Brijmohan Lall Munjal
One of the founders of the country’s largest corporate groups, Brijmohan Lall Munjal is currently the chairman of Hero MotoCorp. He has previously held various positions at Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers and was a member of the RBI board. He is the man who started small, dreamt big and used a combination of hard work and perseverance to create the world’s number one two-wheeler company.
Instinctive from a young age, Brijmohan Lall made a rather unusual start in life. He began his business story after Partition in 1947, when he and his brothers relocated to Ludhiana. The family set up a company that provided poor people with basic transport i.e. cycles. In 1956, Hero Cycles Limited started production in its Ludhiana plant to manufacture bicycles. Along with this plant, the Munjal family led by Dr Brijmohan Lall Munjal, embarked on a journey to integrate their supply chain, as well as closely manage their distribution. By the 1970s, Hero Cycles was the world’s largest bicycle manufacturing company and the Hero group had set up several ancillary units supplying to the cycle plant. The group then ventured into other unrelated businesses, such as yarn spinning, exports and auto components.
Three decades later, as India evolved; he added a second crucial chapter – which visualised affordable and technologically superior transport to millions of middle-class Indians. Thus began an extraordinary tale of courage and perseverance.
Though not technically qualified in the conventional sense, only a few of his contemporaries have understood the dynamics of technology better than Brijmohan Lall has. Munjal was born in 1923 in Kamalia in Pakistan’s Punjab district. He is the founder, director and chairman of the $3.2-billion Hero group.
He could always visualise the applicability of technology before others could. For example, in the 1980s, when all two-wheeler companies in India opted for two-stroke engine technology, Brijmohan preferred a four-stroke engine – a technology that dramatically increased fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. This technology was one of the biggest reasons for Hero Moto Corp’s stupendous success.
Brijmohan Lall Munjal was no stranger to adversity. For he is a man who found his feet in post-Independence India and today, he ranks among the world’s richest. He has faced challenges of varying hues and magnitudes.
In 1984, Munjal had joined hands with Japanese major Honda to manufacture motorcycles in a country that did not think beyond scooters. He was hesitant— he wanted to make scooters. But Honda wasn’t willing. For that, they had already found a partner in the Firodias (makers of Kinetic). But as fate would have it, Hero Honda and its motorcycles gave everybody a run for their money and, by 2001, beat Bajaj Auto to become India’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer.
In the years between March, 2000 and 2011 when Hero and Honda parted ways, Hero Honda’s (now Hero Moto Corp) revenue grew from Rs 2,118 crore to Rs 20,787 crore; profits increased from Rs 192 crore to Rs 1,927 crore. In recognition of his contribution to industry, Munjal was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India. He also received the ‘Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award’ from the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1997.
Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) conferred him with the Sir Jehangir Ghandy Medal for Industrial Peace in the year 2000. He was also featured as the Ernst and Young ‘entrepreneur of the year’ in 2001. Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, conferred him with a Doctrate (degree of Doctors of letters honoris causa) in October 2004. Munjal is no less than an inspiration for millions of young entrepreneurs.