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B M Munjal, father of Indian two-wheeler industry, passes away

In June 2015, Munjal stepped down from the position of chairman at Hero MotoCorp to become chairman emeritus

Ajay Modi 

B M Munjal, father of Indian two-wheeler industry, passes away

Brijmohan Lall Munjal, widely regarded as the father of the Indian two-wheeler industry, passed away on Sunday evening at the age of 92. Munjal, who founded Hero MotoCorp, the world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer, is survived by three sons: Suman Kant, Pawan Kant and Sunil Kant. Munjal's younger brother O P Munjal had passed away in August this year.

Brijmohan Munjal had inked an agreement with Honda in the 1980s to manufacture motorcycles even though he was keen to make scooters as India was largely a scooter market those days. However, Honda already had a tie-up with Firodias of Kinetic to produce scooters. Hero Honda was born as a result of the 1984 agreement and the entity ruled the motorcycle market in India. In 2011, Hero parted ways with Honda to create Hero MotoCorp. Both Honda and Hero have grown since then although Hero remains the largest player with revenues of Rs 27,500 crore in FY15.

In June this year, Brijmohan Munjal stepped down from the position of chairman at Hero MotoCorp to become chairman emeritus. He passed the baton to his son, Pawan, who is now the chairman, chief executive officer and managing director of the company.

He positioned motorcycles as more fuel efficient than scooters, which struck a chord with the cost-conscious Indian buyers. The 'Fill it, shut it, forget it' campaign remains one of the most effective ones in the country's corporate history. Competitor Rahul Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Auto, had told Business Standard in June that he always considered Brijmohan Munjal his guru.

Motorcycle was not the first product Brijmohan Munjal produced to make mobility affordable and easy. Born in 1923 in Punjab's Kamalia, now in Pakistan, Brijmohan Munjal and his brothers shifted base to Amritsar in 1943 and then to Ludhiana, where they gave shape to their bicycle component business. The business graduated to cycle manufacturing and in 1975, Hero became the largest cycle producer, leaving competitors such as Atlas behind. Hero Cycles has for long remained the world's largest manufacturer of bicycles.

Brijmohan Munjal, then, ventured into mopeds seeing an opportunity there. This was after he secured a licence from the Indian government to produce mopeds under the Majestic brand. By 1983, Majestic was enjoying a third of the domestic moped market.

Munjal was well known for his inter-personal relationship with his employees, vendors and distributors. He introduced the concept of dealerships in the two-wheeler sector. He was personally involved in appointing all dealers. Munjal had known almost every dealer by name. He also started the trend of taking dealers on foreign tours. He was conferred with the Padma Bhushan in 2005 in recognition of his contribution in the field of trade and industry. Munjal helped establish numerous medical, educational and infrastructure facilities.

B M Munjal, father of Indian two-wheeler industry, passes away


1923: Brijmohan Lall Munjal is born in Kamalia, now in Pakistan
1943: Shifts base to Ludhiana to start bicycle component business with brothers
1956: Munjal sets up Hero Cycles
1975: Hero Cycles overtakes Atlas to become largest domestic player
1983: Group's Majestic moped captures one-third of domestic market
1984: Enters deal with Honda for motorcycle manufacturing. Hero Honda is born
2001: Hero Honda became the country's and the world's largest two wheeler maker
2005: Munjal was conferred Padma Bhushan
2011: Hero and Honda part ways. Hero MotoCorp is formed
2015 June: Munjal gives up the position of Chairman to become Chairman Emeritus, son Pawan becomes Chairman, CEO and MD
August: Munjal's younger brother O P Munjal passes away
November: Munjal passes away

First Published: Mon, November 02 2015. 00:30 IST