India’s 2nd largest two wheeler maker with a capital of Rs. 37,800 crore is undergoing a radical change. The company will no longer use its brand name “ Bajaj” on its two wheelers and three wheelers. The reason behind this mind boggling rebranding decision is to promote Bajaj’s individual life brand Pulsar and Discover rather than parent brand Bajaj. Bajaj is trying to emulate the marketing success of International automotive companies like Germany’s Volkswagen with respect to Audi. Rajiv Bajaj feels that both the products, i.e Pulsar and Discover, have been well received and appreciated in the domestic market and enjoys loyalty; thus he feels that it no longer requires the support of an umbrella brand like Bajaj Auto.

When Rajiv Bajaj, son of Rahul Bajaj, joined the company after completing his M.S in manufacturing system engineering from the University of Warwick UK he seemed to feel there was something wrong in the company as it focused primarily only on scooters. Rajiv saw a potential market in motorcycles. The focus shifted from scooters to motorcycles with the famous punch-line of Bajaj changing from “Buland Bharat ki Buland Tasveer” {A resurgent India has a great Image} to “ Badal Rahe hain Hum Yahan”{ We are changing ourselves here} and suddenly Bajaj auto found itself on the 4th rank for motorcycles after Hero Honda, Yamaha and TVS ( as shown in the figure) rebutting the critics who once rather unfairly said about Bajaj auto,” You can’t make bikes. Even if you make bikes, you can only make 100 cc bikes with the help of Kawasaki and that too with issues of quality. Then you need hundreds of Japanese to come and set it right”.

A purely rational approach favors this startling decision as this move wasn’t meant for India in the first place. It is only trying to build its two wheeler brands as global brand deprived of Indian-ness and all the issues of doubtful quality that it still seems to imply. Rebranding would give “independence” to each brand family and free the various brands like Bajaj Almond Drops Hair oil, Bajaj Appliances, Bajaj Auto etc from the ‘blurring effect’ due to a common and seemingly overused link name. One of the reasons for shedding the brand name was, “The name traps us in the past. And we want to move forward”. That is hard to argue with. It has always been Rajiv Bajaj’s style. When his father would give nostalgic interviews about the Chetak scooter, how it was a compulsory component of dowries in North Indian weddings for decades, his son would give interviews saying the Chetak represents a past he would rather not focus on.

But rebranding perhaps comes at a cost. “Humara Bajaj” – the first thing that pops up in the mind is the 80’s- 90’s advertisement that sold scooters to the middle-class which instilled a sense of pride, ownership and feeling of being a self sufficient Indian. This has now deemed to be outdated, even though Bajaj is still associated with brand values such as trust and reliability. Will abandoning the parent brand name adversely affect the customers trust? The Tata name is linked with all its brands be it tea, salt, watches, cars etc. These products are doing fine; in fact they may enjoy a larger chunk of market share under the parent brand Tata.

The Bajaj decision of rebranding has received mixed reviews. Only time will prove if this decision was a wise ‘Discovery’ or a major ‘Pulse-error’.

Note: This article was written in 2011.