Vikram Kirloskar: The MIT engineer who loved to build factories

Vikram Kirloskar: The MIT engineer who loved to build factories
Source: Twitter
  • Vikram Kirloskar’s love for engineering took him to one of the world’s best institutes – MIT.

  • As a trainer, his task was to improve the quality of production of the shop floor, and he helped drive new processes and innovations.

  • In a career that lasted over 30 years, he helped build over 25 greenfield projects.
Vikram Kirloskar, the vice chairman of Toyota Kirloskar Motor, who died at 64 of a heart attack, is best known for bringing Japanese major Totoya to India through a joint venture in the late 90s. Undoubtedly he stood tall within the automotive industry, but was a fearless voice for the industry at large. He was a votary of stable policies for a sector that has seen myriads of disruptions over the last several years.

He also navigated the industry as president of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) over 2019-20, which ended up as one of the most challenging years for the Indian industry as the Covid pandemic had struck during that time. He became not just the voice of calm during that time but also acted as a bridge between the government and the industry.

Despite the multiple hats he wore, Kirloskar is best known as the face of Toyota Motors in India. His partnership with the Japanese auto major has survived the test of time, unlike many others that were instrumental in bringing many other global auto brands into India.

Headquartered in Bidadi, Karnataka the venture pushed many popular models like Innova, Qualis, Camry and more that ruled the Indian roads for over a decade. This was a result of the vision of Kirloskar, who remained as the vice chairman of the venture until he passed away 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 that was founded in the late 1800s to manufacture iron ploughs. The company was then one of the cornerstones of industrialisation, which was rare in India.

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

He joined the family business soon after, with the burden of a great degree and the expectations of being part of a business family. He became a production engineer trainee at Kirloskar Cummins in Pune, where his love for the factory sites started.

In an interview with Millionaire Asia, he however did admit that competition was light in those days. “Back then, it was just that you did what you were told to do as a trainee and worked very hard,” he told the magazine.

He was tasked with improving the quality of production of the shop floor, and had used his engineering skills to drive new processes and innovations. Much of his success, Kirloskar said, came from his ability to concentrate on one thing at a time – and his capabilities lay in understanding how a factory works, and building and maintaining it. In a career that lasted over 30 years, he had helped build over 25 greenfield projects.

He also had varied interests in sports and arts as he loved golfing, playing tennis, painting, sculpting and even cooking.

Industry leaders express their shock, grief

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 grief at his loss. "Devastated with Vikram's shocking demise. He was such a dear friend who I will hugely miss. I share the pain and unconsolable grief of Gitanjali Manasi n the family. May he rest in eternal peace. Om Shanthi," tweeted Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the executive chairperson of Biocon.

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

“Deeply grieved by the sad demise of one of the giants of India's automotive industry and a humanist, Vice Chairperson of Toyota Kirloskar Motor, Shri Vikram Kirloskar. My profound condolences to members of his family. May his atma attain sadgati! Om Shanti!” wrote former vice president of India, Venkaiah Naidu.

The last respects can be paid at Hebbal Crematorium, Bengaluru today at 1 pm.

(With agency inputs)


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