Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, August 13
Decades back, OP Munjal and his two brothers daily used to commute to Ludhiana's Vishwakarma Chowk on a single bicycle. Munjal then wished to pedal alone to work. It was this desire for an individual cycle that inspired him to set up Hero Cycles in 1956, a company that went on to dominate the world over the years.
After shifting to Ludhiana from Amritsar post-Independence, Munjal and his brothers operated their cycle parts business from a kiosk near the chowk — a place now famous as Cycle Market.
Munjal had set up his company with an initial investment of Rs 50,000, raised as loan from a bank. From an annual production of 639 bicycles then, the company rose to attain the world's highest-manufacturing tag in 1986. The company currently manufactures around 19,000 bicycles. That Munjal was a great visionary is evident from the success story of his little-known company that drove through various ups and downs to become a global giant, say experts. More so because Hero Cycles was set up at a time when India was passing through a phase of uncertainty after Independence.
During those heady days of change, the company heralded a new revolution by providing the common man his favourite mode of transportation — a bicycle. Perhaps Munjal's this effort of providing easy communication to the masses earned him the sobriquet 'Father of India's bicycle industry'. His journey through the thick and thin has also been penned down in his biography, The Inspiring Journey of a Hero, which was released by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in 2013.
Popular as "Bauji" in the industrial circles, Munjal was also admired for his poetic disposition and penchant for cultural and literary activities. He was known for patronising fresh talent in these fields. He promoted Urdu through his 'shers' and 'mushairas', which were published in various journals, magazines as well as in his company's annual diaries. Munjal was also associated with Urdu Adab and other literary societies in varied capacities. A philanthropist, he provided financial assistance to several schools and hospitals and changed many lives — for good.
639 bicycles manufactured in the first year when Hero Cycles was set up in 1956
19,000 bicycles: Current manufacturing capacity of the company
48% of the country's cycle market share is occupied by Hero Cycles
Rs 11,000 crore is the estimated current business value of the Hero Group
1 lakh people are directly and indirectly employed with the company
82 countries where the company has its presence
In 1986, Hero Cycles was listed in the Guinness Books of World Records as the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world
"Besides being a man with great vision, Munjal was a philanthropist. His death is a major loss to the cycle industry. —Partap Singh Bajwa, Punjab Cong Chief
Munjal’s death is a huge personal loss but I am sure the life of this great entrepreneur of Punjab will inspire the future generations. —Parkash Singh Badal, Punjab CM
Munjal was a multifaceted personality who, besides being one of the leading industrialists, had great literary taste. —Amarinder Singh, Cong Leader
Munjal was a fatherly figure to me and I had learnt a lot from him. We used to meet at least once a month. —Onkar Singh Pahwa, Avon Cycles Chairman
He was a pioneer of Indian bicycle and engineering industry who realised the need for being competitive at domestic and international level. —SS Bhogal, chairman, CII, Punjab State Council"
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