Meanwhile, Pawan Munjal’s nephew Naveen Munjal (son of Vijay Munjal), who is at the helm of Hero Electric, said his family has exclusive ownership rights of the brand ‘Hero’ for eco-friendly products and his businesses will take measures to protect its rights on the use of the brand ‘Hero’ on EVs.
“Contrary to the impression being created, Hero MotoCorp is entitled to manufacture and brand its EVs as it wants. The family agreement only restricts Hero MotoCorp from using the conjunctive term ‘Hero Electric’ for its products,” the source close to the Pawan Munjal branch said, on the condition of anonymity.
According to him, all Hero MotoCorp products have a different brand name (such as Splendor, Passion, Xtreme), and the EVs will also have a distinct name and identity.
“As per the family pact of 2010, the right to own and use the brand name ‘Hero’ was given to the family of Shri Brijmohan Lall Munjal. Certain specific marks such as ‘Hero Electric’ and ‘Hero Eco’ were given to the Vijay Munjal family for specific goods,” said the source.
The pact leaves room for internal competition among the various family branches in various product categories to pre-empt stagnation and foster growth.
The Pawan Munjal-led Hero MotoCorp is the market leader in ICE (internal combustion engine)-enabled motorcycles and scooters, and has recently announced its foray into the EV segment. It has formed a joint venture with Taiwan-based Gogoro Inc, an EV maker and owner of the world’s largest battery swapping network. Hero MotoCorp has plans to launch its first EV in the fourth quarter of this fiscal. The company, additionally, is one of the earliest investors in Bengaluru-based EV maker Ather Energy, owning 38% of the new-age automotive company.
Hero Electric, run by Naveen, has claimed that only his branch of the broader Munjal family has the right to use the term ‘Hero’ for electric products, and no other family member has that right. “We have the exclusive ownership of the brand ‘Hero’ for non-polluting, green and electric/environmental friendly vehicles for personal or commercial use,” Naveen Munjal told ET. “Over the past decade and half, we have worked tirelessly to further build the legacy of the brand ‘Hero’ by journeying into electric and empowering India toward a greener future.”
Naveen Munjal said his businesses will seek to protect their right on the use of the ‘Hero’ brand for EVs.
“We will take all appropriate measures to protect our rights in the brand and stop any violation of our rights in the electric/environment-friendly vehicles segment,” Naveen Munjal said. “We have always worked as per the family agreements.”
As per the 2010 pact among the family members, which was accepted amicably by all factions, Hero Group patriarch Brijmohan Lall Munjal’s family got control of flagship firm Hero MotoCorp and Hero Corporate Services, among others. Hero Cycles, Hero Motors and Munjal Sales Corp were earmarked for his brother Om Prakash Munjal, whose son Pankaj is currently chairman of Hero Cycles.
Satyanand Munjal’s family controls Munjal Showa, Munjal Auto and other related businesses, while Dayanand Munjal (represented by his son Vijay Munjal) is the owner of Hero Exports, Hero Electric and Sunbeam Auto. Vijay Munjal’s son Naveen Munjal is the MD of Hero Electric.
“The family agreement of 2010 made a fair division, which allowed the individual families to continue to do the business they were doing at that time,” said the source. “It also specifically allows for family groups to compete, so that future growth of their respective businesses isn’t compromised.”
ET was the first to report, in July 2019, about Pawan Munjal’s nephew Naveen Munjal citing exclusive brand rights over green vehicles. Claims and counter-claims over brand use have begun to feature prominently in the media after Hero MotoCorp announced plans to launch an electric vehicle in the fourth quarter.
For its part, Hero MotoCorp said the agreement was clear on its terms of reference and remains the guiding post for all actions by the company. “There is a family understanding in place, which everyone in the Munjal family is well aware of, and everything is being done within the parameters of the understanding and the Agreement,” said a Hero MotoCorp spokesman. “The brand names used on the vehicles even as on date speak for themselves. The family agreement is crystal clear and Hero MotoCorp is well aware of its rights, and has always acted, and will continue to act based on the best legal advice.”
Issues over brand use have surfaced between Naveen Munjal and Pankaj Munjal, too. In March this year, the Delhi High Court directed the factions to approach an arbitrator, as stipulated in the settlement agreements signed more than a decade ago when the Hero Group’s businesses were divided among the family members.
Vijay Munjal-promoted Hero Electric Vehicles and Hero Exports had sought the court’s intervention to restrain Pankaj Munjal-led Lectro E-Mobility from dealing in electric bikes having a throttle using ‘Hero’ or any mark deceptively similar as a trademark, brand name or trade name.