Brijmohan Lall Munjal, the man who told Indians not to worry about the fuel in the tank, breathed his last at New Delhi’s Max Hospital on Sunday. He was 92 and had only last June stepped down as chairman of Hero MotoCorp, which is what Hero Honda became after Japanese partner Honda walked out in 2011.
The joint venture, forged in 1984, started an entirely new segment of light, fuel-efficient, reliable, and environment-friendly four-stroke motorcycles. “Fill it, shut it, forget it”, the tag line that established the Hero Honda range in the 1980s, is not just advertising legend. It changed the way the common man commuted.
It wiped out what existed before – mainly the Rajdoot range from Escorts. Bajaj Auto, for whose scooters one had to spend years waiting, was forced to change tack, so much so it no longer makes scooters, only motorcycles.
But Munjal’s contribution does not end there. He started a trend of joint ventures between Indian and Japanese companies, and showed the way for business families to manage succession. You would hardly ever hear his many sons and nephews complain about what they got.
Above all, he lit the fire of entrepreneurship among people who do not have a long legacy of family business behind them by morphing from a humble cycle manufacturer in Ludhiana to one of the most successful and admired companies in India. It is a fire that continues to burn bright among today’s technology start-ups.