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The Return of JAWA

By: Anshu Sharma 
The Return of JAWA presents itself as an interesting event for marketers and other market observers. The revival of the legend, its story going forward, and the response of competitors will not only be an interesting story to follow for the biking community, but will also be an educative case study for students of marketing. Fierce competitive dynamics are a part and parcel of the market economics, however, this scenario definitely promises to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller. We are about to witness a direct competition between two ‘cult’ brands, JAWA and Royal Enfield (RE), both capable of invoking very strong emotions in their customer segments. 
Historical background
Founded in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1929 by František Janeček, JAWA was first introduced to the Indian markets in the 1960s, with a production facility in Mysore. Sold under the brand names of Jawa and Yezdi, the brand quickly acquired a cult status which extends even in the present day, 23 years after they stopped production in 1996. It was only very recently, in 2016, that Mahindra & Mahindra, through its subsidiary Classic Legends Private Limited (CLPL), acquired the license to sell motorbikes under the JAWA brand. Now as per the latest, CLPC is coming out with the launch of three introductory models of Jawa. 
What makes it even more interesting is the fact that Anupam Thareja, Founder of CLPL, was also instrumental in reviving the then struggling Royal Enfield brand in India. So, he definitely knows a thing or two about reviving cult brands in the Indian market. 
A Branding Lesson
Mahindra launching Jawa through its subsidiary without attaching the M&M brand name in itself is an interesting study into the nuances of branding. Mahindra has been known to produce ‘rugged’ all terrain utility vehicle, which partly is in synergy with the Jawa brand promise. However, Mahindra’s lack of noticeable presence in the ‘bike’ segment, let alone the premium bikes, might have resulted in the dilution of the Jawa brand. The Mahindra’s seem to have understood the DNA of the Jawa brand and have rightly decided not to tinker with the same. Similar to how Maruti after much efforts to try and build a presence in the premium car segment, finally made peace with its mass market value for money positioning and gave shape to Nexa in order to fulfil their premium aspirations. 
Indian Premium Motorcycles
Market Growing at a much faster pace than the overall bike segment, the Indian premium motorcycle (bikes priced above Rs. 1 lakh) crossed the 1 million unit annual sales mark in 2018. Growth of this segment has been primarily driven by Royal Enfield, which sold more than 8 lakh units in the last fiscal. Premium motorcycle segment currently occupies only 5% of the total Indian bike market, however, consumer preference is increasingly moving towards larger and more powerful bikes. 
The Cult brands fighting it out
At the onset, it will be unfair to classify this as a battle solely between Jawa and Royal Enfield, however, it will be fair to say that amongst the many other battles that ensue, this will be the most keenly watched battle. After all, it is not very often that you see two cult brands battling out in the marketplace for consumer mindshare and wallet share.  
Similar Looks
Just one look at the two bikes and one cannot but notice the uncanny similarities between the two. Both bikes boast of a sturdy frame, round headlights, curvy fuel tanks, identical analogue instrument cluster, telescopic fork, and a flash of shiny chrome, giving them a mix of retro cum urban-modern look.  
It’ll be interesting to see if the drive also feels similar. Does Jawa also have a signature “Dug Dug” which has become synonymous with the Royal Enfield?  
Like to like
While the jury is still out, AUTOCAR in a like to like comparison between Jawa 42 and Royal Enfield Classic 350, the most popular Royal Enfield model, has given a thumbs-up to the Jawa 42 in terms of the overall price to feature comparison.  
 While the Jawa 42 lags behind in terms of engine capacity, it still manages to generate better horse power and the same level of torque when compared with the RE Classic. Though interestingly, Jawa has not revealed the RPM at which it generates this torque. RE Classic generating 28Nm at 4,000rpm is a significant feature giving it superior acceleration, it is still not clear how the Jawa 42 fares on this aspect.  
A superior power to weight ratio, because of being lighter by 22Kg, an additional gear, and a fuel gauge add weight to the Jawa 42 in this head-on bull fight. However it misses out on brake performance and affordability.  
In short, we can safely assume that the Jawa 42 is slightly ahead on paper. However, this is just battle half won. We have seen multiple cases of superior product losing out in the market because of various reasons, haven’t we? 
So, let’s start with the scoring: 
                                                   (Jawa : 1 Royal Enfield : 0) 
Execution will be key While Jawa might have inched ahead of the RE in terms of product specifications, it is important to remember the other marketing P’s at play in this war of the legends. Royal Enfield with its already established consumer base, and a strong dealership network will be a tough nut to crack. Their sales & service network engine is working smoothly and that has led to soaring sales and a build-up of a thoroughly loyal customer base. This is where it remains to be seen whether CLPL can match up to what RE has already achieved. 
What works for the JAWA is the presence of Anupan Thareja who will bring a lot to the table from is RE days, and the big brother in Mahindra who will be gunning behind the Jawa with all its execution muscle and deep pockets. It will be surprising if with this kind of pedigree if CLPL fails to match-up or even exceed RE in the execution game. 
We can for now safely list the score as of now as: 
                                                 (Jawa : 1 Royal Enfield : 1) 
To Conclude
We can do endless analysis on paper and try and pick a winner, however, the real battle is elsewhere. This game is not going to be played on features, performance or value for money, but in the hearts of the customers. It is a well-known fact that the RE doesn’t boast of the best of features in the premium bike segment, however the kind of cult following it has generated is an object of envy for all its competitors. 
Both Jawa and RE occupy similar spaces in the minds of the consumers. It is very likely that Jawa with an element of novelty and nostalgia might take away some share from the RE in the initial stages. However, what happens next will largely be determined by the experience that CLPL can create with the brand. It should not be viewed as a ‘utility’ purchase, but more as an ‘emotional’ purchase. Product is just one element of this experience. Anupam and team have a very heavy load of expectations riding on their shoulders. Will they be able to truly revive the brand? Only time will tell, till then let’s ready the popcorn and enjoy this duel.