In just three months from now, ‘Hamara Bajaj’ could become ‘Hamara Pulsar’ or ‘Hamara Discover’. And the man presiding over this mega transition will be none other than a Bajaj himself – Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj.
The country’s second biggest two-wheeler maker with a market cap of Rs37,800 crore is undergoing the most radical change after the three-way split of the company nearly four years ago.
The rebranding exercise will see the removal of the Bajaj name which has so far had a pride of place in all its products, showrooms and service centers for over five decades.
The company has decided to overhaul its distribution set-up and rename all its consumer touch points to just Pulsar or Discover, its two most successful bikes. Dealers are already on board on the idea.
Fitch, an international retail design agency, will be in charge of the project. In India, Fitch has worked with entities such as the Aditya Birla Group, Boeing, Reliance ADAG, Tata Group, Microsoft and Vodafone, to name a few.
The idea, pursued aggressively by Chairman Rahul Bajaj’s elder son, is not too different from the strategies used by fast moving consumer goods giants like Hindustan Unilever, ITC or Procter & Gamble.
But it would certainly be a first by an Indian automotive company, which otherwise relies heavily on family names to promote its vehicles (Tata, Mahindra and TVS).
“Actually I don’t want that (Bajaj) name. We have already started the process so today on a Pulsar, the Bajaj name is seen only on the engine. The same is the case with Discover. Our three-wheeler has Bajaj in small font while the initial ‘RE’ is in much bigger font. One day, We will drop the Bajaj name from there also completely”, adds Bajaj.
Bajaj is trying to replicate the marketing success of international automotive companies such as Germany’s Volkswagen or Japan’s Toyota Motor Corporation which has multiple brands that are promoted heavily without the company’s name.
Likewise, Bajaj’s premier motorcycle brand Pulsar (launched in 2001) will continue to strengthen its image as a sporty and performance-oriented affordable motorcycle without banking on the Bajaj name.
The Pulsar's younger sibling Discover (launched in 2004) has been promoted as a high mileage, family bike.
Bajaj feels that both these brands are well established in the domestic market with loyal customers and no longer need the support of an umbrella brand like Bajaj Auto.
“Consumers know that the product is coming from Bajaj, just like I know my Audi is coming from Volkswagen. But there is no Volkswagen on the Audi product. This creates a perception that there is something more in the product” Bajaj adds.
Although the communication exercise through sales outlets to its prospective buyers will begin in three months, the company has already phased out the Bajaj branding from most of its products.
“I will make all efforts to make the bike a Pulsar and not a Bajaj. I will have Boxer, Discover and Pulsar and tomorrow KTM. There is no Bajaj name on any of them. People will still remember this comes from Bajaj, but this too will go away with time. After five to 10 years, customers will remember Pulsar and Discover and not Bajaj”, he further adds.
A model dealership-based new plan will be launched in some regions where existing dealers can experience the changes before they invest to employ a similar transformation.
The entire exercise will cost the 600-odd dealers and 1,100 service centres around Rs21 crore collectively. The upgradation programme will also be extended to the next generation of motorcycles comprising KTM, Kawasaki and Bajaj models that would be launched this year.
Most of the new sales outlet addition is happening in small towns where demand for fuel efficient bikes is picking up sharply. About half the 175,000 Hero Honda Splendors sold every month come from the rural markets. The Splendor is one of the most fuel efficient bikes in India.
Meanwhile, Bajaj Auto may not be the only company which will take such a step. The promoter group of arch rival Hero Honda, which is the current market leader, is also looking to seek external assistance to promote its own brand, now that Honda has sought an exit.
The Munjal promoted group is looking to promote its own brand as ‘Hero’ after the separation. It has strong models like Splendor and Passion under its belt which have developed a strong following.
In addition, due to the relative unfamiliarity of the Hero brand name in the automotive world, it may be forced to promote existing brands. The group is talking to outside experts and consultants to chart a way forward.