Friday, January 25, 2008

TVS, where dost thou go? (Part-2)

Part-1 ended like this:

With so much working against it and without a lot of money, how is TVS gonna survive this onslaught by the biggies? By focussing and by choosing its category and by being the first in that category. If there's no defined category left empty, then it had better create and define a new category and be the first there. How?

So, how does TVS create a new category? And what could this new category be?

Hero Honda led the foray in the big/premium bikes segment by launching the 150cc CBZ. Around that time, Bajaj had just about decided that it wasn't scooters for them; bikes were their future. Hero Honda was all over the place with its economy bikes; Bajaj was also present in that segment but was only a challenger at best with little success. The premium segment had just been created. Yamaha's 2-stroke performance bikes were losing ground to external factors and were being phased out. So the premium segment was all open and so was the performance segment too. For a while, in the Indian context, think of premium and performance segments as one (for obvious reasons). But back then these were the only prominent segments. What did Bajaj do? While the premium segment was still in the making it launched the Bajaj Eliminator - a 175cc cruiser. Very soon it launched, 150cc and 180cc Pulsars. Thankfully for Bajaj, it wasn't doing anything great in the economy segment. While Eliminator got drubbed with the launch of Yamaha Enticer, the former combined with the Pulsars did enough to place Bajaj as a high-end bikemaker.

In branding, it's always easy to bring a high-end brand to lower levels but mighty tough to make the lower-end brand a high end one. Bajaj hadn't established itself so well in any segment, so when it did something worthwhile at the higher-end, it was perceived accordingly. Hero Honda, on the other hand, suffered partially because of its strong association with economy segment. However, the biggest clincher for Bajaj was the fact that it launched a 180cc variant of the Pulsar; bigger than 150cc CBZ. That built the brand Pulsar. Other elements like price and fuel-efficiency played their part. In other words, the competition was repositioned. CBZ was outclassed.

Can TVS Apache outclass the Pulsar? Pulsar has variants like 150cc, 180cc, 200cc and 220cc. If TVS makes 160cc Apache RTR, it doesn't threaten the Pulsar dominance in anyway. It's simply surviving as a competitor; not calling shots as a leader. Pulsar is perceived as the first to the pole in 150cc to 220cc market and Bajaj has focussed unwaveringly on this segment. Needless to say Pulsar is touted as the brand to aspire for instead of the Karizma which was the first mover but suffered with the strong Hero Honda tag attached to it.

TVS needs to do more. Can it reposition Pulsar by quickly introducing a 250cc or 300cc bike before Bajaj introduces one? If TVS manages to do so, it will be the one to call the shots and therefore be perceived as a leader at par or a little ahead of its competitors. Therefore, option-1 for TVS is to be the first to launch a higher end bike in the range 250cc to 300cc.

Let's get to the option-2 through some pictures. Have a look at these bikes which are ruling the markets right now. Observe the common elements in design:

Hero Honda Karizma 225

Sporty, right?












Hero Honda CBZ Xtreme


Sporty, right?











Hero Honda NXG


Sporty, right?














Bajaj Pulsar 180



Sporty, right?












Bajaj Pulsar 220


Sporty, right?












Bajaj Discover



Sporty, right?










Bajaj XCD



Sporty, right?











Bajaj Platina



Sporty, right?












TVS Apache



Sporty, right?









TVS Star City



Sporty, right?










TVS Flame (will be seen soon on roads)



Sporty, right?











Can design be a differentiator? In bikes, definitely! All the bikes have fairing of some sort, the tank extends from headlight to the tail. Machines seem covered. The bikes exude sportiness, much like the bikes seen in races.

What should TVS do? Bring in 'naked' bikes. Yes, much like RD350 and RX100 that became the flag-bearers for Yamaha. Since they are no longer there in the market, TVS has the ground ready to conquer. In fact, it might be a gold-mine if looked at with serious intent. These bikes could exude street-sport, not track-sport. Got the point? That's option-2.

Any other option? Yes, Bajaj is emphasizing that Avenger is a 'trip' bike. All Royal Enfield bikes are 'trip' bikes. While these cruisers are fighting the battles for the highways, can TVS look at the city-roads? Which means, TVS should launch city-cruisers. Yes, and call them city-cruisers'. Alternatively, TVS can make bikes for easy-riders and leave sport-riders for other players.

It really is now or never for TVS. Are you listening?