Rajiv Bajaj believes it is important to push the envelope in the electric mobility space and make products that are “irresistible” to potential buyers.

The Managing Director of Bajaj Auto says it is important to “start at the top”, and not the bottom, while developing electric two- and three-wheelers. This is on the lines of what Telsa Motors has achieved and has now become a reference point for aspiration and pride of ownership.

Bajaj says he is only too aware of the realities of India’s electric mobility arena, which include uncertainties relating to charging infrastructure, reliability of batteries, costs, charging time, fuel and environmental concerns and so on.

Make a mark

While these are issues that cannot be wished away, he is of the view that his company can adopt a different approach and still make a mark. “By the end of the day, you cannot fight perception and need to use it to your advantage,” he says. It also puts in context why an emotional, and not logical, approach is perhaps the best way forward. This will mean developing world-class products that offer the best in styling, design and engineering. It is this differentiator strategy of starting at the top that has seen Tesla grow as a premium brand across the world.

Likewise, if things work to plan for Bajaj product(s) in terms of range, charging time and reliability, word-of-mouth will soon create a snowballing effect where suppliers “start coming to you”.

The government will then also do its bit by helping out with charging stations and all this will lead to the creation of a vibrant electric ecosystem.

CNG experience

From Bajaj Auto’s point of view, this is just not misplaced optimism but based on actual experience.

This was the time, a little over 15 years ago, when compressed natural gas was made mandatory in New Delhi and the company’s auto rickshaws had to fit into the new regime.

It was not a walk in the park since this involved a new fuel option as well as more work for Bajaj Auto on product development and R&D. Auto rickshaw drivers were apprehensive about the transition and range of the new vehicles.

As more retail outlets cropped up in Delhi, and CNG supplies increased, the script ended up working to perfection. This is what gives the company the confidence that something similar could happen in the electric space too.

e-scooter launch

Speculation has also been rife that Bajaj Auto is gearing up to launch its first electric scooter this year though its MD did not comment on the subject.

The news has been creating some excitement given that the company had stopped manufacturing geared scooters some years ago and decided to shift its two-wheeler focus solely to motorcycles.

An electric scooter would, of course, be completely different in terms of volumes and its potential customer base. Yet, it will still revive fond memories of the ‘Hamara Bajaj’ era and the overwhelming presence of the Chetak scooter brand in the market.

What can be said with some certainty is that Bajaj Auto will put out its first electric product in the market by 2020, when Bharat Stage VI emission norms also become a reality. These electric two- and three-wheelers will, in all likelihood, be sold in India and other parts of the world.

By this time, Bajaj may also have in place its first range of mid-size motorcycles in the 300-650cc range jointly developed with Triumph of the UK.

These will be manufactured at the Chakan plant near Pune, already home to the KTM motorcycle range and soon to be joined by Swedish brand, Husqvarna, in 2019.