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Mr. Pawan Munjal
Popularly known as the maharaja of motorcycle, Mr. Pawan Munjal is the Managing Director and CEO of Hero Honda Motors Ltd, the largest two-wheeler manufacturer in the world. Munjal is instrumental in bringing about technological and managerial excellence in the company's operations over the years and is responsible for the growth and strategic planning of the entire Group.
A graduate in mechanical engineering from National Institute of Technology Kurukshetra, Munjal serves as Works Executive of Majestic Auto Ltd and as a Member of Executive Board at Indian School of Business. He has been the Chairman of several Committees of CII.
Munjal has been an Executive Director of Hero Honda Motors Ltd. since April 1, 1986 and serves as a Director of Hero Honda Finlease Ltd. Under his stewardship Hero Honda, has emerged as the world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer for nine consecutive years since 2001. It is startling to know that every second a motorcycle sold in the country is a Hero Honda bike, and every 30 seconds, someone in India buying a Splendor.
The year 2008 which spelled a doom in the market due to global recession, Munjal resiliently drove through the economic crisis and defied the auto industry's slowdown to register sales of over 4.4 million units. Hero Honda has emerged as the first company to introduce four stroke technologies and the first to launch the fuel injection in Indian motorcycles.
The story of how the Munjal family built Hero Honda is very inspiring as they had to face many obstacles in making Hero Cycles and Hero Honda the largest manufacturer of bicycles and motorcycles in the world respectively. It all started when the Munjal family ventured into the bicycle business as a spare parts supplier in the post independence era.
The Munjals were four brothers: Dayanand, Satyanand, Brij and Om. Brijmohan Lal had barely stepped out of his teens when his elder brothers decided to set up their new business- trading in bicycle components. There were plenty of challenges, the foremost among which was to procure a manufacturing licence.
By 1971, the Munjals had set up a rim-making division for Hero Cycles and launched another company called Highway Cycles that would make freewheels. Within a span of 6-7 years, production at the Hero Cycles plant doubled and in 1975 it became the largest manufacturer of bicycles in India. Later it went on to make its own mopeds modeled on the Peugeot machine but designed in India known as the ‘Majestic Auto’.
With an enviable slew of successes behind them, the Hero Group emerged a bigger, bolder player in the world of two-wheelers in the early 80s. The first mega success was the decision to join hands with the Japanese automobile giant, Honda and Hero Honda was born. Overnight, it redefined the rules of the game in the two-wheeler industry. At a time, when scooters (dominated by Bajaj) had a waiting period of 12 years or even longer, Hero's tie-up with Honda changed it all. It created the first of its kind – the motorcycle segment in India.
A few months later, Hero Honda made its first public offering. The first 100 cc Hero Honda motorcycle came off the assembly line in 1985 and with it Hero Honda kick started its journey to unimaginable success. With another Japanese collaboration came the Showa to make shock absorbers. The new company was called Munjal Showa.
After three decades of non-stop rigorous activity, Hero Cycles emerged as the largest bicycle manufacturer. The seal of approval came from none other than the Guinness Book of World Records. This compelled competitors like Bajaj Auto to reinvent their strategy from scooters to motorcycles. In 1990, Hero Honda Motors made Rs 1,000 for every bike it sold and that lead to an annual profit of USD 10 million.
Later Pawan Munjal took over the mantel from the patriarch Brijmohan Lal Munjal. He actually managed to overtake Bajaj Auto and successfully restructured and streamlined Heros rapidly expanding business.
In 1991, he set-up the Hero Honda Finlease to finance it’s customers. Two years later, in 1993, the Group launched Hero Exports, which emerged as India's largest exporter of two-wheelers. And a year later, the Japanese firm reaffirmed its partnership with Hero for the next ten years, and Hero Honda zoomed its way, laughing into a brand-new sunrise.
Pawan made the Hero Group diversified into IT and IT-enabled services and Hero Honda emerged as the market leader with sales of over a million motorcycles. In 2002, Hero Cycles tied up with National Bicycle Industries, a part of the Matsushita Group to manufacture high-end bicycles.
Munjal banked on the idea that in the long run, it is the two-wheeler which will continue to remain the vehicle of choice in India and the barricade of consumer aspirations. Women are also going to play a pivotal role with the two-wheeler emerging as a convenient mode of transportation. Hero Honda is presently selling about 12,000 units of women-focused scooter brand ‘Pleasure’ every month, and these numbers continue to soar at a fast pace.
Another stint of success came for Hero Honda with the launch of Splendor, Passion and Passion Plus. Munjal’s next move is to start a new factory to churn out 2,000 units daily, and an agreement with partner Honda Motor Company on starting exports to Africa.
If that was not enough, Hero Hondo further upped its ante by roping celebrities like as Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Hrithik Roshan and Priyanka Chopra as their brand ambassadors.
Apart from this, Munjal has been instrumental and the main guiding force behind the launch of Hero Indian Sports Academy (HISA) in collaboration with Laureus Foundation to provide equal opportunities in sports to various communities and to reward talent in the country. An avid golfer, he is the Past Chairman of the Asian PGA Tour Board of Directors and the Past President of Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI).
As a person Munjal is a complete music buff who likes to listen to jazz, Western classical, old Hindi movie songs and pop. To keep his business ticking he keeps a track on the emerging youth trends.
For a company that sells nearly two out of every three motorcycles sold in India, Hero Honda may seem to have good innings. But rivals like Bajaj Auto, Honda Motorcycles, Yamaha India and TVS are strong enough to make the strongest players uneasy. However, Munjal has always kept ahead of the pack.
With the widespread network of 5,000 dealers across the country, the Hero Group today is a conglomerate with an annual turnover of Rs 10,000 crore. Highs and lows, rewards and backlashes have all been a part of the Hero Group's corporate story, but that didn’t deter them, nor did losses kill their spirit of entrepreneurship.
The two-wheeler enthusiast says, “We have been flanking ourselves from various sides to protect and grow market share. We have already worked on both Splendor and Passion and we will come back.”
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