Brijmohan Lall Munjal, who founded Hero Honda and Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest motorcycle maker, died after a brief illness on 1 November. He was 92.
Last June, Munjal gave up the post of executive chairman and took over as Hero MotoCorp’s chairman emeritus and non-executive director 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. But with Honda signing up with the Firodias to manufacture scooters, Munjal settled for motorcycles only to change the rules of the game.
The partnership endured for 27 years and Hero Honda emerged as the world’s largest bike maker.
Hero Honda overtook Bajaj Auto as India’s top two-wheeler firm. Munjal also built a loyal base of vendors and robust dealer network.
Hero has now sold over 60 million two-wheelers and grown into a Rs 28,000 crore company. It still accounts for nearly half the motorcycles sold in India and has a growing global footprint.
Brijmohan Lall Munjal was born in 1923 at Kamalia, district Toba Tek Singh in unpartitioned Punjab, British India. Kamalia is now in Pakistan.
He was from a simple middle-class Arora/Khatri family.
After completing his formal education he worked at the Army Ordnance Factory, before moving his base to India after partition.
The Munjal 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.
After bicycle, the Munjal group made a success of the mopeds business with Hero Majestic.
When the joint venture was ready to kick off, terrorism hit Punjab. However, Munjal was reluctant to move out of Punjab. But 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.
Munjal is survived by his wife Santosh, sons Pawan, Suman and Sunil and daughter Geeta.