Hero Cycles – The Journey of Cycling Heroes
Do you remember in your childhood, how enjoyable the bicycle ride used to be?
The tumble and stumble before you learn to pedal are a part of the childhood fun. Then, those of you, with a fondness for Hindi movies, will also know that bicycles and Bollywood movies have had a very old relationship. As bicycles used to be the major mode of personal transportation in India, till the 1970s, these featured prominently in many movies. Lately, too, we saw Amitabh Bachchan, moving around Kolkata, on a bicycle, in the film Piku. Anushka and Ranveer Singh raced their bicycles on a road in Istanbul in the movie Dil Dhadakne Do.
The credit for bringing about the bicycle revolution in India often goes to Om Prakash Munjal, the founder and co-chairman of Hero Cycles. Also known as the Father of Indian Cycle Industry, OP Munjal passed away on 13rth August 2015, at the age of 86.
Here’s the story of Hero Cycles, the leading bicycle manufacturing brand in India, and the world’s largest cycle manufacturer by volume.
Optimistic start in Turbulent times
The start wouldn’t have been easy for Hero Cycle. Partition had brought the Munjal brothers from Pakistan to India. They had shifted their business for producing bicycle spare parts from Kamalia, a small town in Pakistan to Ludhiana, and had to start afresh amidst the turbulence. By 1956, they began manufacturing the key components of bicycles and going forward, started assembling the entire cycle. The then chief minister of Punjab, Pratap Singh Kairon (1901–1965) supported and motivated them in their endeavour. In their early days, they produced 25 cycles per day, amounting to around 639 bicycles in the year 1956.
Over the next few years, the Bicycle Unit started growing in stature and size. By 1975, Hero became the largest manufacturer of bicycles in India.
The leading Indian brand of bicycles
The year, 1984, saw the collaboration between Hero Group and Honda Motors of Japan, to form Hero Honda Motors, which soon became one of the market leaders in motorcycle sales in India. The collaboration lasted till 2011.
In 1986, Hero Cycles entered the ‘Guinness Books of World Records‘, as the largest bicycle manufacturer in the world, producing around 18,500 cycles a day. With the launch of the brand, Urban Trail, in 2012, Hero Cycles entered the premium bicycle segment.
Can you imagine that with a manufacturing capacity of 7.5 million bicycles per year in its unit in Ludhiana (Punjab), Bihar & Ghaziabad, Hero Cycles has the capacity to produce a cycle in every 9 seconds?
Besides catering to 35% of the domestic demand for cycles, Hero Cycles also exports bicycles to countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.
Now, in 2015, by buying a majority stake in Avocet Sports, one of the top three distributors of bicycles, e-bikes, bicycle parts and accessories in the UK, Hero Cycles marks its entry into the high-value cycle market in Europe.
Through sponsorship of kids exhibitions, cycle rally, Himalayan cycling expedition and other cycling events around the worlds, Hero cycles actively promote cycling, as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Partnering with International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA), for its ‘Cycling Heroes’ campaign aims to encourage people to take up cycling for good health with Bollywood actors as ambassadors.
At present, India is one of the top bicycle manufacturing countries in the world after China.
Let us hope this eco-friendly mode of transportation, remains in vogue in India, now and in future, as much as it was back in the 70s.
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