Om Parkash Munjal, or Bauji as the doyen of India’s bicycle industry is known, was much more than a pioneering entrepreneur. He was philanthropist, a spontaneous poet with a love for Urdu language and a patron of art and culture.
Munjal was only 16 when he, along with his three elder brothers, Dyanand, Satyanand and Brij Mohan, started manufacturing bicycle components in Amritsar in 1944. The family, originally from Pakistan’s Kamalia Tehsil, gradually shifted base to Ludhiana post Independence.
With an investment of Rs 50,000 in 1956, the family launched Hero Cycles. The Hero Cycles group companies now record an annual turnover of over Rs 2,222 crore, powered mostly by its motorcycle business.
“Ludhiana is synonymous with Hero cycles since the company made its way into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1986 for being the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer,” said Onkar Singh Pahwa, MD of Avon cycles private limited. “Whenever I used to get stuck, I would seek his guidance… He would introduce me as his ‘son and competitor’. He was a true hero.”
Munjal is survived by daughters Neeru, Neeta Seth, Poonam and Priyanka as well as son Pankaj Munjal who is co-chairman of Hero cycles limited.
Noted Urdu poet Dr Kewal Dheer said very few people know Munjal was popular in literally circle for his love for Urdu shayari. “He used to remember so many poems and was chief patron of the Adeeb International Society,” he said, adding how the industrialist was instrumental in bringing many good artistes to Ludhiana.
Gurmeet Singh Kular, one of the company’s vendors said Hero helped the ecosystem thrive by increasing their vendor base and not trying to do everything in house. K K Seth, owner of Neelam cycles, said he encouraged others like him to start competing units.
A Hero employee said Munjal used to take a regular early morning round of his manufacturing plant till recently. “Bauji considered all of us as his extended family,” said Harsh Moudgill, an employee.
The company runs a group of educational institutions in Ludhiana with over 20,000 students.
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