Ashish Joshi, CEO of Classic Legends, which recently launched the Jawa brand in India with three models – Jawa, the Jawa Forty Two and Jawa Perak – speaks to Sumantra B Barooah about the India market strategy, creating a new service paradigm, taking on Royal Enfield and other midsized players, and why he is bullish about the value-conscious Indian consumer.
What are the three key pillars on which the whole strategy is based upon?
The key one is product. I wouldn’t put an order to them but brand, product and our ability to deliver what the brand promises with the product. These are the three things. The third one is an intertwined thing. There is a brand promise that the brand Jawa makes. The product has to deliver that.
Can you give us some insights into the strategy that you have to build it from here on? How do you plan to do that?
It is built on a very sound product strategy. We intend to keep adding motorcycles and engine platforms into that product mix. I am a motorcyclist and I have been riding motorcycles for about 30 years. During this period, I had graduated from a smaller size to a bigger size and rode all around the world. It has given me certain perspective as to what we want from a motorcycle – ‘Are you looking for absolute performance? Are you looking for character from a motorcycle? How does it develop power? How does it accelerate?’
We figured out that in the classic segment or the retro segment, people are looking for mid-range performance, mid-range torque and good low-end torque. And that is what we have aimed to do with this motorcycle and its engine. We will keep evolving and move higher in terms of engine size or in terms of what we want in that engine. That is what we will keep looking at. So, essentially we are always going to be hearing the customer’s voice and then derive what we want out of that.
In terms of the retro design and the price positioning, the Jawa is pitted right against the Royal Enfield Classic. As a brand, how are you going to take on Royal Enfield, since it has a cult following here?
I wouldn’t necessarily see it as taking on. We have priced the machine at the price point that we found out to be right. This mid-range motorcycle is designed to be within the reach of most people’s price bracket. As far as our path is concerned, the Jawa brand stands for something different. It is as different from its contemporaries today as it was in the 1950s and 1960s. We will provide an authentic Jawa experience through the product, the service, and through the showroom.
Other than hardcore Jawa fans, a customer could choose either Royal Enfield or a third alternative option.
Absolutely, the customer will. It’s all about giving another option and more choice. So in that market, Jawa creates another choice. That is all it is.
What is the Jawa brand promise? Why should one choose a Jawa over a Royal Enfield?
I will answer the second one first. I would say, ‘Just ride both and see’. There was a line that somebody was throwing at me and that line was, ‘It chooses you’. It got me thinking about the choices I had made while buying a motorcycle. I always thought that I had chosen the motorcycle, but it had really been the other way. The choice of a motorcycle is almost instinctive as you sit on it, it chooses you. It so seamlessly fits into you that it just moulds itself as a part of your own body, your own personality. When you first take a ride and say, ‘Man, this is for me,’ then that is the thing that most consumers would want. If they choose it or don’t, that is going to be the case.
The brand promise of Jawa is all about authentic experiences. It is all about creating relevant experiences and what those experiences mean. It means that you walk into a showroom and the way you get treated, the way your bike is handled, the way you get delivery of the machine, the way the showroom looks, the way they treat you. That is part of the Jawa experience. In terms of service again, it is not just service with a smile, customer delight and all of that. It is all about doing something extra. It is all about saying, ‘Hey, we will do this for you.’ It is about treating consumers with respect. As the showrooms and workshops open, people will start experiencing what Jawa stands for. We have very stringent parameters about it and there can be no compromise.
At what run rate would you like to have new introductions?
More than the run rate, we need a range of bikes at the dealerships. A dealer cannot survive with just one model and multiple colours. A range is what attracts customers. A customer might come in looking for a Perak and might just walk away with a Jawa or a Jawa Forty Two. So it is all about choice creation. We want to have a portfolio which will enable the dealerships to become profitable.
The mid-size motorcycle segment in India and globally is turning out to be the most exciting segment in the two-wheeler market today. Even recently, we have seen big established players trying to go smaller. Harley with the Street, Triumph partnering with Bajaj, and BMW Motorrad with TVS. How do you see this mid-size motorcycle space evolving?
It is a very interesting segment. You look at all the players that you have named, trying to do things differently. When I look at that, all I see is that people are going into this segment for various reasons. Some of these international companies are coming to India to leverage lower manufacturing costs. Some of them are coming because they see that this segment is a large growth segment in India.
The key to this segment is affordability. I wouldn’t call India as price-conscious – it is value- conscious. What are you giving to an Indian consumer at that price? When I worked for international companies, the value consciousness was not as evident to them and hence got the pricing wrong in quite a few occasions. I don’t need to name them but you know quite a few companies who are not getting their pricing right. So that is the key there.
The value consciousness of the Indian consumer has to be respected. That is what we have got to do. Anybody who wants to come or is willing to come and set up in India has to be willing to make a motorcycle for the Indian consumer. If you want to adapt a European motorcycle for an Indian consumer, it may not work, not necessarily.
When do you expect Jawa to breakeven?
Classic Legends is well funded. The journey that we are on is not just about numbers but also about the emotions attached to the name Jawa. The journey that we are on is all about doing things in the way that reflects the Jawa brand. If we do all of that right, then all the numbers will stock themselves out automatically. I am not saying that we don’t respect those numbers. Of course, we have business plans. We have serious investors back in Classic Legends. But most importantly, we want to put out a product, put out an experience, put out a service out there which will be worthy of the Jawa brand.
What is the official name of the company now? And will BSA come in a year or two?
It is called Classic Legends Pvt Ltd. In this portfolio, it has got Jawa and BSA. We are going to be working on BSA as well. BSA comes out for the international markets, but not for India. We will come to India with BSA at a certain stage, say in another year or two, but it is more relevant in the international sites for now while Jawa is more relevant for India now.
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