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Sunil Kant Munjal

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Next time you are stuck in a traffic jam in any Indian metropolis, look carefully at the motorcycle forcing its way through the cars and auto-rickshaws – it is probably a Hero. Now if you look beyond the picturesque name the roaring engine bears, Karizma, Hunk, or Impulse, you will get to Sunil Kant Munjal, Joint Managing Director of Hero MotoCorp.

Before getting to him, you might want to make a detour by Kamalia, in Pakistan. You will find in this small Punjabi town the origins of the Munjal family, where four brothers decided in 1944 to move to Amritsar and enter the bicycle trade. One of the four brothers, Brijmohan Lal Munjal, is now the chairman of Hero MotoCorp – and is worth $1.2 billion. Amidst the multitude of Indian family companies, Hero is one of those who have thrived alongside the Indian economy. Since starting their joint venture with Honda in 1983, they have manufactured more than 25 million motorcycles and produce to this day 3 million every year. As a proof of their success, they ended in 2011 their partnership with Honda, and are now looking at entering markets in Africa and Latin America.

A commerce graduate trained as a mechanical engineer, Sunil Kant Munjal is at the centre of this project, yet he seems to be good at multi-tasking: he has been the president of the Confederation of Indian Industries and served as a member of the board of directors of the famous Doon School in Dehradun. He now sits at the board of the Hyderabad Indian School of Business and of Coca-Cola India. His public involvement ranges from the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry to the Consultative Group on Industry, and he has significantly contributed to the national economic and labour reforms.

However, although he might whisper in the ears of policy-makers, he is dedicated to his family business-turned-multinational company, which is India’s biggest motorcycle maker – and, interestingly enough, it mirrors the evolution of the Indian economy. Indeed, Hero’s main market has traditionally been the commuter, the main avatar of the demographic and territorial explosion of Indian urban centres. Yet as soon as their joint venture with Honda ended, the first model to be introduced in the market was a more powerful motorcycle, aiming for a wealthier consumer. “There is significant demand for products in niche segments”, Munjal said this year in an interview with the Business Standard, “as the economy grows, we will have to evolve with requirements in the market.”


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