Over the years, Bajaj has gained the reputation of being radical when it comes to their two-wheeler business strategy. From being a scooter manufacturer in the 1970-80s, they went through a paradigm shift and moved on to producing only motorcycles. Over the last decade though, sighting the convenience that they offer, scooter sales in India have jumped up like on a trampoline. Despite that, Bajaj has often been vocal about not wanting to venture into the segment. They were also among the first few bike makers to lay the foundation of affordable performance motorcycles in the early 2000s. The way the Bajaj brand has shaped up over the years, it won’t be too bold to say that they have pushed the envelope in the two-wheeler market time and again.
They recently made it into the news announcing a global collaboration with Triumph Motorcycles. Just a few weeks after the announcement of this new partnership, Bajaj has once again made the headlines. In an interview with Livemint, CEO Rajiv Bajaj spoke about a new brand of electric two-wheelers they are planning to develop. Currently working under the codename ‘Urbanite’, Bajaj intends to produce aspirational electric two-wheelers under this banner. In fact, in the interview, Bajaj went on to say that they are looking to bring it on sale by 2020.
As far as electric two-wheelers go, there are already a few players in the Indian market including the Hero Electric and Okinawa Scooters. But neither of them have premium products on offer. Pune-based Tork Motorcycles is the only manufacturer to have worked towards this aim and is about to launch their first product T6X in the near future. From the looks of it, Bajaj intends to pull off something similar but at a much larger scale. In fact, in the interview, Bajaj went on to say that the intention is to make Urbanite a “Tesla in the electric two-wheeler space”. This could either mean that like Tesla, Bajaj wants Urbanite to become a pioneer in the electric two-wheeler space, or them wanting to follow the footsteps of Tesla by bringing in performance oriented models, to begin with before moving on to mass market offerings. With the limited details we have of the Urbanite project as of now, which one of these he implied is anybody’s guess.
To make matters even more confusing, Bajaj also went on to say that they will also be looking at three-wheelers under the Urbanite banner. But interestingly, that doesn’t quite fall in line with their ‘Tesla’ aspirations or their intended product placement strategy.
Coming back to their plans of an electric two-wheeler, KTM has had the Freeride E electric motocross bike on sale in the global market for a while now. Considering that Bajaj owns 48 percent stake in KTM, they could probably borrow some technology and even learnings from the Austrian brand. While there is a lot that is unclear about Urbanite as of now, if history is anything to go by, Bajaj has proven to be trendsetters on more than few occasions.
Earlier this year, a lot of countries have announced a shift to electric vehicles. In fact, the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show also had a lot of focus on electric cars. Knowing that EVs are the way of the future, Bajaj wants to ride the electric wave right at its onset. But while we are on the topic, we can’t help but think about the limited infrastructure with regards to electric vehicles in India. More importantly, aside from building a product, Bajaj will also need to establish adequate infrastructure and train sales and service executives. If Bajaj manages to pull this off in three years’ time, it will surely be a praise-worthy feat.