Hero MotoCorp vs Hero Electric, will the real Hero please stand up? | The Financial Express

Hero MotoCorp vs Hero Electric, will the real Hero please stand up?

According to industry watchers, the entry for Hero MotoCorp in the EV space with the ‘Hero’ branding could spell trouble for Hero Electric.

Hero MotoCorp vs Hero Electric, will the real Hero please stand up?
At present, Hero Electric is one of the leading and oldest electric vehicle player in the Indian market.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet,” are the famous lines from the play Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, explaining that a name is just a name, and there is no meaning behind it. Alas, the reality in today’s world is quite different.

In the automotive industry, a name represents identity, a persona, and in the case of Hero MotoCorp, it is the ability to provide a deep-rooted history, legacy and the trust that millions of customers have put in the brand.

On the other hand, for Hero Electric’s Naveen Munjal, this in addition to competition from his uncle’s company means that the years of hardwork and brand building in the electric vehicle space, especially when there was not much awareness goes wasted.

Hero Electric has contended before the Delhi High Court that when the extended Munjal families decided to go their separate ways in 2010, the father-son duo of Vijay and Naveen Munjal were given the ownership of Hero Electric, along with rights to use the Hero brand to sell electric vehicles in India and across the world.

While the case was sub judice, it was in March this year, that Hero MotoCorp announced its plans for the ‘Vida’ brand name to sell its electric vehicle offering. The company also partnered with Taiwan’s Gogoro to co-develop and introduce e-two-wheelers in the country along with a robust proven battery-swapping network.

But in the latest twist and turn between the battle of Hero Electric and Hero MotoCorp, a surprise ruling was made in favour of Hero MotoCorp last week by an arbitration tribunal regarding the use of the ‘Hero’ trademark.

The tribunal emphasised the investments made by Hero MotoCorp to the tune of Rs 400 crore on the business of electric vehicles and expenses of almost Rs 7,000 crore on the brand building of Hero in the past 10 years. Furthermore, the company says the tribunal has found the case of “Hero Electric unmerited in the interim.

While on one hand, this means Hero MotoCorp would be very well able to roll-out its products using the ‘Hero’ brand name and use its existing dealership network to sell the vehicles. Thus, saving both the time and cost to build a new brand from scratch up.

There is no doubt that compared to its competitors – Bajaj Auto with the Chetak and TVS Motor Co with the iQube – Hero MotoCorp has seen a delayed entry in the electric two-wheeler space. The reason could be partly because there has been challenges to enter the segment with a new identity. Naveen Munjal has numerous times said that he will fight till the end to retain the Hero brand name in the EV space.

Nikunj Sanghi, Owner, JS Fourwheels says, “This is a piece of positive news for Hero MotoCorp brand as it already has an established name, network and presence in the country. This will help the company easily penetrate the length and breadth of the country, which otherwise a new brand identity could have taken a couple of years. On the other hand, this also means that the company’s existing dealer network will be able to sell the electric vehicle offerings without the need for setting up a completely new network. I believe this could be a positive driver for the overall EV sales adoption in the country.”

But Harish Bijoor, Business & Brand-strategy expert says that if both the companies sell electric vehicles under the ‘Hero’ brand name “There is bound to be confusion. Hero is one brand in the consumer mind. Two different usages are going to create more confusion. And confusion typically erodes brand credibility. I do believe this needs to be sorted out fast and quick. Before brand perception damage sets in.”

While the initial order has been passed in favour of Hero MotoCorp, the battle is far from over. According to industry watchers, the entry for Hero MotoCorp in the EV space with the ‘Hero’ branding could spell trouble for Hero Electric. But on the other hand, there could more possibly be an amicable settlement between the two, thus ensuring the co-existence of the two brands.

Quick facts

  • 2010: Hero Group is divided in three factions – Brijmohan Lall Munjal’s family got control of flagship firm Hero MotoCorp and Hero Corporate Services among others.
  • Hero Cycles, Hero Motors and Munjal Sales Corporation are given to Om Prakash Munjal, whose son Pankaj Munjal is currently the CMD of Hero Cycles.
  • Satyanand Munjal’s family gets control of Munjal Showa, Munjal Auto and other related businesses.
  • Dayanand Munjal (represented by his son Vijay Munjal) gets ownership of Hero Exports, Hero Electric and Sunbeam Auto. Vijay Munjal’s son Naveen Munjal is the current MD of Hero Electric.
  • 2019: Naveen Munjal claims exclusive ownership of ‘Hero’ brand in the electric vehicle space.
  • October 2021: Naveen Munjal moves Delhi High Court seeking an injunction against Hero MotoCorp to use the ‘Hero’ brand name for launching its electric vehicles.
  • February 2022: Hero Electric withdraws petition against Hero MotoCorp. The matter is referred to the arbitral tribunal.
  • June 2022: Arbitration rules in favour of Hero MotoCorp allowing it to use the ‘Hero’ brand name for its electric vehicles.

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First published on: 05-07-2022 at 06:08:42 pm
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