Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bajaj and the art of storytelling with ‘V’

Apa yang ingin saya ceritakan disini ialah tentang cerita disebaliknya... Mudah2an anda2 yang berkenaan baca dan faham maksud tersirat didalam artikel ini... saya sudahpun bercerita tentang ini pada tahun 2000 tapi tak ada yang faham. Mungkin sebab siapa saya.... sekarang biarlah En Rajiv Bajaj yang cerita pula. Siapa En Rajiv dan siapa kamu


How INS Vikrant became a perfect fit for this solid commuter bike Rajiv Bajaj looks relaxed in his room at the company’s Akurdi headquarters near Pune. The Managing Director of Bajaj Auto has reasons to be pleased with his motorcycle business staging a dramatic turnaround especially in the entry and premium segments. Yet, it is the recently launched V15 that has been in the news thanks to the INS Vikrant association and Bajaj Auto’s coup in getting the metal from this iconic warship for use in the motorcycle. Launched in end-March, the V15 has been doing good business and plans are underway to launch a blitzkrieg of ‘V’ siblings.

Creating a brand

While Bajaj acknowledges the importance of the Vikrant in the V15 journey thus far, he reiterates that there is more to the narrative. The ‘V’ was created on the attribute of solidity. “In the commuter segment, mileage is doubtless important but people still like something solid. Nobody has done a 150cc commuter and we created a category of an invincible, solid, robust commuter,” he explains. As Bajaj says, it is important to be very clear in creating a brand. “Six months back, if I had said ‘V’ you may have figured out the brand but not the product. Now you have experienced the product and this leads us to the story and packaging,” he adds.

People come and people go but stories are immortal as in the case of icons like Muhammad Ali and Mahatma Gandhi as also controversial figures like Adolf Hitler.

This is the reason why marketing guru, Jack Trout has always maintained that good marketing is good storytelling. “It means that if you can’t tell a good story, you don’t have a good brand. If a brand is so well thought out that it has differentiation, has attributes and creates its own category, it is part of storytelling,” says Bajaj.

Likewise, Rolex is a story and if 100 people buy the watch, does it mean that all know the story of Rolex, he asks. At least 97 would not be aware but the three or five who know the story are charmed by it and they buy it. These are the early adopters. “Later, people like you and me follow suit because they bought it first,” he says.

A total package

Packaging is the other critical ingredient which explains why Apple invests so much in its stores. A company can have a great product and great story but if this is sold in a shabby fashion, it will not perform to its potential.

That the ‘V’ looks like a solid commuter which is 150cc and priced at ₹62,000 defines the product. The product with its story and packaging defines the brand. And the brand along with a clear attribute and the category it creates is the strategy.

“With the ‘V’, we had a great product and knew we could manage packaging. But could we get a story? It is not a heritage brand and had it not created a new category or differentiated attribute, just putting Vikrant on something would not work,” explains Bajaj. At one level, even without the Vikrant story, the company would have still had a differentiated product with super looks, quality and price. However, the minute the story came into the picture, the bike became larger than life. As Bajaj says, this is proved by the fact hardly anyone talks about its sales but there is a ‘wow’ about the V notion.

“The fact we incorporated Vikrant material in the bike makes it credible. When you get everything right and it has the story, the magic comes in,” he says. The best comment Bajaj received about the ‘V’ was from his dealer in Punjab whose customer said he would have identified the bike blindfolded.

“Today I am sure the ‘V’ concept has clicked and it is on such a strong wicket that nothing can go wrong,” he says. All the critical parameters like design, performance, price and product are in place along with the story and packaging.

“If I had put the Vikrant on Pulsar, it would not have made an impact and this would have been the same for CT100. It was important to have the right fit,” says Bajaj. Going forward, the company plans to launch more ‘Vs’ from the same platform through this fiscal and next which will hopefully improve its market share in the executive commuter space.

At present, its tally is barely 40,000 of the six lakh units sold each month which only reminds Bajaj why it makes sense to focus on motorcycles instead of turning his attention to scooters. By the end of the day, this space is still bigger than the scooter market which does 4.5 lakh units each month.

“This 40,000 per month should first become two lakh units after which I will perhaps begin thinking about scooters. If I cannot increase this quotient, why should anyone believe I will succeed in scooters?” asks Bajaj.

It was the Discover which was first positioned as the differentiator in the commuter space over a decade ago. Bajaj says the biggest problem here was the story which was originally the jadoo or magical ride.

The minute the narrative changed to Discover India with the power of one litre, the image created was fuel economy. In the process, it killed the brand, something which could, likewise, happen with a 100cc ‘V’ as its solidity image will take a beating.

(This article was published on June 30, 2016)

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