Vikram Kirloskar, credited as the man who convinced Toyota to enter India, died of a massive heart attack last night. The sudden death of the 64-year-old has left the Indian automobile industry without a hero—one of the industry’s most recognizable faces. Kirloskar is survived by his wife Geetanjali, and daughter, Manasi — who was appointed to the board of directors of Toyota Kirloskar Motor last year and is the CFO of Kirloskar Systems. It is yet to be seen if Manasi will succeed his father in the positions he held.
Vikram is the fourth generation of the famous Kirloskar family—his lineage dates back to 1888. Vikram, though an industrialist, was trained as an engineer in the halls of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In retrospect, he believes that his education at MIT played an important role in his career—because engineering is the cornerstone of Kirloskar’s business. In fact, he spent the first four to five years of his career in a factory as a machinist—where his internship at MIT helped him. He was also involved in various productions in the early years.
Although born with a silver spoon, into one of the most prominent business families in India, Vikram’s life, by his admission, was not a bed of roses. Vikram worked all his life, right after he finished school. He also worked at summer camps in America and returned home for vacation in six years.
Like most of his career, Vikram returned to India to join the family business, initially as a construction trainee at Kirloskar Cummins in Pune. While Vikram is known for diversifying his business from pumps, and engines, to cars, he has a different mindset. For him, the focus was always on engineering and manufacturing. His collaboration with Toyota first started in the textile business and in 1997, he started Toyota Kirloskar Motor—a joint venture to manufacture passenger cars. It has increased cooperation in the production of engines, manual transmissions, and transmissions, as well as heat exchangers and gas with another Toyota company, Denso.
He believes that the foundation of his long and successful relationship with Toyota is mutual respect and a love of monozukuri (Japanese for creation/creation). The road with Toyota was not always smooth. Labor protested at the TKM factory and Vikram said the company was doing everything it could to stop the strike. Vikram is no stranger to bracelets in business, as he shared a difficult time during his time at Mysore Kirloskar — as most of his income and profits came from markets in Russia and Germany, both fell in the same year. It was a very difficult time, and despite all the efforts to develop new products for new markets, he was unable to solve long-term business issues.
Vikram believes in maintaining a balance between life and work, and when he is not at the helm of his business empire, he is an avid golfer with his wife, but he , what he enjoyed most was spending time with his family. An international traveler, he traveled all over the world, but most of the last two years have been living in prison in a house built in Kirloskar Business Park in Bengaluru due to epidemic. He’s also an epicurean in his own right—a wine connoisseur who enjoys picking wines and cooking.
With TKM, Vikram will soon set up a car manufacturing business in Karnataka. His work was recognized by the Government and he was awarded the “Suvarna Karnataka” award. During his lifetime, he developed more than 25 sites. Last seen in the public eye with the launch of the Toyota Hycross, it has made its mark in the Indian automotive industry and is about to usher in new, eco-friendly technology—a said Vikram won. “(Climate change) is a critical strategic imperative that businesses must address at all costs, as a shared responsibility,” he tweeted.