Bajaj Auto stopped the production of Chetak in 2005 and exited the scooter business in 2009 in order to focus on motorcycles. 14 years hence, the home-grown two-wheeler maker has given the classic scooter an electric makeover — Chetak Electric.
The company initially plans to sell the new Chetak in Pune and Bengaluru. It also intends to export the model to various relevant markets in Europe starting next year.
At a time when the government is pushing companies to work on electric and hybrid vehicles, Bajaj Auto is the first traditional company to enter into this segment. The electric scooter market is still in its nascent stage and includes startups such as Ather Energy and Okinawa Scooters. Will it be easier for Bajaj to capture a bigger slice of the local electric scooter market in India?
Auto expert, Tutu Dhawan opines, “I don’t think this is going to be the ultimate technology for the future as there are as many negatives attached to this. Firstly, our country is not a power surplus. Secondly, where are you going to dispose off the toxic residue of used batteries and lastly, you are still chewing up natural resources such as cobalt, nickel and coal to run this technology.”
“Keeping all these points in mind, the manufacturer who can give a near perfect EV option with ease of maintenance and give the right range in one charge is going to be the winner,” he adds.
Sharing the same opinion is, Vineet Handa, founder and chief executive officer, Kaizzen, who says, “One would assume that the nostalgia and emotions attached with Bajaj's famous scooter — Chetak, makes it easier to capture a bigger slice of the local electric scooter market, however I differ.”
“To compare it to the relaunch of Jawa Bikes, although brand enthusiasts and loyalists flocked to purchase the bike, eventually the excitement died down, which could also be the scenario for Bajaj Chetak Electric. Furthermore, Jawa and Bajaj Chetak are Gen Y products and do not cater to the needs of Gen X, therefore limiting their appeal to the youngest population of the world,” expresses Handa.
According to the company, the launch of the e-scooter doesn't indicate its comeback into the traditional scooter segment.
Bajaj has also flagged off the 'Chetak Electric Yatra' ride, which will start from New Delhi and head towards Pune, through several cities across Western India.
The nostalgic feeling associated with the Bajaj Chetak is especially high among people in their 40s and 50s. So, what approach the brand should adopt to create excitement among the audience?
Rajesh Sikroria, former-president BBDO India and co-founder, Pontem Integrated, points out, “Eventually, Bajaj will not be the only one in this race, hence marketing will play a very important role. They need to be clear on what they are selling and that will define their marketing approach. While Humara Bajaj 1.0 and 2.0 are remembered as key milestones in Indian advertising history, I am not sure if a Humara Bajaj 3.0 is the answer. Now that they have decided to call it Chetak, they need to re-interpret the relevance of Chetak in today’s context. But in the end, whatever the marketing strategies or budgets may be, electric vehicles need to be more practical, user-friendly and they need to look great.”
Handa adds, “Since Bajaj Chetak is a known yesteryear brand, their positioning needs to drastically change to appeal to the youth of the country. The brand will need to invest heavily on the marketing and PR front as even though it can ride high on the nostalgia wave initially, eventually the excitement will die down.”
Will the hype generated around the electric scooter change the market scenario in a certain way?
Ritesh Singh, co-founder, ARM Worldwide says, “I’m glad Bajaj has entered this segment. Generally, new technology is introduced and promoted by brands as it brings differentiation to disrupt the market. With Bajaj entering the electric scooter game, I am sure electric motorcyles will be around the corner as well, it is going to help all electric two wheeler players and the category will grow rapidly.”