Was reading an article in the ET today, which talked about how Bajaj was trailing behind Hero Honda in the Motorcycle sales in the country. The article went on to identify the reason for the widening gap- Bajaj’s lack of focus in sub 125cc segment where the volumes are still high.
While all this might be true, but if you have not been tracking this industry, you would fail to identify Bajaj as the maker of the last Killer App seen in the Motorcycle industry.
The action in motorcycle industry heated up in mid 1990’s when they started selling instead of scooters- not just in Tier 1 but Tier 2 3 towns… Those were the days when both 2 stroker and 4 stroke vehicles were available. Since petrol was not that costly, buyers didnt keep mileage as the top criteria- and this era saw strongYAMAHA /strongemerge as the clear winner with its strongRX100 /strongrange of 2 stroke bikes.
These bikes were known for their pick-up and soon became a rage amongst the young population.But then came the Euro 2000 norms and 2 strokes were banned all together. Yamaha tried hard to gain a foothold in this segment with its YBX range but failed to do so against Hero Honda- a really entrenched player.While Yamaha (before 2000) had focussed on power and styling Hero Honda had kept on building brands that delivered mileage and relied on the 4 stroke technology. By 2000 Hero Honda had CD100 and Splendour as its two main products. With Yamaha RX100 being banned, Splendour took over the market like anything. It had already started overselling RX100 due to increasing fuel costs and the Euro norms just consolidated their leadership position.This ensured that Hero Honda was the undisputed leader in the motorcycle market in India.
It was against this background that Bajaj launched Pulsar- a single product which helped them bridge the gap with Hero Honda. Bajaj had not only taken a big risk by introducing a model in the 150 cc category, it had also brought with it a fresh hope for the industry
Pulsar caught on the imagination of people – with its disk brakes, flashy design – and soon Pulsar was the new mean machine for the young with money to spend.Pulsar’s success saw many more brands being launched in the 150 cc segment but none of them failed to come up to the same level …
So while Bajaj might trail behind Hero Honda, I think the company has shown a clear understanding of how to create launch a killer app in the market.
PS: in all this discussion of bikes, I have knowingly not mentioned ENFIELD- coz I think the Bullet in all its variants Machismo, Electra, Thunderbird (my fav)- are in a different league 🙂