Has Bajaj Lost Its Way?

Bajaj Pulsar was the epitome of a sports bike while I was a kid. The 150CC and later the 180CC Pulsar raised everyone’s heart with their appearance and power. No other Hero, Royal Enfield, LML, Kawasaki or any other bike came close to matching the style and performance of Pulsar 180.

Bajaj has always been the go-to sports bike for the Indian youth for the last 20 years. The original Pulsar and every Pulsar since then has been leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. The newest Pulsar, the NS 200 created a wave of euphoria among the Indian motorcycle enthusiasts in 2012. The Indian Youth wanted performance at a budget and the Pulsar NS 200 promised all of that. It was a huge sales success and put Bajaj on an even higher pedestal. Pulsar 200NS went on to become one of the most important motorcycles of the 21st century.

Still stuck in 2012

The Pulsar NS 200 was launched in 2012 and since then it has essentially remained the same albeit addition of FI and some minor upgrades. In that time the TVS Apache has gone from RTR 180 facelift to RTR 200 4V in 2016 to RR310 in 2017 to RTR 200FI with riding modes in 2019. Meanwhile, the Pulsar 200 NS could not even add LED headlights to the bike in 9 years.

YearBajajTVS
2012Pulsar 200NSTVS Apache RTR 180 Facelift
2016Apache RTR 200 4V
2017Pulsar NS 160Apache RR 310
2019Apache 200 4V with Riding Modes
2021Pulsar NS 125Working on RTR 310 and Zapellin R

Apache has improved leaps and bounds since 2012

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Meanwhile Pulsar NS 200 went from a futuristic looking machine in 2012 to an abomination

Strong Japanese Competition

Indian motorcycling market in 2012 was very different from what we have today. There were no foreign brands in the 200CC segment and thus it was very smooth sailing for Bajaj and TVS who enjoyed a lions share of the market capture in those days. Soon however Honda started to expand its wings after its breakup with Hero. Few years down the line the Japanese behemoths Yamaha and Suzuki started selling their bikes in the country.

The Pulsar 200 NS at this point found itself sandwiched between the more crazy and powerful KTM Duke 200 and better built Japanese 160CC machines that were more refined and had better features. The likes of FZs, Hornets and Gixxers came with refinement level that the Pulsar could never match. They were also better built and had more features like LED lights, better consoles etc. Meanwhile, KTM came up with another significant improvement in the Duke 200 leaving the Pulsar 200NS in its wake.

Diluting the brand

The biggest infuriation that I have with Bajaj is its mishandling of the Pulsar brand. What started off as a style and performance monster on a budget has been turned into an imposter. Bajaj has recently launched the Pulsar NS 125, yes you read that right. A NS 125!

What competed with Duke 200 and Apache 200 now competes with Honda Shine and Passion Pro such has been Pulsar’s downfall. Bajaj now uses it as a cash cow and is potentially killing it in the process. The company has remained at a standstill while the competition moved ahead. It seems to have given up on the R&D while only focussing on making whatever money it can before the Pulsar brand loses all its image.

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It’s like Apple launching an Rs 8K phone with mediocre quality and performance to appease to the masses. As soon as the company does that, it’s game over for it. No one would pay over Rs 1Lakh for its phone the moment it launches a sub Rs 10,000 phone. The image that Apple has created over a decade would turn into ash with the launch of a low range phone. This is how a premium brand operates. How a company of Bajaj’s size cannot comprehend that is beyond me!

As an owner of the 2012 Pulsar 200NS it pains to see the company free falling with no end in sight. There seems to be a lack of strong leadership in the company and everyone involved seems only interested in making as much money as they can before the brand goes belly up.

A million colour scheme changes, downsizing of the Pulsar brand and no R&D has turned the Pulsar brand into a joke: painful to watch as a motorcycle enthusiast and not even slightly funny!

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