Saturday, December 12, 2009

Brand Update : Pulsar

Pulsar- the blockbuster brand from Bajaj has launched a new variant - Pulsar 135 LS. The new bike is a 135 CC 4 valve DTSI engine that delivers a power of 13.5 ps. The bike is being positioned as a light sport bike and the company aims to create a new category of ' light sport' bike in the Indian market. Pulsar 135LS is priced at around Rs 51,000.

Pulsar, when launched in the Indian market in 2001 changed the fortunes of Bajaj Auto. With its " Definitely Male " positioning and superior performance, the bike crafted a segment of ' performance bike' in the Indian market. Even after all these years, Pulsar has maintained significant leadership in the 150CC + market.

The launch of a less powered " light Pulsar" was a surprise to me. Why would a company stretch a performance bike downward into the executive segment ? Pulsar was having three models in the performance bike segment 150CC, 180cc and 220 cc. All these bikes were premium bikes and had similar chunky masculine look with exceptional performance.

There can be two reasons for the downward stretch for this brand. According to reports, Bajaj wants to create a new sports category in the executive segment. The company feels that there is a segment of consumers who want a commuter sports bike and Pulsar will fit the bill.

Another larger reason is the volume game. Bajaj so far has not been able to break the leadership position of Hero Honda either in the Executive segment or in the commuter segment. The experiments on Discover and XCD so far has not been successful in displacing Hero Honda. Since Pulsar have an excellent brand equity, it is easy to leverage it for the sake of volume.

Whether 135 LS will be successful or not depends heavily on the bike's performance. But I am sure that the premium positioning and equity of Pulsar will take a hit with the launch of this lighter version. The new 135 LS is not a Pulsar but something in between XCD and Pulsar 150.

In news reports, the company officials had commented that customers doesn't look at CCs while making purchase, they look at brands. But launching a lighter version of a performance bike is not going to boost the equity of the parent brand. On the contrary , if the lighter version fails in the performance, it will have an effect on the equity of the parent brand. Secondly if the lighter version works well, why should one go and buy the larger version ?

Pulsar 135 LS also cannibalizes the existing models of Bajaj Discover and XCD in the executive segment and there is a possibility of any of these brands being withdrawn from the market.

Pulsar 135 LS is a high risk brand from Bajaj. In the search for volumes, the company is risking one of its best brands in the line of fire. On one hand the brand is being stretched downwards and on the other hand, the parent brand is neglected. Except for occasional ads, Pulsar was never aggressively promoted these days. Taglines keep on changing and share of voice is very very minimal for Pulsar.
The only solace for Pulsar is that so far no brand has been able to match the standards set by this brand. But having no competition does not mean that one can mess up a brand.

Related Brand
Bajaj Pulsar


  1. Have they gone mad? How are they gonna position this product? With all the musculine looks inherited from Pulsar, who wud b Pulsar Lite's TG?

    These will be the questions in everybody's mind while watching the TVCs and news prints. And the bike's price is a major disadvantage while considering the executive segment. Reminds me of Bajaj's last product launch 2 months before. Kawasaki Ninja was one of the first superbikes assembled in India, but the whopping price tag of 3 lakhs was criticised at every review, message boards or discussion forums. Everybody were pointing out the fact that it is too overpriced for a 250 CC bike where Pulsar 220 was available for one fourth of that price.

    In this case, the chances of Bajaj tasting the failure again are on the higher side. Not only the price, but the perception about Pulsar original will also be an issue. Hope the branding be apt unlike in the case of Kinetic Blaze. All eyes on the marketing campaigne!!

  2. The success or failure of the new bike will definately have the same effect on the parent brand, but it needs to be seen whether it tastes success or not. After all its the volume game that bajaj is looking forward.

  3. I thinks Bajaj's decision to launch Pulsar 135cc is a competitive move. Honda has recently launched CB Twister 110CC. Honda's brand CB is globally acclaimed. The bike has killing looks. In India the 110-135 CC segment is huge, as the consumer is highly economy conscious. Honda has made its move by launching a product in this segment with its most successful brand. After the success of Unicorn, Honda is looking for a similar story in other segment (110-135cc). It has been exploring this segment with bikes like shine and stunner, but they have been unsuccessful.

    Honda has strong potential to challenge Bajaj's position. Bajaj is highly conscious of Honda's moves in the 110-135CC segment. Launch of CB brand in 110CC segment might have alerted Bajaj, and they might have decided to fight this with their best weapon "Pulsar". However this might be a highly risky move. Knowing its current positioning, it will be a challenge to position Pulsar in 135CC. Pulsar 135CC will also cannibalize "Discover" which is another successful Brand. The move will also run a risk of damaging the parent brand.

    Only time will tell if Bajaj has made a right move or not........

  4. I guess they have made the right move and it can be seen in my set of friends, the lower middle class college goers who cannot afford a 65K 150cc pulsar. This offering will help them to cherish their aspirations to own a pulsar. They are already waiting for the bike to be launched! Brand dilution and cannibalization is fine but the bottom line is business...only the brand 'Pulsar' has worked for Bajaj after the legendary 'Chetak' and they are milking it to the extent possible.


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