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Driven by nationalism

‘Hamara Bajaj’ — a campaign that fuelled pride in a brand that was Indian and aspired to be global player

‘Hamara Bajaj’ — a campaign that fuelled pride in a brand that was Indian and aspired to be global player

Long before ‘Shining India’ or ‘Make In India’ took root, there was ‘Hamara Bajaj’ — a campaign that fuelled pride in a brand that was Indian and aspired to be global player. Here was a campaign that blended patriotism with a product. A mode of transport had never been sold like this before in a country that was trying to break away from its socialist moorings where a motorised two wheeler was an aspirational product and required to be booked in advance.

The timing was right. Rajiv Gandhi was fast becoming the face of the strides the country was making in digital space. A Prime Minister in sports shoes talking about computers. It was the time when Doordarshan was making us hum “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara”. In this scenario, Alyque Padamsee, that astute grand old man of advertising, conjured up Hamara Bajaj and Lintas got one more feather in its cap. The lines “ Buland Bharat Ki Buland Tasveer ” echoed with the nation’s aspirations. For Bajaj, as adman Prahlad Kakkar says, had no Vespa or Suzuki attached to it. “It was the first thet (local) brand after Hero cycles and became a symbol of upward mobility, a quiet assertion of our prowess.”

The visuals captured the various versions of the Bajaj scooter — Cub, Premium and Super, and yes, the sturdiest of them all, Chetak — as an intrinsic part of the daily life of the consumer. Some of them look amusing today. Like a man doing pranayam next to the scooter or a young athlete trying to match the pace of the two wheeler.

But then those were the days when the fill it, shut it, forget it generation hadn’t arrived, and the consumer was not asking how many seconds it took to achieve a speed of 100 km/hour. So we had a milkman using it to ferry his bulky containers, a girl trying to learn to drive it and an old lady happy to be introduced to a new member of the family by her grandson. Not to forget that road-side Romeo type character adjusting his hair using the rear view mirror. It ended with a garland around the vehicle’s neck. A tad hyperbolic? Maybe. A little communal? Not quite, because before that it had Muslim washing his scooter and a Parsi admiring his prized possession. It had the Desh Premee kind of simplistic approach. The Manmohan Desai film on communal amity appeared in 1982.

R. Balki, who heads Lowe Lintas and was responsible for reviving the campaign when the company moved to Pulsar without as much success, says the ad appealed because Bajaj scooter virtually drove the nation at that point of time. “It was a combination of rootedness and an aspiration to have our share in the global space.”

As always, an advertisement can sell only a good product. The product matched the visual imagery. It was a reliable product, appealing to a generation not used to taking its vehicle to the service station for overhauling. It was the neighbourhood mechanic who ruled and he knew his Bajaj inside out. Of course it became the butt of jokes too, as people had to tilt it get the petrol flowing, but with its stepney it was always more dependable than the Rajdoot, its competitor in the two-stroke motorcycle segment.

It was never a vehicle one could flaunt in front of one’s beloved. It was always a family vehicle where you could only brandish the groceries you brought home. And perhaps that proved its undoing as well, when individualism took root in the society, the youngster started preferring bikes and the scooter was reduced to being the preference of middle aged uncles. When the punchline — “You just can’t beat a Bajaj” — began to be evaluated literally, the competitors found an opening. Speed ruled and Chetak had to saunter into the sunset.

But the Hamara Bajaj campaign still commands a strong emotional connect. No wonder producer John Abraham, who ironically is an ambassador of reputed motorobike brand Yamaha, tried hard to use it as the title of his forthcoming film directed by Shoojit Sircar. A reputed adman, Sircar feels this is the easiest way to make an emotional connect with the protagonist of his film, whose surname is Bajaj. He holds the title is integral to the story, but the Bombay High Court ruled against Abraham. Hamara Bajaj continues to define a scooter, a way of life.


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Printable version | Jul 7, 2022 6:07:52 am | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/hamara-bajaj/article6625101.ece