Brijmohan Munjal

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Brijmohan Munjal (1923-2015); Graphic courtesy: The Times of India
Brijmohan Munjal with Prince Charles; Picture courtesy: The Times of India, November 2, 2015

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

A profile

The Times of India

Brijmohan Lall Munjal, (1923-2015) founded Hero Honda and Hero MotoCorp, the world's largest motorcycle maker. In June 2014, Munjal gave up the post of executive chairman and took over as Hero MotoCorp's chairman emeritus and non-executive direc tor after being at the helm since the early 1980s.

Manufacturing motorcycles had not seemed to be a great idea three decades ago when the government reopened the foreign collaboration window. After all, scooters were still ruling the streets. But with Honda signing up with the Firodias to manufacture scooters, Munjal settled for motorcycles on ly to change the rules of the game. The partnership endured for 27 years and Hero Honda emerged as the world's largest bike maker.

Not only did Hero Honda overtake Bajaj Auto as India's top two-wheeler firm, but Munjal successfully built a loyal base of vendors and a robust dealer network that his rivals still envy.

Hero has sold over 60 mil lion two-wheelers. MotoCorp has grown into a Rs 28,000 crore company , the flagship of the Hero Group. It still accounts for nearly half the motorcycles sold in India and has a growing global footprint.

Before venturing into bikes, the Munjal family built two other successful businesses ­ bicycles and mopeds. Brijmohan Lall was born in 1923 in Kamalia (now in Pakistan). The family moved to Amritsar in 1943.Around the time of partition they shifted base to Ludhiana, where they built upon the bicycle component business that they had created in Amritsar.Subsequently , they entered the bicycle manufacturing arena to leave behind Atlas and become the world's largest cycle maker in 1975. Then, the group made a success of the mopeds business with Hero Majestic.

When the Hero Honda joint venture was ready to kick off terrorism hit Punjab, but Munjal was reluctant to move out of the state. The company did set up a plant in Dharuhera in Haryana, which rolled out the first 100 cc bike in April 1985. It was also the first time the Hero Group moved out of Ludhiana.

Along with Hero Honda, the group had another tie-up with a Japanese firm and set up Munjal Showa to make shock absorbers. Subsequently other ventures too came up including Hero Honda Finlease for finance and Hero Exports to deal with the two-wheeler's overseas shipments.Munjal is survived by his wife, Santosh, sons -Pawan, Suman and Sunil -and daughter, Geeta.

Created Loyal Vendors, Dealers, Partners

The Times of India, Nov 02 2015

Pankaj Doval

Hero No. 1, Munjal Rode To Glory On Strong Partnerships

A people's man, Brijmohan created loyal vendors, dealers

Brijmohan Lall Munjal had been attending office till just a few months ago, despite touching 92 and not being in the best of health. “Business ran in his blood, and he could never keep himself away from work,“ says an old timer at Hero MotoCorp, a near Rs 30,000 crore empire that Munjal built right from scratch, after starting it as a joint venture with Japan's Honda in the early eighties (Honda moved out of the venture in 2011). Munjal, one of the sharpest minds in the Indian business world, was known for focus on detailing and for his people skills. “Even now, he would remember most of the 1,000-odd dealers of Hero MotoCorp by their first name. This is the kind of engagement he had with those who partnered him.“

Those who knew Munjal re call how he made it a must to attend key ceremonies of his dealers and partners. “Despite his busy schedule, he would make it a point to squeeze in time to attend a marriage or other important events at their families. If not, he would call them home.“

Forging partnerships and nurturing them into strong relationships, was Munjal's hallmark. “Many Japanese officials who would be posted in India during the time of the JV would sign off their names suffixed with the name `Munjal'. It was their way to show affection and fondness for the man.“

Perhaps this explained the smooth transition that Hero group and Honda managed when they decided to part ways in 2011, after being together for 27 years. “There were differences between the two partners, but it never came out to such an event that it was spoken of publicly. Brijmohan Lallji's presence was too big and there was no space for a public spat,“ said one of the officials who worked on the separation.

But that was also the time when he faced one of his biggest challenges as many doubted the ability of the Munjals to manage the two-wheeler business without the technological know-how of Honda. There was afear that Hero may lose dealers to Honda or suppliers would not have faith in their ability. But, he ensured that the spirits remained high. Munjal took all his dealers and suppliers to London where he unveiled the company's global ambitions at a huge arena. “This was his style,“ said an aide.

Despite tight business schedules, Munjal was a family man. One could spot him walking hand-in-hand with his wife even as he visited the auto show in Delhi. He used to spend a lot of time with his grand-children.

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