The roaring superbikes on Indian roads

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Flaunting expensive rides and super bikes is the latest fad in India. From the family two-wheeler vehicle to the powerful fuel guzzling bikes, it is surely a long journey.

An increasing number of Indians are purchasing powerful and luxury motorbikes while global manufacturers are eyeing to capture the growing Indian market.

A report by the Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors (EMMAAA), an automotive research and advisory firm stated that in 2012, the Indian market saw nearly 112,000 big bikes (in the 250-700cc segment) getting sold and the figure is expected    to cross 708,000 units by 2022. Interestingly, 2013 saw an almost 60% year-on-year sales growth in the big bikes segment.

Daytona 675R

The future looks quite promising. Global players such as Triumph Motorcycles, Harley-Davidson and Kawasaki Heavy Industries are setting up shops in the country to woo the emerging effluent class that is not shying away from purchasing powerful motorcycles that cost much more than most cars in the subcontinent.

Superbikes are not cheap, even the entry level bikes can cost around USD 8125 as compared to the cheapest car in India Nano which is available for mere USD 1625. Surprisingly, that does not seem to be a deterrent.

“I started riding a Yamaha RD350 in college, now I ride a Karizma (Hero group) and have booked a KTM 390 (almost USD 3250 or INR 2  lakhs). I think men with mid-life crisis are buying big bikes and trying to be cool. Jokes apart, it is very good for true bikers who have a wide variety to choose from to suit their style of riding,” said Gokul Yamm, an Image ConsultantDSC008292.

Statistics are a testimony to this scenario. According to the Credit Suisse Research Institute, India has about 1.82 lakh millionaires. This number is expected to touch 66% to 3.02 lakh by 2018. Moreover, Indian wealth per adult has risen by 135% (from USD2000 in 2000 to USD 4700 in 2013) at an average annual rate of 8% during the period.

Therefore, with growing disposable income in this South Asian country, the demand for bikes costing more than USD 3000 is going growing at an accelerating rate.

“Bikes are getting aspirational in nature and larger engine displacement motorcycles are a wonderful mode of self expression. For long, enthusiast bikers have been deprived of global specifications, high-quality machines and the entry of Harley-Davidson, Triumph and many other manufacturers in the market is likely to cater to this pent up demand,” said Deepesh Rathore,  Director, EMMAAA.

However, he cautioned that the market is currently catering to the “show-off” segment and therefore a correction in the growth figures is likely to take place before taking the correct flight of speed.

“Most big bike sales are currently happening to people with money and those who want to be seen in a certain way in the society. In a way, wannabes are fuelling the big bike craze and this will correct, with manufacturers losing sales. Only the manufacturers who build long-term relationships with owners and riders through clubs, rides and activities will sustain the momentum over the long-term horizon. Still, the coming ten years are nothing but glorious for big bikes in India and global manufacturers like Triumph, BWM and Harley-Davidson are rushing to develop smaller capacity machines to grow the base of the market,” he added.

India’s tryst with two-wheelers started a year after independence in 1948 when Bajaj Auto started importing the Italian Vespas from Piaggio. Until liberalisation in 1991 when the Indian economy did not permit foreign brands to sell in India, scooters dominated the market.

However, when in 1952 Royal Enfield India introduced motorcycles to India, it was the beginning of the country’s love with powerful beasts. For decades, it ruled the Indian market along with Escort and Ideal Jawa to give way to Japanese giants like Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki in the post liberalisation era.

This was the period when customer preferences were changing in favour of more power, better design and killer looks. By the 2000s, the Indian motorcycles market was primarily divided into daily-use bikes and super bikes.

“I have only three bikes now out of which one is a daily use one. Last year I sold off two bikes. I like to travel to difficult terrains like the highest motorable road on this earth in Ladakh or say crossing a difficult river…. India is divided into those who love the Bullet (by Royal Enfield) and the others who like other powerful machines,” Shahnawaz Karim, Global Marketing Head, Nimbuzz, a Voice-over-Internet Protocol provider.

SONY DSC

Today, India is the world’s largest motorcycle market after China. That explains why international companies like Harley-Davidson, Yamaha Motor Corp., Triumph and Ducati Motor Holding are setting up shops in India.

In 2007, Yamaha started importing the first of superbikes to hit the Indian roads. Soon, Suzuki Motorcycle and Honda Motorcycle launched their flagship models.  In 2009, Ducati was introduced and by 2010 the much-awaited Harley Davidson had marked its presence in the sub continent.

Traditionally, the focus of the manufacturers has always been on smaller and less expensive bikes as the cheaper 100cc to 150cc bikes are more popular. The scenario is changing now.

“India is huge market for lower cc bikes as an alternate for cars. But the premium motorcycle segment is growing at double digit despite the slowdown in automobile industry. With the changing customer scenario, double income families, growth in infrastructure in the country and people looking for premium products and experience. Triumph has made an entry in the Indian premier segment with an idea of providing the consumer with the power to choose. We are strengthening the premium bike category with offerings in different family models. We offer bikes in the super bike, adventure & classic segment and hence cater to a larger customer base and we see our brand growing steadily across the next few years,” Vimal Sumbly, Managing Director, Triumph Motorcycles India Pvt. Ltd. told the Arabian Gazette.

Loyal customers are forming biking groups, companies are encouraging clubs and motorcycle rallies are wooing enthusiasts. Manufacturers are trying to attract buyers through various strategies.

Notably, 2015 is all set to witness powerful beasts and models that are sure to turn some heads.

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