Mohan Kumar, 53, director of Michelin India, died on May 10 in Covid. His entire family was infected and, while his wife and mother recovered, tragically his father also died shortly after him. He had joined Michelin after stints elsewhere as head of passenger car tire sales and took over the company to which he was devoted.
Graduated in mechanical engineering from NIT (then REC), Tiruchi, he spent two years at Telco and joined IIMB for his MBA – 1991-1993. Classmate recalls that there were so many Mohan in class that they gave him the nickname “ Telco ” Mohan, which a friend says he changed to Michelin Mohan because he would always be in a Michelin t-shirt.
Gregarious and gifted at sports such as badminton and cricket, Mohan loved his role as a marketer and even made a stint with the distributor of great badminton Yonex in Delhi. “He was a balanced, fun-loving guy,” recalls his IIMB classmate.
He was very ethical and process-oriented and well within Michelin’s ethics and also served two years at the company’s headquarters in South Carolina. A former employee, who worked closely with him, remembers him as a very inclusive manager and was a visionary in terms of the needs of the current market and the Indian automotive industry. He saw Michelin as number one in the digital space and offered them the best digital platforms in their category. His merchants regarded him as a friend and a mentor.
A groupmate, S. Prakash, remembers that in 2007-2008, he planned to change the tires on his four-year-old Honda City and checked with Mohan where he should go. “He said to go to Siremull Tyrestore in Chennai. I changed tires two more times at the same store, ”he says.
“I called the owner to find out if he knew Mohan was deceased. It was a stupid question. The father who runs the shop has been in the business for 50 years. He said, “I saw a lot of people in my day. Company officials come and go. Mohan was different. He had a real impact on our business. He stayed in touch and found ways for us to improve. It is a terrible loss. not only for us but for the community. Even now a lot of people are calling… Mohan recently approved our new store and service center, ”Prakash says.
A Michelin employee is very moved when he says: “Mohan’s passion and dedication to Michelin and to all of us can never be matched by anyone. The entire Michelin team is extremely sorry and I have called so many members of our team to share their pain. Quite a few sales reps kept mentioning that Mohan was like a father figure to them and the loss was none the less. Over the past year or so, I have spent so much time with Mohan that the days seem totally empty now.
Mohan was preparing to move Michelin’s headquarters to Pune from NOIDA when tragedy struck. He will be sorely missed by his two sons, one who started working and others in the United States. A close friend quotes Ajinkya, Mohan’s eldest son, saying: “Michelin as a company is also like daddy, ethical, responsible, values long-term relationships and that’s why dad chose to work for this. Mohan clearly. as a friend said, was a tire man who never got tired. He never failed to uplift the mood of any group he joined, recalls Siva Padmanabhan, another IIMB groupmate.