- Brijmohan Munjal was ranked 27 on Forbes Asia’s 2015 India Rich List
Brijmohan Lall Munjal’s rise from manufacturing bicycle components to making Hero bicycles and then entering the big league by joining hands with Japanese auto giant Honda Motor to produce motorcycles and scooters is the stuff of legend. It’s the story of an entrepreneur who dreamt big and didn’t flinch from taking risks.
Born in 1923, Munjal was 20 when he moved with his family to Amritsar from a village in Punjab. His next shift was to Ludhiana, a thriving industrial city. He didn’t go to college, but that didn’t stop him from thinking big. With his three brothers, he made Hero Cycles a reputed brand in both India and abroad. In 1984, the company started a joint venture with Honda Motor to manufacture motorcycles and soon overtook market leader Bajaj Auto to become India’s biggest two-wheeler manufacturer.
In 2011, Hero parted ways with Honda to chart its own course. “Our goal was never profit, but total devotion to the customer. Give him full return for his money and make him proud for choosing an Indian product,” the senior Munjal had said in a 2006 interview. Before his death on November 1, 2015, he had handed over the company’s reins to his children and become chairman emeritus. With a family fortune over Rs 19,000 crore, he was ranked 27 on Forbes Asia’s India Rich List for 2015.
His elder son Pawan Kant, who took over from him, was instrumental in deciding to end the 27-year partnership with Honda. Today, Hero MotoCorp competes with its former partner and continues to be a market leader with a 50 per cent market share. A mechanical engineer by training, Pawan serves as the director of several group companies and looks after the operations of MotoCorp, to which he is said to have brought technological and managerial excellence. He has headed several committees of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and is on the board of the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, and the Indian School of Business. A keen sportsman, he has been nurturing talent through the Hero Indian Sports Academy in collaboration with the Laureus Foundation.