Jawa's Stumble: A Disappointing Journey in the Indian Market

Mahindra's tryst in the two wheeler segment has been a struggle from the start.

BHPian shortbread recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

There's been a lot of promise in Mahindra's Classic Legends unit since the 2018 Jawa launch, followed by the Yezdi bikes more than a year ago. Targeting a segment that was monopolised by RE, the new entrant had everything going for it. The financial and industrial muscle of Mahindra, the following/nostalgia related to the Jawa/Yezdi brands, customers yearning for an alternative/competition..... in all ways this was a plan too good to fail.

They had a product to walk the talk as well, an impressive debut motorcycle at that as well, more technically modern than competition at the time, coupled with near perfect retro looks, the audience was convinced. The take-off was impressive too, a loud launch, superfast showroom launches many right next to RE showrooms, bookings in the tens of thousands, huge order backlogs and waiting periods..... one couldn't have scripted a better start.

Fast forward 3 years and Classic Legends remains a disappointing and miniscule presence in the Indian two wheeler space. In a country that sells more than a million two wheelers every month, CL scrapes the barrel with a piddly 3k approx. units monthly. Even if one uses the premium product argument lets not forget RE sells 19-20 times the motorcycles a month.

To make matters tougher there's more new 300+ cc competition in the horizon, HD/Hero, Bajaj/Triumph and not to forget RE's own line-up of single cylinder liquid cooled bikes.

Mahindra's tryst in the two wheeler segment has been a struggle from the start. Firstly the Kinetic take over, then the purchase (and sale) of controlling stake in Peugeot two wheelers and now the way forward looks unclear for it's latest venture Classic Legends. Nonetheless some plans have been discussed including increasing showroom footprint, rumours of a new electric bike plus the impending launch of the BSA brand. Perhaps third time lucky!

Here's what BHPian commonman had to say on the matter:

To be truthful, Jawa pricing and delivery was a flop from the beginning. Even in second hand markets, Jawa bike have high depreciation. At the same time RE had kept it's value. Yezdi also going in the same route as Jawa . The NVH levels in these bikes also makes one question the build quality. Just because we loved Jawa bikes in the yester years doesn't mean that people will take up anything.

My view point.

Here's what BHPian IronHide had to say on the matter:

They started out with a lot of promise and they did have decent products to begin with. The Jawa Classic and 42 were well sorted products and the Mojo engine was a gem in its own right. The Yezdi offerings are also competent motorcycles, and quite reliable at that. What they should have done was to maybe disrupt the market initially a la Jio ; by providing bikes initially at cut throat prices and selling a huge number of them so that there is increased visibility of their products. Once the general motorcycling public is aware of the product, and the curiosity of the customer is piqued, more footfalls in the showrooms would be a given.

However they failed to do that also the fact that they could not meet the demand that was generated in the beginning led to very short recall in the mind of the consumer - out of sight, out of mind !

Some suggestions that may help the brand move forward .

Strengthen the brand image: Classic Legends should focus on strengthening its brand image by creating a clear brand identity and communicating it effectively through marketing and advertising campaigns. This could include emphasizing the company's heritage, promoting the quality of its products, and highlighting the unique features of its motorcycles. Also taking a leaf out of RE's playbook here, Classic Legends needs to invest commitedly into apparel and merchandise, thereby building a brand image and increasing visibility. A funky helmet that screams Yezdi will improve brand visibility, a stylish, utilitarian (& affordable) jacket with the right kind of branding strategically placed, will go a long way in strengthening brand recall !

Expand the product range: They should look into expanding its product range to attract a wider customer base. This could include introducing new models with different engine capacities or styles, or offering customization options for customers to personalize their bikes. The 650 single from BSA could be a good start. Maybe even get a larger capacity V-Twin, & plonk it different bodystyles - adventure tourer, cruiser, scrambler, sport tourer, classic.

Expand The Dealer/ Sales / Service Network: RE has significant presence in every town whether it is Tier-2 or 3. There are more than one showroom even in small towns. This directly translate into greater visibility and hence sales. Classic Legends needs to put down money on expansion of their dealer network. More the selling points, greater the sales and better the visibility, leading to even better sales.

