Rajiv Bajaj: Rajiv Bajaj bets on BET, Bajaj-Enfield-TVS, to succeed in EV battle for market share

Rajiv Bajaj: Rajiv Bajaj bets on BET, Bajaj-Enfield-TVS, to succeed in EV battle for market share

Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj predicts the legacy two-wheeler makers like his own company to do better than the startups in the emerging electric vehicle segment.

Startups that have lately sprung up in the electric two-wheeler space have taken a lead against incumbents, at least in the social media network.

“I would bet on BET,” he said on Thursday, while unveiling the new range of 250cc Pulsar motorcycles. By BET, the MD of the largest two-wheeler exporter from India referred to Bajaj Auto, Enfield and


He called the incumbents champions, because they have a proven track record and they adapt to change.

“Because they are champions, they have a track record — there are two things which are very clear. Champions eat OATS for breakfast — Ola, Ather, Tork and SmartE. ‘Picture abhi baaki hai,’ I will say,” he said wittingly.

In a sporting response, electric scooter maker Ather Energy’s cofounder, Tarun Mehta, tweeted: “Must say, the OATS and BET acronyms by Rajiv Bajaj made my day today. Smiling face with open mouth and smiling eyes. Never a dull moment in this industry.”

Bajaj said later that he has “enormous respect” for startups like Ola. “But we still have to see them produce something and sell something.

Citing Charles Darwin, the English naturalist known for his contributions in the science of evolution, Bajaj said: “It is not the most intelligent or the strongest of the species that survive, but the ones who are most adaptive to change.”

“Competitors have come, the marketplace has changed, we would like to emphasise that not only this market, but the global market is changing. What is the sign of a champion in the automotive industry, is that you adapt, not one or two or three years, it is a 75-year-old company — it has adapted over and over again — overcoming challenges around scooters, motorcycles, changing regulations, or electric vehicle subsidy,” explained Bajaj.

Unlike homegrown car makers, Bajaj said, the Indian two-wheeler makers have battled all the four Japanese two-wheeler makers present here very successfully. In the above-150cc sports motorcycle space, Bajaj Auto, Enfield and TVS Motor account for 70-80% of the market among them, he said.

“The good Indian two-wheeler companies are not really as lightweight as some of the startups think that we are. If we launch a motorcycle in October, you will get in November, for some they launch in 2021, you will get in 2022 — that is the startup way. From a company perspective, their business model is a cash burn model, our business model is a cash flow model. We have to make sure that we make money when we sell the motorcycles,” added Bajaj.

Acknowledging the startups, Bajaj said he respects them. The biggest one is Ola at present, but one is yet to see the company produce or sell something, he added.

There is Ather, who Bajaj said he “enormously respects because they have demonstrated their capabilities”. Ather is founded by Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, and two-wheeler market leader Hero MotoCorp holds a 34.6% stake in it.

In Pune, there is Tork Motorcycles and SmartE, a three-wheeler company, which again have made progress in the EV space.

Of late, several automakers in India, including Bajaj Auto, have approved incorporation of wholly owned subsidiaries to venture into manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles.

At Bajaj Auto, the subsidiary incorporated in July this year will aim to leverage the growth opportunity in the evolving mobility space and enable the potential of monetisation from the fast-evolving electric vehicle space.

Bajaj Auto currently produces around 1,000 units a month of the Chetak EV scooter, for which the waiting period stretches up to 4-5 months. The company can potentially produce 5,000 units a month, but an acute supply shortage of chips has affected production. The company sells the Chetak in eight cities currently and is likely to increase the retail presence to 30 cities in the next few months.

In the high-end electric motorcycle segment, the company is already working with KTM to develop a couple of products. In December 2020, Bajaj Auto had announced an investment of Rs 650 crore towards setting up a manufacturing plant in Pune which would also produce electric vehicles.

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