Namah Chawla

Behind the scenes: Resurrecting Yezdi, 'cult bike brand' from the 1980s, after 26 years

Establishing Yezdi for new age bikers, while staying true to its roots. Sarvesh Raikar, creative head, Lintas Live on the brand's relaunch campaign.

For Boman Rustom Irani and Anupam Thareja, passionate bikers and co-founders of Classic Legends, ‘Yezdi’ is like an heirloom that a father passes on to his son. Relaunching the Mahindra-backed cult bike brand of the 1980s in India after 26 years, was the fulfilment of a promise that Irani made to his teenage self. For Thareja, it was all about bringing back the emotion and the daring experiences of bikers of those bold times.

Back then, Yezdi was synonymous with thrill, adventure and free-spiritedness. Its second innings attempts to bring back a similar promise for riders across generations. Yezdi has restarted its journey, with the launch of three models – Yezdi Adventure, Scrambler and Roadster. The creative mandate for the relaunch campaign was handed over to Lintas Live.

“Yezdi is truly one of India’s original cult brands. While it has been off-the-grid for 26 years, it’s still alive and kicking in the hearts of motorcycle enthusiasts. Our aim was to be true to its roots. So, our journey started by going back to the origins of the brand, talking to the riders and auto enthusiasts of the past. Season 2 will not make sense unless you have fully absorbed Season 1,” Sarvesh Raikar, creative head, Lintas Live, tells us.

<div class="paragraphs"><p><strong>Sarvesh Raikar</strong></p></div>

Sarvesh Raikar

While many brands have taken the nostalgic route for their ads, Yezdi’s brief to Lintas Live was to stand apart and encash on its legacy. Yezdi’s team ensured that the agency was very much a part of the entire process. Raikar shares that it was never a client-agency relationship.

“The brand insisted that we were part of every aspect – even when the motorcycles were under production. Right from the smallest inscription and stickers on the bike, we jammed it together. It was more like a group of like-minded Yezdi custodians coming together to bring the beloved motorcycle back on Indian roads.”

"It was more like a group of like-minded Yezdi custodians coming together to bring the beloved motorcycle back on Indian roads."
Sarvesh Raikar, Lintas Live

JAWA Motorcycles, another popular bike brand of the 80s, was resurrected for the Indian market by Classic Legends in December 2018. If we go back to the history of the brand, it was only when JAWA exited the scene, that Yezdi entered the Indian market. However, now the two bikes will be seen on the Indian roads together for the first time. The challenge for the agency was to ensure that both JAWA and Yezdi, which came from the same stable, stood apart.

Another important task for Yezdi was to establish the bike for a whole new set of buyers, the ones who probably were not even born in the mid-90s. There was a need to come up with something that the new-age bikers could relate to.

Another important task for Yezdi was to establish the bike for a whole new set of buyers, the ones who probably were not even born in the mid-90s.

As a part of the brainstorming process for the campaign, Lintas Live had to travel back in time and dig up inspirations and experiences from the time when the bike was first launched.

Raikar reveals, “It was as if we had entered a separate universe when the brainstorming sessions began. All of us started digging deep into the stories of the past. All the interesting insights and tales about the time when riding couldn’t be contained by state and national borders.”

Incidentally, the priceless insights for the team, looking to crack the psyche of the rider, came from MullenLowe Lintas Group's chairman and group CCO Amer Jaleel, who also owned a Yezdi bike back in his college days.

While the agency was working under the pretence of nostalgia and borrowing from pop culture to properly comprehend the rider’s psychology, the Classic Legend’s team was adamant that they didn’t want to start the new season of Yezdi on nostalgia. Instead, it wanted to highlight the ‘Yezdi Mad Men’ and their emotions in a non-conventional way.

For Raikar, that’s when the most exciting and tricky part came into play. The agency was challenged to go off-limits and it came up with the campaign Yezdi – #NotForSaintHearted.

Raikar says that the creative process was like picking up a Shakespearean classic and rewriting the narrative for today. To do that, Lintas Live had to understand, what changes with time, and what doesn’t.

“Yezdi, even back then, was loved for its young, unorthodox, spontaneous and swim against the tide attitude. Even our dads and uncles, who are now so ‘saintly’, rode it in their younger days. If one tries and discover their stories from the 70s and 80s, most will tell you how that was the best time of their lives, and that their stories may not exactly amuse the ‘saint-hearted’.”

Luckily, the agency knew many Yezdi owners within its ecosystem, who were more than happy to recount their experiences. Additionally, the compilation by automotive journalist and editor Adil Darukhanwala, called ‘The Forever Bike’, helped the agency.

Yezdi riders back then were bold and daring. For example, Deepak Kamath and GS Basavaraj scaled continents in 1994 on their Yezdi bikes.

Rebuilding the brand was quite a journey, especially as the agency decided to not dwell on the past imagery too much, but recreate the ‘timeless’ Yezdi.

“We commenced this journey with a team that is in the business of ‘motorcycling’ not bikes,- so when the team creating the Yezdi knew from the very start that it was an emotion and an experience, we had our path chalked out for us from the very beginning of our journey,” adds Raikar.

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Right now, the brand has just made an announcement and in days to come, different dimensions of the campaign will be rolled out. As a part of this campaign, SodaBottleOpenerWala, the popular restaurant chain, has introduced a month-long culinary festival, with a special menu to pay tribute to Yezdi and its tribe.

Thareja’s golden words became the agency's yardstick – “All motorcycles run on roads, but the Yezdi runs in the blood. Let’s go after rekindling that feeling.” Raikar believes that the synergy is what the audience can clearly see in the ad film too.

He recalls that almost every person the team collaborated with, had his or her own encounter with the brand. Each person, on the mere mention of Yezdi, was willing to go out of their way to make the relaunch special. For instance, Razneesh Ghai, the director of the ad, was shooting his first mega Bollywood film abroad when he was approached. He took some time out of that film’s wrap party to discuss the project.

“There are very few brands out there that command this kind of fierce love and passion. One noted director we had approached, fell so much in love with the history of the bike that he offered to shoot the film without charging a single penny, if given a 0.5 per cent stake in the company,” Raikar signs off.

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