The real Hero of the
Indian auto industry is no more. Dr. Brijmohan Lall Munjal, the Founder of the
diversified Hero Group and a Padma Bhushan awardee, passed away on November 1, 2015.
He was 92 years old. Dr. Munjal was also the Chairman Emeritus of Hero
MotoCorp. He is survived by his three sons: Suman Kant, Pawan Kant and Sunil
A visionary of immense calibre, Dr Munjal
built an empire in the Indian two-wheeler industry at a time when economic
liberalisation were words none had heard of and when red tapism and government
apathy towards industrial growth were a way of life in the country. He was not
a great orator but when he spoke, he did so from his heart. He spent more time strategising
and building his business, rather than rambling away on the daises at various
While good fortune and luck
favoured him in his business life, so did personal tragedies burden him with
sorrowful thoughts. Brij,as he was known, was among the four brothers who lived
in undivided Punjab in the early 1940s and who went out to carve a niche for
themselves in the Indian business landscape. His brothers were Dayanand,
Satyanand, and Om. Brij was born in Kamalia in Lalpur district of undivided
Punjab. The family was traditionally into vegetable trading from where they moved
on to trading in bicycle components.
A few years before 1947 when
India got its Independence, the Munjal family moved to Amritsar from Lahore only
to shift their base once again to Ludhiana four years later after Amritsar
became a hotbed of political turbulence. When Nehru and his team began their
feeble attempt to promote industrialisation in an India bereft of any
infrastructure, industry and money, the Munjals grabbed the opportunity to
build upon their cycle components business. The Munjals subsequently got into
manufacture of cycles. Brij was instrumental in scouting for new opportunities
in India and abroad. Brij travelled to distant lands in Germany and Japan. Om Prakash,
the youngest of the four brothers was given the task to set up dealerships
across the country. With foreign
know-how their cycle manufacturing business started flourishing.
The first tragedy that hit the
family was in 1968 when the eldest brother Dayanand died. Despite the loss of
an elder brother, the rest worked hard to build the business stronger. By the
1970s the Hero Cycles business had grown to such a level that it became the
largest manufacturers of bicycles in India. Soon thereafter, it also figured in
the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest bicycle manufacturer
in the world. A decade or so later, the company diversified into mopeds and
later into auto components too. But the
mega turn of events happened in the early 1980s when the Hero Group tied up
with Honda to manufacture motorcycles in India. There was no turning back since
then for the company despite the fact that the two companies parted ways in
2011. Hero Honda, after several decades of successful run became Hero MotoCorp.
The company continues to be the leader in the Indian two wheeler industry with
an annual turnover of around Rs 28,000 crore.
Hero Honda set up its first
assembly line in Dharuhera, Haryana. The first 100 cc Hero Honda motorcycle
came off the assembly line in April 1985 and since then there has been no
looking back for this motorcycle company.
But Raman Kant Munjal, Brijmohan's elder son who was instrumental in
helping his father set up Hero Honda, suddenly died in 1991. That was yet
another personal tragedy to hit the
family. In 2015, Brij’s younger brother O P Munjal too passed away.
The next in line among his
children, Pawan was groomed by Brij to take over the reins of the motorcycle
business. But Briji never gave up despite these tragedies and worked hard to
grow his business further. In June 2015, Brij stepped down from the position of
Chairman of Hero MotoCorp to become Chairman emeritus. He passed on his baton
to Pawan Kant Munjal who is now the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Managing
Director of Hero MotoCorp.
Brijmohan Lall Munjal will be
terribly missed in the Indian automotive industry. He was among the few
surviving stalwarts in the Indian industry who was instrumental in taking India
from a world without wheels to one where motorised wheels have given a
meaningful definition to our lives!