Home >Companies >People >Hero Group founder Brijmohan Lall Munjal dies at 92

New Delhi: Brijmohan Lall Munjal, the founder of Hero Group of companies and chairman emeritus of India’s largest two-wheeler maker, died of a “massive heart attack" in Delhi at 7.05pm Sunday evening. He was 92.

Munjal is survived by three sons, one daughter and at least nine grandchildren.

Fondly known as Lalaji among workers, hamaara hero among suppliers and BM to his Japanese partners and friends, Munjal was born on 1 July 1923 in Kamalia, in the then undivided Punjab. It is now in Pakistan. His father Bahadurchand ran a wholesale grain shop in the village.

Munjal left home when he was 20. He wanted to make bicycle parts. Munjal travelled the globe in search of markets, technology and equipment. In fact, Germany became his second home in those days. Munjal moved to Amritsar and then Ludhiana in 1944 (before India’s independence), where he won the licence from the Punjab government and went on to set up a factory to make cycles, and Hero Cycles was born.

In 1975, Hero Cycles became the largest maker of bicycles in India. Hero Cycles was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest maker of bicycles in 1986. Munjal is credited with creating a web of strong relationships among suppliers and dealers. He was reputed to know every supplier, dealer and their children by their first name. Many say it is this trait of Munjal that helped strengthen the Hero Group.

The early 1980s saw a clutch of collaborations between Indian and Japanese automobile makers, of which Hero Honda Motors Ltd was the most successful. It was also the most durable of three joint ventures that Honda set up in India.

Hero forged an alliance with Honda Motor Co. in 1984 to make motorcycles. That gave the Indian company a platform to transform itself from being a maker of cycles, auto components and mopeds. If Honda brought Japanese technology to the venture, Hero’s contribution was its understanding of the market and Indian consumer behaviour.

Brijmohan Lall Munjal was betting on India’s growing population and the need for affordable mobility in a country that was then moving slowly out of a regime of permits and controls—the so-called Licence Raj.

The two companies called off the joint venture in 2011 after 27 years, one of the longest in the history of the Indian automobile industry.

Hero MotoCorp continues to command a 50% share in the domestic motorcycle market in India, but it now faces a bigger challenge—coming out of the shadow of Honda’s technological excellence.

It has sold as many as 50 million two-wheelers in the country and aims to sell 100 million by 2020.

In August 2013, Hero announced plans to enter 50 markets by 2020 with a target of 20 manufacturing facilities across the globe and overall annual sales of Rs.60,000 crore. It aims to get 10% of its annual sales from overseas markets by 2017.

Munjal was one of the finest examples of the Indian patriarch who held together one big family while keeping his customers, employees, investors and business partners happy.

“Everything that I know I have learned from him," said Rahul Munjal, Brijmohan’s eldest grandson. “He walked the talk. The life that he has seen we cannot even contemplate."

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