Improve the quality and reliability of the products: Though the initial products were of a high quality and definitely better than their RE counterparts in terms of initial quality, Classic Legends should continue to prioritize improving the quality and reliability of its products to enhance customer satisfaction and reduce warranty claims. This would involve investing in better manufacturing processes and quality control measures, as well as sourcing higher-quality and reliable components. They could take a leaf out of Honda's best practices playbook here.

Focus on after-sales service: After-sales service is where RE trumps other manufacturers and this has not come about in a day. To build customer loyalty and promote repeat business, RE put in concerted efforts over the years and this has paid off. This involves improving the availability of spare parts, offering warranty extensions, and investing in customer service training for staff - and Classic Legends should learn a lesson or two from them here.

Embrace innovation: Getting their hands on latest technology and innovation in the motorcycle industry oughtn't be too hard. We already have examples of successful and profitable collaboration between homegrown automakers and their foreign counterparts ( Hero-Honda, Kawasaki-Bajaj, Bajaj-KTM, TVS-Suzuki, TVS-BMW & now Bajaj-Triumph). This would bring in research and development to develop new technologies or features that differentiate their motorcycles from its competitors

Here's what BHPian Nilesh5417 had to say on the matter:

I think there are 3 key factors and you need to get atleast 2 of them right to get footfalls. Am not even getting into after sales for now.

  • Disruptive product with a strong USP
  • Disruptive pricing
  • Strong brand pull & recall

They had a strong brand to rely on atleast and they failed to make that stick. I agree with Ironhide, they could have been in a much better position if they had kept the momentum on brand building. It's not as if they didn't have the money, they just didn't have a clear long term strategy.

They launched the ADV and it just fizzled out inspite of being a good one cause the fit n finish had the same issues as the Jawa 42. Surprising that they didn't learn that lesson.

Every brand wants to take on RE and that ain't going to happen if you don't prepare to slug it out for a very long time. Esp not with this RE management - they have found their mojo! It's probably easier to do your own thing and build your own brand than try to claw at RE. If you have a good product there is room for you.

Here's what BHPian shancz had to say on the matter:

The issues revolving around Classic Legends have been explained well so I can only add one point where they missed IMO.

They were hitting a market ruled and benchmarked by Royal Enfield so to capture their customers the products had to be decidedly superior and better instead they ended up with similar products with minor differences which isn't enough to sway customers. Making matters worse was their delivery delays, quality issues and dealer network.

What if they would've developed a 450cc liquid cooled engine and introduced their Roadster, Scrambler and Adventure lineup with it ? IMO that single factor would've also covered up a lot of other issues for which they could've got enough time and revenue to resolve.

Here's what BHPian DeadCentre had to say on the matter:

Their products have no soul.

This is where Mahindra and CL have gone wrong. RE was doing well back when they had unreliable bikes with a 1 year waiting period. Their bikes have soul.

We all dream of the Jawas and Yezdis of yore. The bikes, not the brand logos. While the Mojo engine is a great engine, a twin exhaust single pot engine cannot be a Yezdi engine and just looking like a Yezdi will never be enough. Enthusiasts consciously or sub-consciously always go for soul and at these price points, no one is making a completely rational ROI decision. So what's your USP? Is it good enough to tug at someone's desires? If not, is it a marvel of engineering like my soulless eleven year old CBR250 was? My 55 year old uncle had a Yezdi back in college and it is still his weekend ride. He'll tell you about soul. Can you imagine holding one of the current CLs for that long?

The BSA Goldstar is a single pot 650. The Brits will love it since their enthusiasts have had access to all the cylinders they've ever needed for the longest time and this is fresh. I could be wrong but my sense is that it will fall flat on its face if it ever comes here. It sells at a higher price overseas than the Interceptor and that will just not fly here. Us Indian enthusiasts have had our fill of single cylinders and we want more at accessible price points. Until then by 3 month old CGT will have to do and it has a decades worth of soul for sure.

CL needs to really think long and hard. They got really close with the bobber and that actually had me thinking for a while but they need to do more.

Read BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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