With the recent announcement of Bajaj-Triumph collaboration and counting KTM in it, we are effectively looking at the greatest motorcycle business on the planet.This establishes Bajaj Auto as the master collaborator of the world automobile industry.
Bajaj Auto, a two and three-wheeler manufacturing behemoth based out of Pune, India has been among the highest valued automotive companies hailing from the major South-East Asian Economy. The company finds its origins in the vintage of late 1944 when its predecessor company, M/s Bachraj Trading Corporation Private Limited was formed and traded in imported two and three wheelers for Indian customers. From those humble beginnings, in last 64 years, Bajaj Auto has taken a form of a mammoth company that has a presence in over 50 countries where it has either been present on its own or through a strategic partnership.
For more than 1.3 Billion Indian people, Bajaj Auto is a company that has been an undeniable part of their lives. From a company connected to a vast majority by strong nostalgia to a company that has forever looked beyond the obvious and into the future, Bajaj Auto has charted flawlessly and mostly bravely into uncharted territories and came out establishing new norms and bringing paradigm shift in the market. Every Indian will fondly refer to the company as ‘Hamara Bajaj’, meaning ‘Our Bajaj’ showcasing the pride the country puts behind one of its biggest and the most reputed companies. On the other hand, for a vast majority of two wheeler users across the globe, Bajaj is essentially known for the revered Bajaj-KTM alliance, a collaboration that effectively changed the world two wheeler industry.
Now, all that said, Bajaj has pulled off another shocking yet visibly brilliant collaboration with Triumph Motorcycles recently. This new ‘non-equity’ collaboration has evidently sent ripples across the world’s motorcycle industry and in first look seems to be a game changer just like the Bajaj-KTM business model. As someone who has been closely monitoring the growth and endeavours of Bajaj Auto over the years, it only seems fair that we bring you an insight about the various collaborations that Bajaj Auto has built up all though its 64 years. Bajaj Auto was the master collaborator before collaborations were cool and it boasts of products and ideas that have potentially changed the face of automotive market more than once. Here is a look at the prominent Bajaj Auto collaborations, the models it created and how they opened up a completely new markets for international players would couldn’t have achieved such widespread reach without the brilliant thinking of this little Indian company, which btw isn’t so little anymore.
After importing two and three wheelers for over a decade, in 1959 Bajaj Auto finally got a government nod to manufacture two and three vehicles in India. Those were the times when a country that recently got independence (just 12 years ago, in 1947) was still working towards creating its own identity on the world map. 1960 saw the first product of Bajaj’s collaborative smartness in the form of the Vespa 150. It was built on licence by Piaggio, Italy and was effectively the first two wheeler that the Indian masses took up to. This collaboration latest till 1977 and in those times Bajaj had established itself as the major motorised two wheeler player in the rapidly growing market.
However, the official license to make the Vespa’s ended in 1977, Bajaj’s variations of the iconic design stayed in production with the now iconic Scooter brands like the Bajaj Super and the Bajaj Priya which was a result collaboration between Maharashtra Scooters and Bajaj Auto. The Bajaj Priya looked similar to the previous Bajaj 150 but had three gears. The Bajaj-Piaggio collaboration had not only established the Vespa brand in the Indian market but also gave the iconic Italian scooter maker a leverage that it utilised later in 1984 with another JV with an Indian manufacturer, LML and found great success. This partnership still continues to offer geared scooters in international markets.
The collaboration between Kawasaki-Bajaj has to be among the most significant ones for the entire Indian automobile industry. This was a relationship that started way back in 1984, and with the launch of the first Kawasaki-Bajaj bike in 1986. The Pune based maker charted into the motorcycle market that was still in a nascent stage back then in India. The Kawasaki-Bajaj collaboration to make motorcycles was, for a large part, the only true competitor of the next largest partnership in the country between Hero Motors of India and Honda.
The first motorcycles were the Kawasaki Bajaj KB 100 and KB 125 (based on the KH125) that were produced till 1991, from then on, the collaboration strengthened each passing year with consistent new model launches. The major models of the then Bajaj Auto empire, the likes of Boxer (1997), Caliber (1998) created a base that ended up in an explosive growth for Bajaj Auto in motorcycle market.
This was a relationship that gave Indian motorcyclists affordable performance through bikes like Kawasaki Bajaj Wind 125 and the first small capacity single cylinder yet true cruiser, the Kawasaki Bajaj Eliminator (2001). The Eliminator was a particularly big success and still after almost 17 years, the true form of the original Eliminator continues in the present Bajaj Avenger brand.
