When Carlos Vasquez (present president of the Board of Directors of Auteco) from Medellin met an Indian ambassador in early 1990s in Bogota to seek his guidance in importing consumer good in Colombia, he was very emphatically told to abandon his plans as India will not be able to export consumer goods and he should rather consider software.
Sharing details about the journey of Bajaj in Colombia, a top Indian diplomat from the Indian embassy in Bogota, Colombia said, “Undeterred by this unhelpful advice, he visited India and met Bajaj Auto Limited management in Pune and proposed to assemble its brand’s motorcycles in Medellin, the most efficient and admired industrial and business hub of Colombia. This was to be the second entry of Bajaj in Latin America after the successful forays they made in Peru.”
Auteco, one of the leading motorcycle assemblers in Colombia, assembles Boxer, Pulsar and Platino lines of Bajaj motorcycles at its old assembly line in Medellin and also at newer Cartagena plant, which employs 40% women in its assembly operations. The company found that in a traditionally male-dominated field, women workers were more dedicated, disciplined and less prone to leaving.
In terms of motorcycles, the Boxer is the most popular and the new version will hit the market later in June. These motorcycles are known in the country for great value-for-money and excellent after-sales service and nation-wide availability of spares.
Nearly 26 years later, Auteco receives completely knocked down (CKD) from Chakan plant of Bajaj and assembles three lines of popular motorcycles in Colombia- Boxer, Pulsar and Platino.
The tyres are also from India. “On the assembly line, one can see the CEAT brand of tyres coming from India. The import duty it pays on CKDs is 3% as against 30%, as 17% of the value of the parts is sourced from local vendors. The company also has an open ideas exchange area called “Maker space”, the diplomat says adding, “This has modern machines and technology available to put the marketing people ideas into specific products and then take these to vendors. Colombian riders like to have colourful designs on any plain part of the bike such as fuel tank etc. Even the helmets are adorned with modern graffiti-like drawings with bright colours.”
The company also runs a competition called Pulsar mania on the local Fox television to promote this Indian line of the two-wheeler. “The next steps which Bajaj could take is to enhance and reward customer loyalty including by offering accessories as is done by other brands in Colombia, ” he suggests.
Bajaj three-wheelers also make their presence visible but only in areas where the population is less than 55,000. This Colombian law has no scientific basis but legislated to protect small car imports and an assembler. This is likely to change in coming times though.