If Hero MotoCorp’s most recent jaw-dropping Tech advertisement called 'Zidd' didn’t get you pumped up and give you goosebumps, I don’t know what will. The advertisement is downright breathtaking and gives you a sneak peek into Hero MotoCorp Ltd.’s (HMCL) R&D technology and what they could offer chiefly in the performance segment of the motorcycle market.
The ad starts off with a bird’s eye view of Hero’s soon to be launched first 250cc performance bike, the HX250R cruising on the tarmac and just about to take on an aggressive turn. As you closely watch the advertisement, you will come across a plethora of Hero two-wheelers that are yet to see the light of day. It is not by chance that you will gaze upon words like ‘Hybrid engines’, ‘Diesel engines’ and ‘Hydrogen fuel cells’ as Hero is by all means publicizing their extensive range of high end motorcycles coupled with the progress they have made in terms of technology. The advertisement however, has a much deeper connotation and its repetitive airing on channels is meant to serve the purpose of changing one’s perception of the company and carve a brand image that digresses from their stereotyped ‘Commuter player’.
Hero MotoCorp currently holds a market share of approximately 40% with Splendor, Passion and HF Deluxe being their star performers. The Hero Splendor and its variants account for roughly just over 15% of sales, the Passion Pro series stands at a bit lower than 10% and a sales figure of just over 7% is the contribution of the HF Deluxe. These 3 models have constituted to 32% of Hero’s total market share of 40%. Not surprisingly, these models also feature amongst the top 5 in terms of their sales numbers.
Ever since Hero MotoCorp went solo in 2010, they have struggled to excel in terms of creativity and engineering innovation. They have mimicked a few models from their erstwhile partner Honda and have heavily relied on their range of commuters – producing variants one after the other. Hero MotoCorp’s stable currently houses no bikes that exceed the 250cc displacement mark. The best bike that they have on offer now is the most recent Hero Karizma ZMR, a 223cc motorcycle which honestly won’t get you too thrilled.
So what exactly is Hero trying to convey to us with this advertisement? Let’s delve a little deeper into Hero’s acquisitions, marketing plans, brand image and repositioning strategies to address this question.
Hero MotoCorp currently owns a whopping 49.2% stake in the American superbike company, Erik Buell Racing. This is the company that has blessed the world with superbikes such as the 1190RX and the naked brawler, the 1190SX. Also, the Indian manufacturer had tied up with Engines Engineering from Italy for their technical moxie in cutting-edge two-wheeler design and Austria-based AVL for their exceptional work in internal combustion engines. These global partnerships came closely on the heels of the company’s departure from the joint venture that was Hero Honda and is a strong indicator of the company’s desire to foray into production of larger displacement motorcycles in the future.
Hero’s biggest competitor in India is unquestionably their estranged partner out of wedlock, Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI). The Japanese juggernaut has managed to establish themselves as arguably the top player in an increasingly growing and competitive global market and is also looking to achieve leadership status in the Indian market by 2020 as revealed by Tatsuhiro Oyama, the company’s Senior Managing Officer and Director of motorcycle operations at the Japanese plant. Hero MotoCorp has for sometime been lurking in the shadow of HMSI in the larger engine capacity segment and it looks like they are now willing to take it up by not one, but two or three gears to usurp Honda’s status in the performance segment. With this agenda in mind, the ad fields two of their exclusive bikes, the exuberant yellow trellis frame exposed Hastur as well as the fully-faired HX250R which is expected to be their flagship offering in the 250cc segment in the near future. The promo also features a few other exquisite two wheelers such as the 150cc performance scooter the Hero Zir and the futuristic iON, which looks like a bike straight out from a sci-fi movie.
But amidst all this, the biggest blow to Hero is the termination of their technical licensing contract with Honda, which will irrevocably see them left in the lurch without the aid of the latter’s state-of-the-art technology. It is no secret that the HMCL relied heavily on Honda even after their disbanding and with the contract touted to end by 2014, the company has managed to pull off another tactical master stroke in the appointment of Mr. Markus Braunsperger as the Research and Development division head of the Indian two-wheeler brand from October 2014. The German boasts of an impressive resume, having spearheaded the BMW Motorrad’s R&D department and having been instrumental in the design of the BMW – 5, 6 and 7 sedan series and the SUV series particularly the X3 and X5. A man of his experience and technical understanding could prove to be monumental in the company’s focus shift.
All in all, HMCL is desperately attempting to reposition its brand image and status in the two-wheeler market by migrating from the commuter segment and venturing into production of larger capacity bikes with greater use of inner house technology. This will help them emerge into an influential global brand with a playing hand in all segments of the two-wheeler industry. It speaks volumes of their aspirations, and it will be interesting to see how this strategy pans out in the years to come.