For the first time, Bajaj Auto will take on Royal Enfield in the premium motorcycle market, with the launch of the 400-cc Pulsar next month and CNBC-TV18 reports this launch will only be the first salvo in what promises to be a long battle.
The country's two most profitable motorcycle makers are playing a game of chicken with each other.
For the first time, Bajaj Auto will take on Royal Enfield in the premium motorcycle market, with the launch of the 400 cc Pulsar next month and CNBC-TV18 reports this launch will only be the first salvo in what promises to be a long battle.
"A lot of times Siddharth (Lal) has seen my motorcycle even before my board has,” says Bajaj Auto’s Rajiv Bajaj. To this, Lal, MD and CEO of Eicher Motors, acknowledges, saying, "I have many friends in the industry."
But even as the two may be friends, that does not mean either of them will go easy when they go head-to-head for dominance in the premium motorcycle market - considered as bikes with an engine capacity of at least 300 cc.
Bajaj's answer to Royal Enfield's successful 410-cc Himalayan motorcycle is a 400 cc Pulsar that will hit Indian roads in September and that marks Bajaj's foray into the segment. And it won't be the last.
CNBC-TV18 learns that Bajaj is concentrating on two segments in the premium category -- the 300-350 cc segment and the 450-550 cc segment -- both of which are the pillars of Royal Enfield's growth strategy.
"Our ambition is to be the world's number one motorcycle maker in the medium duty segment over the next 10 years," Lal says.
But for Rajiv Bajaj, entering these new categories is just the next step in a growth strategy that's been playing out for a while.
Bajaj already enjoys a dominant share of the market in the sports category, and believes it has the brand power to scale up the value chain. Bajaj believes this will not be tough, since this will be a battle of technology versus heritage.
"Siddharth and team Eicher have done a commendable job with Royal Enfield. Bajaj has a market share of 35 percent in the sports segment whereas Royal Enfield has a share of 25 percent. We need to grow that. Bajaj's technology is new whereas Royal Enfield is old, “ Rajiv Bajaj says.
Royal Enfield, meanwhile, is not sitting around waiting for Bajaj to gain any momentum. Sources say the company has initiated an engine development programme focused on lower emissions and higher mileage for both existing and new models. So don't be surprised if you find that neither bike-maker will go gentle into that good night.