LUDHIANA/NEW DELHI (TIP): India’s ‘Cycle Man’ and founder of Hero Cycles Om Prakash Munjal died at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital in Ludhiana on August 13 morning after a brief illness. He was 86 and is survived by a son and four daughters.
Munjal not only gave Ludhiana the unique identity of being the city of cycles, but also shaped the industry in the country by entering the international club of leading cycle manufacturers.
Born in a small business family in Kamalia on August 26, 1928, Munjal, along with his three brothers —Brijmohan Lall, Dayanand and Satyanand — started a bicycle spare parts business in Amritsar in 1944.
Later they moved to Ludhiana and set up Hero Cycles in 1956. He was married to Sudarshan, who died in February this year.
Entrepreneurs looked at him as an example of grit and determination. Munjal’s success story bears testimony to the fact that a business empire can be created from scratch by sheer hard work and the spirit to take on challenges.
“I believe life is the biggest teacher and world is the biggest school. I learnt from my mistakes and crisis. There has hardly been a day when I have not learnt something,” Munjal had said.
Fond of poetry since his childhood, he was known in the industry for greeting people with Urdu couplets, mostly spontaneous verses by him.
He was also chairman of Hero Briggs and Stratton and Majestic Auto Ltd, besides being director of Hero Honda Motors, Rockman Cycle Industries, Highway Cycle Industries, Sunbeam Castings and Gujarat Cycles. He was also the president of the All India Cycle Manufacturers Association.
From a production capacity of 639 bicycles a year in 1956, Hero Cycles now manufactures over 18,500 cycles a day, the highest in the world. With 48% share of the Indian market, this volume catapulted Hero Cycles, which has four manufacturing units with 7,000 employees, into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1986. Since then, the brand has been able to maintain its leadership in the cycle manufacturing industry.
The 86-year-old industry legend was facing health issues for the past few months. Munjal had last month ceded chairmanship of Hero Motors group and retired from active role in the business. His son Pankaj Munjal succeeded him as the chairman and managing director of the Group.