We remember the iconic stature of the Bajaj Chetak scooter
Nostalgia, they say, is a potent tool. What else can explain the resurgence in popularity of products that may have lost their relevance today but still evoke a certain brand of sentimentalism. The Chetak was one such iconic product from Bajaj that people from the 80s remember as a symbol of India’s middle class aspirations. When it was announced that the scooter would be phased out in the mid 2000s, the flood of public nostalgia that followed gives us a sense of the impact that the Chetak had on the Indian consciousness.
Its name was inspired by warrior king Maharana Pratap’s favourite horse- Chetak. A hardy two wheeler that adjusted well to India’s bad terrain roads, the Chetak was a huge draw in urban and rural India. Launched in the late 70s, the Chetak endured a successful run for almost two decades, being one of Bajaj’s most popular bikes. It was affordable and low maintenance and could carry a typical Indian family of four easily on the roughest of roads.
The Chetak was not iconic by virtue of its design or functionality. Its form was heavily borrowed from that of the Vespa by Piaggio- a company that Bajaj had partnered with, in the past to import motor cycles in the country until the company got into manufacturing themselves. In terms of function, the scooter, although hardy on Indian roads, was known to have issues that were never ever fixed- like the process of turning on a Chetak- tilting it to one side for a few minutes before starting was a popular joke based on a reality- the scooter had issues getting started.
There have been rumours of a comeback after it was revealed that the company had re-registered the Chetak brand name. That news is a testament to the scooter’s iconic nature- that its brand equity is just too strong for Bajaj to phase it out completely. The new version is rumoured to be launched in 2017.