The Making of Hero by Sunil Kant Munjal is a lovely book. After a long time, I picked up a business book to read. I was keen to read to find insights into the traditional practices of Indian businesses. I know that Hero group is a family-run business, or at least it was for the larger part of its lifetime. It is also a business that came up post-independence. Munjal family came to this side of Punjab as refugees from newly formed Pakistan. Like with most such families, they started everything Ab Initio, and not once but multiple times.
I am happy I read this book. It did give me some insights into what I was looking for but there is a lot more I want to know. This book captures many aspects of the journey of the brand Hero.
Life and Business Lessons from The Making of Hero
Here are the top lessons I learned from this book:
- Munjal brothers studied in Gurukuls runs by Arya Samaj. It gave them a grounding that would help them live a fulfilling life and build a business empire that most only dream of. The value system that they imbibed from Vedas, stayed with them and helped them create wealth while staying detached from it.
- I was pleasantly surprised to know that in Munjal household Havans are performed every morning. In fact, Sunil Munjal says that every family home in their extended family has a Yagnashala. I am sure it helped them with the energy to build a global business in times when not many did.
- The key to running a successful business is letting the head of the family or head of the business have the last word. No one questions their decision. It may not be right always, but it creates the least conflict. Also, being together in a decision, helps you put all your energies in one direction, which in a way improves the probability of success.
- Always put people and relationships before financial returns.
- Have rules for rewarding good behavior and discouraging bad behavior. I have observed it again and again in many traditional businesses. Rewarding good behavior transparently is enough to motivate people.
- Treat people equally. It is the first time I read that when one of the Big Four consulting companies suggested a performance-based incentive, it was rejected as it leads to unequal treatment. I loved the rationale – those who are bad performers or lack integrity or sincerity can be removed but those who are a part of the team must be treated equally. The fact that the senior Munjal used to watch cricket with his team or walk up to his assistants instead of calling them over, tells you a lot about treating people well and on par. It is especially important as first-generation success stories when most people take success to their head.
- Next-generation family members interned within the family companies under their uncles or cousins, but not under their own fathers. It is a great way to learn from sister companies and get a larger worldview. You are not thrown out in the world to be on your own, but you are not in your absolute comfort zone. It also helped the elders assess what is best for them in the future. Should you start a new company, expand an existing one or just manage what is there. It was also an opportunity to build your business network that would help you in the long run.
- Always keep looking for opportunities to build on what you have. Munjal brothers traveled across the country to build their dealer network. They traveled across the world to acquire new technologies, build partnerships, and take their products to the world.
- Art and Culture flourish when businesses flourish and when economies boom. The Making of Hero added a data point to this axiom of mine. I must say that Serendipity Arts Festival by Munjals is a world-class art festival that I have had the privilege to attend many times.
- Hero group’s biggest lesson is the division of business amicably when the family grew to third generation and businesses many in numbers. Sunil has taken a chapter to talk about the long-drawn process but I am sure it can be a book in itself. I hope he writes it someday, as it would help the family businesses manage their inheritance well.
- When Sunil’s elder brother passed away at a young age, his wife was inducted into the office. Sunil’s father or her father-in-law made sure she shares his office and learns the ropes of the business. You would read a similar story I mention from my own family in my book – Lotus In The Stone. Families can be such a big cushion in life if you stick together. Business families tend to be fair to the family of the deceased, taking care of children and what belongs to them.
- The story of how alcohol consumption made its way into the social events when they had Japanese partners is hilarious yet insightful. The fact that everyone at Hero respected the fact that no one drinks in presence of the patriarch, to me talks about the respect he commanded. It is not very uncommon, though I have seen it more often in smaller businesses.
- To understand the journey of a brand you need to understand the environment surrounding it. The two are intertwined. In a different time and space, the journey would be very different.
Buy The Making of Hero at Amazon
There is a lot more in the book, about setting up businesses, about going global, about being a world leader, about creating a new product category, but a lot of it has been written about in the papers. I tried reading what is not so commonly written about like the values that drive the growth of family-owned/driven businesses.
Read it & I would love to hear your thoughts on it.
Other Interesting Business Biographies to read: