Raahil Chopra
Apr 20, 2015

‘Creating a differentiation in rural is one big challenge’: Sumeet Narang

The VP, marketing – motorcycles, Bajaj, speaks about the portfolio, reasons for steering clear of scooters, global sales, and ad campaigns

‘Creating a differentiation in rural is one big challenge’: Sumeet Narang
What’s your current portfolio? Which are the brands within each segment? Which is your flagship 'product' and which is the fastest growing?
We have about four key brands in our motorcycle business and each of them caters to a different segment. At an entry level we’ve got Platina, which is a 100 cc bike and caters more to rural and small towns. You also see it a lot in the tier one cities too. It’s a bike that is known for mileage, durability and reliability. It’s a pretty trusted long-lasting type of a bike. We have just launched our new Platina, in which we added self-start, increased fuel efficiency further. It has a better DTSi engine and we have a campaign running (for it).
In the next segment, above the Platina, we have the Discover. Platina and Discover fall in the commuter segment. Discover has a strong rural and small town base, but it is also much more of a city bike. Discover is fairly differentiated in the segment. It has better styling, it’s got a more powerful engine, known for great mileage. Therefore we have got our ‘Joy of Riding’ platform for it.
Then there’s the Pulsar. That’s an iconic brand in the industry which has been around for 14 years. The Pulsar is part of what we call the ‘Sports’ segment. It is more of a youth bike. It is present from the 150 to 225 cc segment.  It is the market leader in its segment. The Pulsar is uniquely known for its aggressive and muscular style along with power, amazing pick up, great comfort and control. It delivers on the promise consistently. There’s a certain attitude around the brand.
Then, we have the Avenger. The Avenger operates in a relatively niche segments of cruiser bikes. It has a strong base in metros. The Pulsar is targeted towards 18 to 25 year olds. The Avenger TG would be between 25 and 35. The epicentre for that is 28. The Avenger is also used as a city bike and it’s a great hit with the youngsters. The campaign used to go with a line ‘Feel like God’. It’s a cruiser which is capable of high distance travelling.
Those are our four broad brands.
In addition, we recently got back a brand back – the CT100. We’d pulled it out, but we found there was an amazing residual equity of the brand. It is very strong in rural areas. It’s got a kick start mechanism and is very popular in areas such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. People who were using it would swear by the bike. We just relaunched it and it was flying off the shelves even before an ad campaign.
The portfolio ranges between Rs 35,000 with the CT100 and goes up to around Rs 90,000 with the top-end Pulsar and Avenger.
The fastest growing product keeps changing. If I look at it from the last year’s point of view, what we find as the two segments that are growing well are the entry level bikes and the sports segment.  The entry level is growing better than the rest. The sports segment is also growing well.
With respect to the sports section growing – is this because the base is smaller?
I wouldn’t say so. It’s not that small a market. It is smaller than the commuter segment, but it isn’t a niche. You’re not talking about the super-bike segment. This is a sizeable section.
Talking about brands with equity and relaunches –  there have been stories about the Chetak’s relaunch? When do you plan to do that?
That’s something we’ll need to discuss later. These are speculative reports.
Is there scope for more launches in the motorcycle segment for Bajaj?
There can always be scope. Within the portfolio, there are sub-segments within each of the brands. The Discover and Pulsar work in different segments with different options. For example, we spotted that there’s a growing interest in fully-faired bikes and therefore a RS200 has been launched. We do have products that stand at each other’s sub-segments. So, we are covering a fair amount of these segments. When the opportunity comes up we will look at new launches.
You spoke about rural being a heavy contributor to sales for some of your bikes. What are the challenges that come along with it? How big is Bajaj’s sales network?
Creating a differentiation (in rural) is one big challenge. Sometimes people from this segment are too functional in their requirements. Somehow at those price points, you’re not able to create dramatically different products.
From a marketing point of view these are the challenges.  Creating a proposition and sticking with a proposition there becomes a challenge.
With the Platina, we built on the proposition of mileage. The challenge is how to take the benefit of a particular brand and then keep innovating.
We’re operating with about 600 dealers and then there is a network.
Coming to advertising - After Hamara Bajaj and, say, Hoodibaba, what would you rate as the top ad campaigns from the stable?
The ‘Definitely male’ campaign for the Pulsar… we’ve had great recall for our advertising. In the category, if I had to ask for some memorable campaign for two-wheelers across the last year, you’d find recall a little tough.  So that shows how well our previous campaigns have done to establish that recall.
That’s what we want to gain through our campaign for the Discover, which is titled Life Banaye Zing Zong. It’s built on a very strong insight.
This is a proper ‘campaign’. It’s fashionable to call a TVC a campaign and then change it after about eight months. There is a thought here with this campaign. It’s not very often that you find a fantastic marriage between an insight, the product delivery and how you are communicating it. It is built on a universal truth. When it comes to the mass consumer, the consumer insight is people believe that the beginning of responsibility is the end of joy.  Times are changing, but it’s still a long way to go.
You talk to an average 32 to 35 year old man and you’ll figure that there are very few instances in his life or average week where he does anything for himself. It’s not without reason. I’m not saying he’s an unimaginative guy. I’m not referring to the metro guy. Perhaps the guy in the metro was like this around 20 years ago. Many people have now formed some kind of a happy balance between personal goals and responsibility goals – but I don’t’ see that in the small towns. There are reasons for this. Infrastructurally, there are not many entertainment options. Secondly, in the peer group there are very few people who have been non-conformist. All said and done, economic conditions are not the most favourable.
He is ambitious, not for himself but for his children. He wants them to go to decent schools etc. He can see the economy turning around, and is happy because he feels his quality of life is better today compared to five years ago. But then you dig deeper and you find he doesn’t do much for himself. Somewhere our society is such that it hasn’t helped people to retain their interests. It’s a deeper social subject. Within that our guy believes that after you’re married you have family responsibilities and the beginning of that, is the end of joy.
Consequently, we heard a lot from women that men are getting boring after marriage. The two were related in our opinion. We found a deep learning in the guy, that he would like to change status quo a bit, but it’s too much of a leap to start behaving like a college guy by roaming around on a Pulsar. From a product point of view, we’ve seen when the guy is in college, the Pulsar is a dream bike. But when people start working, many people start looking towards a commuter bike. He’s willing to compromise on the look of the bike, and the power of a bike. So, we saw a similarity. Then, when we look at the Discover, the core of the brand is a better styled product, which is more powerful and provides the same mileage of a commuter bike. That’s why we came up with this campaign created by Leo Burnett. It’s about reigniting romance in a couple. We conducted a 13-city research across tier one and two, and asked them what’s the most romantic thing – we got a strong preference of long bike rides. This was ahead of stuff like candle-light dinners, staying alone (together) at home or going out for a movie. This wasn’t only for the biker gang, but was done across people who own or want to buy a commuter bike. So, we found there’s credibility and truth in the point we want to make. We got an overwhelming response from women who found that the spark had gone down. We had these findings with us and that gave us the confidence that we’re sitting on a strong brand idea.
We’ve extended this with an on-ground activity. For people who enter our showrooms we’ve got this digital activity. People who enter the showroom for a test ride are delivered a video on WhatsApp. This video shows them riding around the world. It has been received very well with people sharing this on Facebook etc.
How is the marketing spend changing for Bajaj? Is digital a higher contributor now?
We are still building the base. On an ongoing basis, digital is still a bit small at about five per cent. This will be growing, but it has to deliver.
A big part of our business is our commuter bikes and this is a challenge for our agency partners. They have to create the right platforms to reach the mass customer in the small town.  People in these regions consume the internet only on their mobile and that too without a 3G connection.
We are one of the very few brands that are doing digital for the mass consumer. The Pulsar works strongly on the digital platform. (Digital was also a big thing) For the launch of the RS200, which caters to the digital citizens and the biking enthusiasts. The biggest thing with these types of customers is the right kind of buzz and word of mouth. We’ve learnt that it is so much tougher to do this. We had a very structured pre-launch campaign for about two weeks before the launch. In a very systematic way we created a tease value on the net. As a result we’ve had a million-plus reach across our social platform.
Our digital approach is very different for each bike in the portfolio.
How are ad spends as a category growing and how is it growing for Bajaj?
There’s been a growth last year in overall advertising spends. However, the industry hasn’t grown. It grew well in the first couple of quarters till Diwali and after that it’s not done as well. On a full year basis the industry hasn’t grown as the advertising has grown.
This year we’ll be pretty aggressive too.
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