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Bajaj to spread V message beyond Vikrant

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 17, 2018

The man and the machine Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj with the V commuter motorcycle

Rajiv Bajaj says the ‘invincible’ association can be leveraged comfortably

When Bajaj Auto unveiled its V commuter motorcycle in February this year, the clear USP was the INS Vikrant association.

After all, it was the metal from this iconic aircraft carrier that has been used in the fuel tank giving the bike the invincible tagline. It is this association that Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director, believes can be leveraged optimally as a marketing tool.

“In every town of India, there is an associated story of glory and ‘V’ rides can be planned to these locations,” he says. After all, it has been positioned as the invincible bike whose association with these destinations is but natural.

These could include historical forts and monuments across the country’s landscape in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab and a slew of other destinations. Rides could then be planned to any of these places, whether it is an Amritsar or Hampi, which have enough stories of valour to narrate.

Citing the example of Pune where he lives, Bajaj says ‘V’ rides can be organised to spots nearby for those keen on understanding the legend of Shivaji, the Maratha warrior king. “After all, his is a story of courage and what better association can be thought of than an invincible bike,” he adds.

Marketing gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout had once said, The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind .” Bajaj uses this to drive home the message of other Indian brands like his own top-seller Pulsar which is about sports, Yamaha (speed), Hero (mileage) and now V which is invincible.

“Today, the manifestation may be Vikrant but I can make it anything tomorrow. If ISRO launches a rocket, I can associate it with V and congratulate India on becoming invincible,” he says. Likewise, this can be extended to other wins in the arena of sports, for instance, or a triumph of spirit where the residents of a flooded city put life back on track.

From Bajaj’s point of view, this is a “very deep strategy where you need to be true to your framework”. For instance, BMW has not deviated from the ultimate driving machine tagline for over 40 years now. Likewise, it is critical for Bajaj Auto to stick to that one single word to describe its key bike brands. “To me Avenger is liberation, Pulsar is sports and V is invincible,” he says.

For now, the ‘V’ script is on track with sales averaging 25,000 units every month and poised to grow even more with more versions planned to cater to different user categories. Of all the big ticket two-wheeler launches during this calendar, the V has been the highest performer thus far.

Bajaj believes that the sky is the limit for this motorcycle brand which also explains why it will be prime focus over the next 2-3 years. After all, it is the commuter space that has eluded the company for many years now despite earlier attempts to bridge the gap with products like Discover.

While total motorcycle sales in this segment average six lakh units each month, Bajaj Auto’s share prior to the V was barely 40,000 units which its MD says is a shame. It is here that the V is expected to play the big role as the growth engine.

The prominent brands in the commuter space are Hero’s Splendor, Passion, Glamour and Super Splendor along with the Honda Shine. The most expensive are the disc brake versions of the Glamour and Shine at around Rs 59,000 while the V is dearer at 62,000. “I am an outlier right now but people are buying since I am the differentiator. Tomorrow, I will go closer to the prevailing price points and hopefully gain,” says Bajaj.

Going forward, the second offering from the V platform will make its debut around November followed by a third sometime in June 2017. The market feedback to the bike has been positive so far which has given the company enough confidence to step on the gas.

According to Bajaj, the first three months of ownership become important in terms of how owners feel and what people around them have to say. “From what I hear, they have been raving about the V which has instilled curiosity all around. Word-of-mouth is still happening and it will take until October to stabilise the product,” he says.

It is also Bajaj’s view that timing is subjective and in the case of the company, the yardstick is measuring word-of-mouth. Once there is enough in terms of awareness, people are asked if they have heard of the bike and their views on its performance/appearance. If the basics are understood and appreciated, it means the brand is rooted in the marketplace and new launches can follow.

Bajaj then recalls the quote of the poet, Kahlil Gibran, who had said: ‘We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.’ In the same way, he adds, the success of V will be experienced only after two years. For now, the choice has already been made in the form of its platform, fuel tank, frame, wheel, engine and, of course, the invincible association.

Published on August 11, 2016

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