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A prescient patriarch

Munjal has always been a prescient reader of trends. As a young man, he, perhaps sensed, which way the wind was blowing and left his native place in West Punjab (now in Pakistan), thus, saving himself and his family from the horrors of Partition.

     Print Edition: September 7, 2008

There has been a trend reversal of sorts in the motorcycle market. Challenger Bajaj Auto, which was rapidly closing the gap with market leader Hero Honda, seems to have fallen behind again. And Hero Honda, which had seen its market share fall below the 50 per cent mark a few months ago, has once again pushed that figure above the half-way mark. And though he is no longer involved in the day-to-day affairs of the company, B.M. Munjal, Chairman, Hero Honda Motors, as the man who built this company brick by brick, does deserve a large part of the credit for this rebound.

 

Name: Brijmohan Lall Munjal

Age: 84

Designation: Chairman

Company: Hero Honda Motors

But then, Munjal has always been a prescient reader of trends. As a young man, he, perhaps sensed, which way the wind was blowing and left his native place in West Punjab (now in Pakistan), thus, saving himself and his family from the horrors of Partition.

Following Independence, he started a cycle repair shop in Old Delhi. From this rickety shop, and a move to Ludhiana later, began a business story, which would make Munjal the patriarch of a family that became first, the world’s largest, cycle manufacturer and then, a couple of decades on, in partnership with Japanese company Honda Motor Company, the world’s single-largest motorcycle manufacturer.

Munjal’s big moment came, when, in the early 2000s, his company rapidly overhauled Bajaj Auto’s dominance in the two-wheeler space. Today, Munjal’s sons, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, great nephews and great nieces run a multitude of businesses—from automotive components to information technology.

But the bread and butter business of the family and the group remains automobiles. In fact, the group is now spreading its wings. It recently struck a deal with Germany’s Daimler Benz to make trucks and commercial vehicles in India. And the “old man”, as he calls himself all the time, played a key role in approving the decision. As the Munjals spread out, the role of B.M. Munjal still remains paramount.

Kushan Mitra

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