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Vikram Kirloskar: The MIT engineer who loved building factories

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  • Vikram KirloskarHis love for engineering brought him to one of the world’s best institutes – MIT.
  • As a trainer, his job was to improve the quality of production on the shop floor and he helped to stimulate new processes and innovations.
  • In a career that spanned more than 30 years, he helped build more than 25 greenfield projects.

Vikram Kirloskar, the vice chairman of Toyota Kirloskar Motor, who died of a heart attack at the age of 64, is best known for bringing Japanese powerhouse Totoya to India through a joint venture in the late 1990s. Undoubtedly he stood tall in the automotive industry, but was a fearless voice for the industry as a whole. He was an advocate of stable policies for an industry that has seen numerous disruptions in recent years.

He also navigated the industry as President of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in 2019-2020, which ended as one of the most challenging years for the Indian industry as the Covid pandemic hit during that time. He not only became the voice of peace during that time, but also acted as a bridge between government and industry.

Despite the many hats he wore, Kirloskar is best known as the face of Toyota Motors in India. Its partnership with the Japanese auto major has survived the test of time, unlike many others that have helped many other global auto brands to land in India.

Headquartered in Bidadi, Karnataka, the venture pushed many popular models like Innova, Qualis, Camry and more that dominated Indian roads for more than a decade. This was the result of the vision of Kirloskar, who remained vice chairman of the company until his death on November 29. Yet that is not his best contribution to India.

The fourth generation entrepreneur


Born in 1958, he was the fourth generation entrepreneur of the Kirloskar group founded at the end of the 19th century to manufacture iron plows. The company was then one of the cornerstones of industrialization, which was rare in India.

Even as a young boy, Vikram loved to build things – be it sculpting, model airplanes and more. His love for ‘engineering’ brought him to one of the world’s best institutes – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Soon after, he joined the family business, with the burden of a high degree and the expectations of being part of a business family. He became a trainee production engineer at Kirloskar Cummins in Pune, where his love for the factory grounds began.

However, in an interview with Millionaire Asia, he admitted that the competition was light at the time. “Back then you just did what you had to do as an intern and you worked really hard,” he said
the magazine.

He was tasked with improving the quality of production on the shop floor and had used his technical skills to drive new processes and innovations. Much of his success, Kirloskar said, came from his ability to focus on one thing at a time — and his abilities lay in understanding how a factory works, and how to build and maintain it. In a career that spanned more than 30 years, he had helped establish more than 25 greenfield projects.

He also had diverse interests in sports and art, as he enjoyed playing golf, tennis, painting, sculpting and even cooking.

Market leaders express their shock, sadness


Vikram Kirloskar is survived by his wife Geetanjali Kirloskar and daughter Mansi, who is married to Neville Tata, the son of Noel Tata, who is the chairman of Trent.

Kirloskar’s sudden death has shocked many of his friends in the industry who expressed their grief at his loss. “Devastated by the shocking passing of Vikram. He was such a dear friend who I will miss dearly. I share the pain and inconsolable grief of Gitanjali Manasi in the family. May he rest in eternal peace. Om Shanthi,” Kiran tweeted Mazumdar-Shaw, Biocon’s executive chairman.

Top banker Uday Kotak also expressed his grief on Twitter. “Very sad to lose my friend Vikram Kirloskar. He had a world class vision to bring the best to India. A clear mind and a big heart. We also worked together at CII leadership. We are with you, Geetanjali and Manasi,’ he said.

“Deeply saddened by the sad passing of one of the giants of the Indian automotive industry and a humanist, Toyota Vice Chairman Kirloskar Motor, Shri Vikram Kirloskar. My sincere condolences to the members of his family. May be
atma attains sadgati!
Om Shanti!” wrote former Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu.

Final tributes can be paid today at 1pm at Hebbal Crematorium, Bengaluru.

(With input from the agency)


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