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Brijmohan Lall Munjal: India's two-wheeler 'hero'

Things to know about the Hero MotoCorp patriarch

Agencies & BS Web Team  |  New Delhi 

Brijmohan Lall Munjal
Brijmohan Lall Munjal

Brijmohan Lall Munjal, founder & chairman emeritus of Hero MotoCorp, maker of the popular Hero range of motorcycles and scooters, died at 92 on Sunday evening in a Delhi hospital, after a brief illness. He is survived by three sons and a daughter.

Here are a few things to know about the industry veteran:

Retirement from active role

He had retired from active role and had become the chairman emeritus of the over $4-billion (Rs 26,000 crore at $1 = Rs 65) group earlier this year. He, however, remained on the company’s board as a non-executive member.

One of the richest Indians

According to a Forbes report, his 35 per cent stake in Hero, which he shared with his children, earned him a spot among the richest Indians. In October, the Hero group patriarch featured on Forbes Asia’s Indian rich list at 27 th position with a family fortune of $3 billion.

Early life

Born in 1923 at Kamalia in the undivided Punjab state of present-day Pakistan, Munjal moved to Amritsar with his family when he was 20 years old. The Munjals then shifted to Ludhiana, a city that would later become the base of their business ventures. Munjal, who never went to college, started making bicycle components before securing a licence to make bicycles. Along with his three brothers, he set up Hero Cycles, which has been the world’s biggest bicycle manufacturer consistently since 1986.

Overtaking Bajaj Auto

In 1984, Hero took a plunge into motorcycle production under a joint venture with Japan’s Honda Motor. The entity, Hero Honda, went on to overtake the then market leader in the segment, Bajaj Auto, controlled by billionaire Rahul Bajaj.

End of the partnership

After 27 years, Hero, run by Munjal’s son Pawan Kant, broke ties with the Japanese firm in 2011 renaming the company Hero MotoCorp. While it now competes with Honda, Hero has held on to its position as India’s biggest maker of two-wheelers, with a 50 per cent market share.

The trend-setter

Munjal was among the earliest Indian industrialists to effectively implement JIT (Just-in-Time) as well as backward integration and is acknowledged as the trend-setter in the area.

Since early days, he ran the organisation with a sharp focus on current asset management, which helped evolve vendor efficiency and zero-inventory management practices at Hero.

Leadership roles and awards

Beside Hero Group, Munjal held leadership positions at many national associations like CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufactures), AICMA and PHD and served as a member of the Regional Board of the Reserve Bank of India. The Padma Bhushan was conferred upon him in 2005 to recognise his contribution in the field of trade and industry.

A people’s person

A people’s person, Munjal was known to have maintained strong relations with Hero’s vendors and dealers. He attended their family weddings and supported them during crises.

A philanthropist

Munjal helped establish numerous medical, educational and infrastructure facilities. Among his notable contributions to Ludhiana are the Ludhiana Stock Exchange, the Ludhiana Aviation Club, the Ludhiana Management Association and the Dayanand Medical College & Hospital, of which he was the chairman emeritus at the time of his death. He had been its president for over three decades.

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First Published: Mon, November 02 2015. 14:30 IST