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I ALWAYS TELL people: don’t dream if you can’t fulfill it,” says Dr Brijmohan Lall Munjal, the founder and patriarch of the $2.8 billion Hero Group, the world’s number one two-wheeler company. He is 86 years old but still gets charged up when board members discuss an innovative technology. As a six-year-old, he had walked into a newly opened gurukul near his home in Kamalia (now in Pakistan) to understand what goes on in a traditional heritage school. Anything new will interest him.

Dr BM Munjal
Dr BM Munjal
Age: 86
Profession: Automotive entrepreneur and founder of the Hero Group
Whirring wit: Still loves quirky marketing zingers: “Fill it, Shut it, Forget it” got replaced by “Dhak Dhak Go: Desh ki Dhadkan” Photo: Reuters

His business started after the family — post 1947 — shifted to Amritsar, and then relocated to Ludhiana and started selling cycles to India’s poor. Three decades later, they added motorcycles to their portfolio. The group’s mopeds are modelled on Peugeot’s machines. “Technological wonders still drive me,” says the man who snuffed out his two-stroke rivals by pushing the four-stroke engine in the 1980s.

He admires the Japanese keiretsu system of corporate organisation. Almost every week, he tells his sons to bond strongly with vendors and dealers and push people — almost anyone and everyone — to turn into successful entrepreneurs. He himself turned 40 such dealers into large entrepreneurs; his sons have doubled and tripled the figure. Today, twenty million Hero bikes are on Indian roads. He would rest when the number doubles, right? No, when it triples.

And if not bikes and mobikes, it’d be planes for the Hero Group’s patriarch. He owns the Ludhiana Aviation Club.