Despite a string of brand failures around it, Pulsar has managed to stand out from the crowd. With not less than eight models under its fold, Pulsar has been the most hardworking brand for Bajaj Auto, India's second-largest two-wheeler manufacturer.
After a three-year hiatus, the Pune-based company launched three Pulsar models in quick succession during the last calendar year. With more than half a dozen models, Pulsar is the most stretched motorcycle brand in the country, even higher than India’s highest-selling motorcycle Splendor, which has five models under its fold.
While Pulsar 150 and 180 remain the mainstay of the brand, generating majority of the volumes, new recent additions like RS200 and AS200 and AS150 have expanded the horizon for brand Pulsar.
The three models have also dramatically altered the position of Bajaj Auto as a manufacturer. For a young buyer who is looking for a powerful commuter motorcycle, Bajaj has the 150 and 180, but for an adventurous kind, the company introduced the RS200, AS200/150.
However, the company wants Pulsar to do more by pushing it to straddle different price points, cater to a new set of buyers without diluting the core of the brands positioning, value and connect with the buyer.
Bajaj expanded Pulsar even as Discover, its second most promising brand, crumbled around it. From more than five models under its fold, the Discover offering is now down to just two. All other Discover models have been phased out of production due as a result of redefined positioning of the brand to clear some consumer confusion.
So, what is giving Bajaj Auto the confidence that Pulsar, the offering for which starts at 135 cc and goes up till 220 cc, is not going the Discover way?
Eric Vas, president (motorcycle business), Bajaj Auto, said, “Pulsar is one brand in our portfolio which stands stretched because one of the good things about Pulsar is it always been in the youthful space. It has never been a mature brand; it has never been a brand that's trying to get into commuter. And that gives us the possibility of stretching it in the youthful space significantly.”
While chasing customers, Bajaj never advertised the cheaper Pulsar models such as the 135 and 150 which could have posed a risk of diluting the essence of the brand. The company instead worked on advertising campaigns more expensive and powerful Pulsars like 180, 200NS, AS200 and the RS200.
In the 15 years of Pulsar's existence, with the exception of one print campaign, Bajaj never advertised the Pulsar 150. It has always been Pulsar 180 as Hero Honda CBZ (since 1997) and TVS Fiero (since 1999) existed before Bajaj brought in the Pulsar 150.
Interestingly, Pulsar 150 is the largest volumes generator for Bajaj followed by the Pulsar 180. Here Bajaj may have taken a leaf out of the marketing book of German heavyweight Mercedes-Benz where it promotes the E Class more than the more affordable A Class.
“I don't think there is that big a customer profile difference between a customer paying Rs 70,000-75,000, say for a bike, and a customer paying Rs 1.5 lakh for a bike today.
I think the brand (Pulsar) can stretch to that level much like I think the Avenger brand can also stretch from its current price point to may be right up to Rs 2 lakh”, added Vas.
The company believes that the profile of a Pulsar customer is not dependent on the brand, but on the product. That is why brand Pulsar can get stretched to a level beyond the present and, thereby, include more models with different pricing and positioning.
“Through our market research we have understood that the brand is never a barrier to purchase, but product is a barrier to purchase. The RS200 is a prime example of that. It has become the one model which outsells every other model in its class despite being the only model under the Bajaj portfolio to be priced above Rs 1 lakh”, added Vas.
Bajaj will keep up the launch pace in the Rs 1-2 lakh segment under the Pulsar brand as it believes there is lot of headroom for growth under a single brand. It had showcased a Pulsar with a 400 cc engine at the 2014 Auto Expo. However, there is no clarity about its launch.
“We are planning to launch one more Pulsar in the S2 space which is the Rs 1-2 lakh price segment. Currently the only offer is the RS200 there so that launch will happen next financial year”, added Vas.