The Kawasaki-Bajaj partnership forayed into the premium motorcycle space with its Probiking showrooms that started to offer the likes of Ninja 250R and the Ninja 650R to the vast majority of Indian motorcyclists. This was the foundation that led to many global high capacity motorcycle makers follow suit and officially start their Indian innings. The closer ties of the two mammoth brands from Japan and India were evident when Kawasaki chose to sell the Bajaj Pulsar 200NS as a Kawasaki-Bajaj product for the Indian market in 2014. The roles have reversed and the Indian Company had reached a globally acceptable and appreciated technology and quality level.
It is also pretty interesting to note that the Bajaj Pulsar 200NS was a product developed along with another (and probably the greatest) Bajaj alliance, Bajaj-KTM. With Kawasaki marketing a Bajaj-KTM co-developed product, it was a sign that the Indian market had not only improved, but the Indian companies had also started shaping the ways of the business across the world. This brings us to the next chapter of master class collaborations of Bajaj Auto over the years, KTM-Bajaj.
When the future generations will look back at the times when Bajaj and KTM joined hands together to make and market sub-500cc motorcycles across the globe, they would rate it as a pivotal point in the history of world’s motorcycle industry. So significant and smart was this collaboration that even after almost a decade of its signing, the rest of the world’s companies are still trying to comprehend the massive success KTM and Bajaj have amassed and are still trying to find ways around it.
The first products from the KTM-Bajaj Alliance were the single cylinder Duke 125, Duke 200 and the Duke 390 motorcycles. All these motorcycles were manufactured at the Bajaj Auto plant in Pune and then exported to various KTM markets. Among these, the Duke 125 was an export only model. A bike that garnered incredible response from the European entry level motorcycle market. The Duke 200 was built specifically for the Indian sub-continent with the domestic market being its major target. The Duke 390 was for both, the export and the domestic customers.
With the advent of this ‘Baby Duke’ motorcycle range, KTM-Bajaj managed to put world class engineering and quality into an extremely affordable package that returned incredible performance and style. A product range like the small Dukes were previously unheard of and it catapulted a small scale Austrian motorcycle maker into a mighty big global player. In fact these little powerhouses helped KTM become the biggest European motorcycle maker by a fair margin.
The present KTM-Bajaj line-up includes globally appreciated products like the RC125, RC200, and the RC390 motorcycles along with the latest generation of the single cylinder Duke range. The market has been equally responsive to the fairly focussed sportsbike KTM RC range as well. Now, with the small single cylinder KTM ADV soon to become a reality along with the addition of the Husqvarana brand of motorcycles, the Bajaj-KTM alliance is again looking at breaking the market with unheard of capabilities in the market segment. Bajaj also benefitted from this collaboration as can be seen with its latest range of models that were developed alongside the tiny KTM’s.
Bajaj- Renault Alliance:
Bajaj Auto in order to bring a fresh approach to the stagnant three-wheeler passenger vehicle market, decided to test waters with a new quadricycle approach that was co-developed with Renault-Nissan. The collaboration was declared in 2010 and the idea was to provide a much safer and better handling product to the three wheeler customers at a more or less same price point. Called the Bajaj Qute, the quadricycle has faced a few legislative issues in the domestic market but is poised to change the game in a segment that desperately needs new age solutions.
Bajaj-Triumph Collaboration to build Mid-Level Motorcycles:
Now, Bajaj Auto has managed to pull off another shocking collaboration just recently with Triumph Motorcycles. In what has effectively send ripples across every motorcycle market across the globe, this new non-equity Bajaj-Triumph collaboration will see Triumph utilize Bajaj’s manufacturing brilliance and Bajaj triumph’s technology to co-develop products in the mid-level motorcycle segments. This news is as big as the KTM-Bajaj alliance and it comes in at a time when the iconic British motorcycle maker is looking to penetrate the fast growing Indian and rest of South Asia market further.
With the fall of traditional major motorcycle markets from Europe and the US, every company wants to have a pie of the incredible volumes that the Asian markets offer. However, to fight in this highly competitive market, the companies need to redefine their product lines or have a collaboration that can take care of it. Looking closely at this alliance, it is evident that we are looking at another major shaking up of the world motorcycle market, and astonishing once again Bajaj Auto is the one that is pulling the threads behind the whole show.
Coming to think of it, even though we are yet to get the KTM side of view on this collaboration, it is evident that it is effectively now a KTM-Bajaj-Triumph collaboration. Which means that we are looking at probably the world’s greatest ever motorcycle business that has an Indian manufacturer in the box seat. Ladies and Gentleman, meet Bajaj Auto, the master collaborator of the automotive world and probably the smartest motorcycle company on the planet as well.