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How the Jawa bike was driven back to its Czech homeland

By Shally Seth Mohile
December 09, 2020 08:30 IST
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When Jawa Motorcycles owner Jiri Gerle sold the legendary but defunct brand to Classic Legends (part-owned by Mahindra & Mahindra), he had one request to the new owners: Please do bring the brand back to its homeland -- the Czech Republic.

Image: The iconic Jawa. Photographs: Kind courtesy, Jawa Motorcycles

When Jawa Motorcycles owner Jiri Gerle sold the legendary but defunct brand to Classic Legends (part-owned by Mahindra & Mahindra), he had one request to the new owners: Please do bring the brand back to its homeland -- the Czech Republic.

Two years since then, the company has managed to fulfil the septuagenarian's wish, with Anand Mahindra, chairman, Mahindra Group, tweeting: “Life comes full circle for Jawa.”

 

Jawa motorcycles, created by Frantisek Janecek in Prague, will now be riding on the city's lanes after 90 years. Janecek introduced the first model of Jawa bike on October 23, 1929.

Though the launch in Prague will add more heft to the brand, fulfilling Gerle's wish hasn't been easy, said Anupam Thareja, founder and managing partner of Phi Capital, who is an investor, along with Boman Irani, chairman and managing director of Rustomjee Group, in Classic Legends.

“We are on a wait list and we don't have a motorcycle to export. But since it's a Czech brand and a person we have bought this brand from is very nostalgic about it and it runs in his blood, we had to do it,” said Thareja.

Image: The Jawa 42

Gerle has kept the brand alive and kicking. Despite the long hiatus, the brand continues to occupy the mind spaces of the country's biking enthusiasts, historians, and photographers.

Gerle has converted the old factory into a museum and has been watching the developments in India, where it got a new life, closely.

Last month, despite a three- to four-month wait for the Jawa and Perak models in India, Classic Legends shipped close to 750 models to the Czech Republic and the motorcycles flew off in no time.

“We knew the moment they land there, they will be picked up by historians and photographers. All the stories, pictures that you see on the social media are very organic. It's a national pride for them,” said Thareja.

"The demand pull is strong despite a slow season for sales. “There is a lockdown in Czech and it's cold,” he said.

Image: The Jawa Perak.

Gerle isn't too happy with the small batch he has got, but Thareja and his teams have their hands full and would be able to ship the next batch only after production ramps up.

Production, which got disrupted due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, will get stabilised by the first quarter of 2021.

“Things are stabilising. We sold 3,500-4,000 units of the newly launched Perak in three days of Diwali,” said Thareja.

Meeting the demand has been a challenge for the company since brands were introduced in India.

Barely a month after breaking covers in February, the models -- the Jawa, the Jawa 42, and the Perak -- were sold out.

In December 2018, Classic Legends announced the models are booked till September 2019.

The initial estimates showed the three-year-old firm had garnered bookings in excess of 100,000 units. The deliveries of the models began some time in April 2019.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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Shally Seth Mohile in Mumbai
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