The unforgettable tagline was pitched by Alyque Padamsee directly to Rahul Bajaj in 1989.
On Saturday (February 12, 2022), Rahul Bajaj, chairman emeritus of the Bajaj Group, passed away. The company ended its social media post on his passing with: '...he lives on in the hearts & minds of millions with the eternally iconic chant - Hamara Bajaj.'
This is a tagline Indian advertising gave the company in 1989, a decade that marked a significant shift in the Indian economic zeitgeist. 'Buland Bhart Ki Buland Tasveer... Hamara Bajaj' - no Indian can read this line like a statement, without that familiar tune carrying him or her back in time, when the company released a beautiful TV commercial for its scooter brand Chetak.
The original ad is credited to advertising legend Alyque Padamsee of Lintas, who passed away in November 2018. The lines 'Hamara Bajaj and 'You just can’t beat a Bajaj' were pitched directly by Padamsee to Rahul Bajaj, who had immense respect for the late adman. That Bajaj is but a last name has become something of a blind spot because the creative energy that illuminates the simple two-word tagline is so bright.
Subsequent renditions of Hamara Bajaj were created by R Balki and KV Sridhar aka Pops.
More recently, in January 2019, Leo Burnett remade this iconic campaign to celebrate the brand's overseas popularity.
As the industry mourns the passing of Rahul Bajaj, we take a look at the history of the iconic tagline 'Hamara Bajaj, through some memorable TVCs:
1989 version - the first Hamara Bajaj ad by Padamsee:
2001 version by R Balki that Pops wrote about in his book:
2019 version that Burnett created:
Another rendition of Hamara Bajaj, somewhere along the way:
Adman KV Sridhar aka Pops writes in his 2017 book '30 Second Thrillers':
Yet another legend that reflects the spirit of being an Indian and also goes on, to reflect a changed India are the Bajaj ads. The campaign, "Buland Bharat ki Buland Tasveer" hit the screen in 1989, riding on the idea of a "family vehicle" for Indians. It was still the pre-liberalization era and forging a nationalistic identity in a campaign was quite common. The umbrella branding served its purpose, with just a couple of two wheelers (Bajaj Super and Chetak) being sold to Indian consumers. But as the times changed, the second commercial using the same line hit the air. But it was in 2001, that the "Hamara Bajaj - Naya Hai Kal" commercial reflected a strategic shift. The second Hamara Bajaj was a metaphor to many things, from scooters to bikes, from Rahul Bajaj to Rajeev Bajaj, from Doordarshan to Satellite TV and from the old India to a more globalized India.
It was back in the time when Hero Honda had managed to change the trend from scooters to bikes with the CD-100 campaign, "Fill it - Shut it - Forget it" that had caught the imagination of the country, as it was built around the aspect of fuel efficiency. Before Hero Honda, the image of a bike equaled a ride for he macho-man and the likes of Ryal Enfield, Jawa and Yezdi were associated with it. But with the advent of Hero Honda, the perception changed to "a fuel efficient bike for a family man". This also led to the transition from scooters like Bajaj Chetak, Vespa and Lambretta to bikes, which resulted in the good-old scooter taking a backseat in sales, utility and image. This called for a need for Bajaj to re-connect with its customers.
The ambition was to do "Hamara Bajaj” again. I was fortunate that I saw it shaping up as a team member. Rajeev Bajaj’s vision was associated with it. He wanted to release second Hamara Bajaj at a time when he had fabulous bikes to offer. He wanted to use that to connect with the younger audience. The objective was to connect with the shift; from scooters to bikes. Secondly, he did not want to harp on mileage like the others because he felt, that somehow, the “fuel efficiency” aspect was robbing one of the “pride of riding a bike”.
With the release of the second Hamara Bajaj, he also wanted to introduce his new portfolio of bikes which included Pulsar and Wind, and their capacity from 100 cc to 110-125 cc. In the process, they also invented a fabulous engineering marvel for India called — DTSI technology, which had two spark plugs in the engine. It thus provided both, power and fuel efficiency. Which meant one could get the best of both the worlds. The idea was of giving importance to the pleasure of riding viz-a-viz mileage.
But amidst all this they did not want to forget their roots, the task was to continue to build on the national pride of Bajaj; adding a flavor which made it relevant for youngsters. Based on this launch pad of need, R. Balki and I began discussing with the team on what could be done. In the discussion, the thought that surfaced was “however much we might have changed and bought new bikes etc. ... the core of our heart remains the same”. This was true for Bajaj too. They might have come up with a new age, cutting-edge technology. They might have introduced new bikes and they also had a leader in Rajeev Bajaj, but their heart remained the same. We anchored onto this insight and then, we began picking up real life cues that resonated with our insight. And we observed that the young might wear a Michael Jackson tee, listen to pop music and converse in English but when they visit their grandmother, they touch her feet. You may ride a suave of bike and may have studied abroad yet, when you see an idol of God you stop and pay your respect. This observation reflected both; the change and the unchangeable Indianness.
Based on this observation, we decided to make an ad- one which was a collage of change and Indianness fused together. The ad said just one thing. We are evolving but our roots are intact and this was depicted beautifully in montages, which showed young people on bikes going through instances, where their respect for their culture; for India and their values are evident. We began with scribbling down the probable scenes that would depict what we intend to communicate. The first visual that came to our mind was when we see a temple or a place of worship and even if we are on our bike riding, we take a break and pay our respects. Then Balki came up with the observation that when accidentally, our feet touches someone, we ask for forgiveness and do a small hand movement. We morphed this action and used it at a bike stand for the ad.
One more instance we included was when a Sikh boy marries a foreigner and they go to Gurudwara and she covers her head with a dupatta. This we shot in Amritsar. Yet another insight Balki came up with, was women guarding their bindis in rains, as a bindi washing off of is considered inauspicious. We shot this particular scene at Marine Drive and created artificial rain for the scene. We showed a girl riding her bike in rain, but stops the vehicle and guards her forehead to save her bindi from getting smudged. Yet another visual we included was of two bikers, changing the course of their ride to save a beautifully made Rangoli. Whenever you see a Rangoli, especially in the South, where women make rangoli everyday, one doesn’t want to spoil it even if it is in your way.
These visuals came together and resulted in a vivacious collage, which was shot across the country from Punjab to Kerala to Chennai to Mumbai - to give it a pan-India feel. The track we used was a similar one to the original, we just added a twist with modern musical instruments. Rajat Dholakia aka Juku did the track. The ad, once released, became a rage and completely repositioned Bajaj, bringing it closer to the young generation. It was a film with which, both, Rajeev Bajaj and Balki weren’t fully convinced. I had kept pushing them and it had turned out to be a huge success. The idea had germinated quite a while ago, but Rajeev kept it on hold, saying let’s wait for the right portfolio of bikes to come about from the house of Bajaj. I truly believe that his vision and timing was absolutely correct. As for Balki, despite his view, he still managed to ghost direct the film with full passion. Kudos to both of them.