launch of the new 3 Series that was on a size and scale that we hadn’t seen in a very long time, especially not from a luxury car manufacturer. And the confidence he had in the 3 Series was not misplaced as three months later he received the Premium Car Award at the Indian Car of the Year.
A statement from BMW Group India said, “The cause behind the sudden and unexpected demise is yet to be ascertained. Our prayers are with his family and loved ones during this difficult period. His transformational vision and strategic orientation played a crucial role in navigation of BMW Group India in a challenging business environment. His demise comes at a crucial junction when BMW Group India was in midst of implementing strategic measures for strengthening the dealer network across India.”
It was Royal Enfield that brought Rudy into the Indian automotive world, after he’d spent over 16 years at Unilever. He’d told me his single biggest achievement at the venerable bike manufacturer was bringing down the average age of their buyers from 42 to 26-32 years. Not a small task when you’re talking about the world’s oldest bike manufacturer in continuous production. Under his watch as global president, Royal Enfield unveiled the 650 twins to rapturous applause at the EICMA motor show in Milan and then equally high praise at the global media rides in California. This picture was taken when we got back to Santa Cruz after spending the entire day maxing out the Interceptor and GT 650 down the Pacific Coast Highway and through the Redwood forests with Eicher Motors CEO Sid Lal and Bike India editor Aspi Bhathena. Rudy not only launched bikes, but he also rode them, something that would hold him in good stead at BMW Motorrad.
Moving to BMW India he brought along a cultural shift, notably in getting rid of the suits and ties. In fact at the 3 Series launch he was still wearing his Royal Enfield riding jeans. But as his colleagues shed their suits Rudy developed an affinity for tailored suits and was often seen in a full three-piece. He was a huge golf enthusiast which kept him fit, loved his bikes, and at the ICOTY event we spent an hour at the bar talking about the R Nine T he’d just taken delivery of, why he opted for the 7 Series over the X7 as his company car, and over shared love for watches.
That was the last time I met Rudy. We were to have caught up over dinner in Chennai on the 4th of March, a day prior to the launch of the new X1. But that got cancelled due to the fast developing Covid-19 situation which would end up in a nation-wide lock down less than three weeks later. The last time I spoke to Rudy was 13 days ago, to offer my condolences for the loss of BMW’s sales director, Mihir Dayal. And now Rudy is no more, gone too soon.
Sirish Chandran (@Sirishchandran)