Former senior principal correspondent at Forbes (India). Since 2008, I have been writing on corporate strategy in the automobiles, clean technology and supply chain space. Before I got onto this assignment, I was part of the team that covered feature articles at The Economic Times. I actually started out as a trainee journalist on the ET desk in 2006. I graduated in commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce in New Delhi and now live in Mumbai. I love automobiles and spend hours reading up on them and then devote painfully long hours to work on old cars that attract my fancy. Right now I own four cars (my colleagues call them fancy, junk or whatever) and a bicycle which outside my work hours get most of my attention.
Almost a decade after the Pulsar was launched, Bajaj Auto has launched its new variant. The new bike is called the Pulsar 200 NS. NS stands for naked sports, with the engine displacement of 200 cc. Bajaj would have you know that the company has incorporated learnings in the last decade to make this bike. At the press conference Rajiv Bajaj, the company’s managing director drew parallels between the genesis of the Pulsar and the Porsche. Just as the legendary Italian automaker Dr Ferdinand Porsche built his first car because what he wanted was not available in the market, so it was for the Pulsar. Up until 1997-98, commuter bikes dominated Indian roads and there were no sports bikes in the market. The Pulsar came in and shook things up for everyone.
Fair enough. So what’s different about the new bike? For a start the styling. Much like the KTM 200 which was launched by Bajaj last week. The 200 NS has a centrally located muffler which means the long exhaust on the side is history. There’s also the Nitrox mono suspension. Abraham Joseph, Bajaj’s head of research & development said that nothing of the old Pulsar has been carried forward in this new bike. Now Joe is a great guy. I mean how many people in the corporate world do you know who would use the word ‘kickass’ at a press conference? Joe does and makes quite an impression.
Okay, Joe made a point that the 200 NS will have a kickass performance without compromising on the fuel efficiency. The question is how? The bike’s power rating is 23.52 PS @ 9500 rpm. Torque is 18.3 Nm @ 8000 rpm. Bajaj’s biggest selling point here seems to be what the company calls Triple Spark engine. So a DTS-i as the name suggests has two spark plugs. The 200 NS will have three. The company claims that this will help in better combustion, which means no wastage of power-- and consequently better fuel economy and good performance.
Now let me make a small point here. I remember, Mr. Bajaj passionately explaining the DTS-I technology to us sometime last year. Launched in 2003, while DTS-i was a step forward in technology development, it worked for Bajaj because it was easy to sell to customers. You could point at competition and say; that guy has just one spark plug, I have got two. This set the customer thinking that well the Pulsar is better because it has got one more spark plug. Is the triple spark technology the same idea carried forward? I think so. I also like the fact that in branding terminology, DTS-i=DTS-i (Twin=Triple). Nice.
Joe spent some time explaining the product and his description should help sum it up; ‘you need to ride it to believe it’, ‘better handling and high speed stability’, ‘water cooled’, ‘0-60 in 3.1 seconds’ and ‘carburetor fuel system for now, fuel injection will come later depending on the demand and price customers are willing to pay’. It was interesting to see that every little improvement on the new Pulsar that the company talked about was compared with the bike from its own stable, the Pulsar 220. Were there any pulsar 220 owners in that room? I wonder how they felt.
Anyway, Mr. Bajaj explained why the Pulsar means so much to the company. The brand has to be kept pure so that it is unmistakable when you see one. Obviously it has to be profitable which means it has got to have pricing power. Third, it is all about strategy. Pulsar is the center of gravity of Bajaj Auto today. Just like the Chetak used to be. “If the Pulsar goes wrong then all at Bajaj goes wrong,” he added.
The Pulsar 200 NS will be on sale starting April 2012. For under Rs. 1 lakh. The KTM 200 already is at a price of Rs. 1. 17 lakh (ex showroomDelhi). Both bikes are manufactured at Bajaj Auto’s Chakan plant in Pune.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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