Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Ben's Corner #4: This Jawa will script a win for Mahindra

When you ask an automobile enthusiast of yesteryear about the best motorcycles of his times, he will immediately name a handful of bikes - Royal Enfield Bullet, Jawa, Yezdi, Yamaha RD 350 or those old BSAs. But in this 21 century, except Royal Enfield Bullets, all other bikes have disappeared. The prime reason for this is lack of flexibility of these classic bikes to adapt to the changing environment. In addition, bikes like RD 350, Yezdi had two-stroke engines with large displacement which made them guzzle fuel. The stringent emission norms and poor fuel efficiency ultimately led to their demise.

But these two-strokes actually ruled the market in those times with their staggering perfomance. The RD 350 produced a massive 42 hp way back in the 1980s though the Indian version had a detuned engine. In the same way, the Yezdi produced around 16-25 hp and had top speed in excess of 125 kmph all thanks to their two-stroke engines. Unlike the present four-stroke engines which are ruling the authomobile space, the two-strokes enabled combustion to take place during every cycle. This made them theoritically produce double the power of the same configuration four-strokers.

Due to Royal Enfield's successful stint for such a long period of time, it immediatley became a lifestyle brand with people buying it for its classic attire itself. People become so obsessed with the brand, that Royal Enfield is able to sell a 30-year-old technology for close to Rs 2 lakh, i.e., the Thunderbird 500. Royal Enfield's classic range of bikes sell up to 25,000 units a month and command a waiting period of up to six months.

Mahindra, the Indian four-wheeler brand, acquired the stakes of Kinetic Motorcycles late last decade when the two-wheeler brand was about to shut down facing huge losses. After buying Kinetic Motorcycles, Mahindra renamed all their offerings and re-launched them in the market in their own name. But the sales did not pick up. Though they made some great offerings like the Centuro, Gusto, etc., recently, they were not able to make an impression in the competitive Indian two-wheeler market.

But they predicted such a scenario to happen long ago and that is how their flagship Mojo got evolved at the time. They made sure no stone was unturned for the success of the product and tested the Mojo across the length and breadth of the country for a good five years. With such hard and committed work, they officially launched the Mojo last year.

The Mojo had one of the segment's largest 300cc liquid cooled engine belting out an impressive 27 hp. The engine was so advanced in technology that it literally shamed the Royal Enfield with its refinement, power, acceleration, heat management, touring ability, customisability, looks, etc. In fact the Mojo was so well equipped that we can say Royal Enfields are a good five times backwards in every field.

But when it comes to sales, the Mojo was not able shake the legacy of Royal Enfields. Though it may seem shocking, it's almost one year and the Mojo is doing dismal sales, compared to the 25,000+ units Royal Enfield is selling every month.

Though they have already wasted heavy amount of resources on R&D, it seems the management at Mahindra has not lost hope with Mojo's poor sales. In a latest move, they have completely bought both Jawa as well as BSA, the brands which are now dead in India. Mahindra, via Classic Legends, has signed an ‘exclusive brand licensing agreement’ with the Czechoslovakian bike maker, Jawa. Classic Legends has already bought all stakes in BSA. Classic Legends also has a licensing agreement with Jawa which means that Mahindra has all the rights to use these two brands.

Mahindra has not only bought Jawa but also announced that they will revive the brand in India. Jawa's return is going to be a good move as it can turn the tables in favour of the ailing Mahindra two-wheeler business. BSA, reserved for the European market, will help Mahindra capitalise on Moto GP legacy.

Now imagine Mojo's engine on a classic Jawa. That is going to be a big blow Mahindra gives Royal Enfield

- S Ben Raja
Chennai, May 30, 2017.

The above review/analysis is completely the perception of S Ben Raja alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only. This author is correspondent for an English daily working on auto beat stories for over a year. Reach him at benraja4@gmail.com.

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