Apr 30, 2007

Yamaha Alba 106

Stretching a product's life by changing its packaging isn't uncommon. Hero Honda has been doing it with its first bike CD 100 when it launched it under various names like CD100 SS, CD Deluxe, Splendor, Splendor Plus, Passion, Passion Plus. A few cosmetic changes apart, all these products were almost the same. But then, Hero Honda started with 'Fill it, Shut it, Forget it' and were the first one to occupy that space. That's one of the reasons why they've been able to stretch the product's saleability for so long. Incidentally, it was tough for Hero Honda to really achieve sales in the other space of performance bikes. CBZ and Karizma might not have succeeded to Hero Honda's satisfaction.

On the other hand, when Hero Honda was tom-tomming 'Fill it, Shut it, Forget it', Yamaha was busy riding on performance. And appropriately, people always expected good performance machines from Yamaha. Now at a time when biking category and interest in performance biking is surging in India, Yamaha is ignoring its long-trodden path and trying to tread the path that Hero Honda has always owned. Even Bajaj has lately had a considerable run on the latter path. Alba 106 and its predecessors - Crux and Libero - are a result of this foolhardiness of Yamaha. Not to say that there's much harm to be present in this segment of the market. But it's not the greatest ploy to stick only to this economy segment and not do anything in the performance segment where it has always had a great name.

Yamaha will also find it tough to find takers of its economy focussed bikes since these bikes are usually bought by those who are just graduating (either monetarily or age-wise) to biking. The ones who are graduating monetarily would go by the tried and tested - Hero Honda or Bajaj. And the ones who are graduating age-wise have neither had the Yamaha experience earlier or even seen them on the roads. Even if these guys talk to Yamaha aficionados or ones who've experienced the Yamaha in their biking days will always opine that Yamaha had great performance bikes during their time but now the bikes aren't the same. In such a case, Yamaha Alba has very little chance to succeed. Word-of-mouth wouldn't corroborate what Yamaha would say in its ads. And the evidence on the roads is totally to the contrary.

If Yamaha India were doing well in the performance segment, its claims in the other segments would have some believability. Unfortunately, it hasn't done much to strengthen itself in the former. In the latter, there are heavy weights who have proved themselves and therefore are difficult to shake.

Apr 28, 2007

Bajaj Avenger 200 and more

Just read in The Hindu that Bajaj is launching Avenger 200 in the month of June. It's a welcome news. However, it not the only thing that Bajaj could do.

I've often wondered why Avenger is only available in some standard colours and fitments? Why is it being sold as any other bike? Avenger is considered a cruiser and therefore, as most other cruiser bikes, should lend itself to modifications. Though, unlike in the case of Bullets, it should not be left upon users to modify their Avengers. Bajaj should pro-actively offer options to customize/modify the Avenger. Am sure the biking fraternity in India would embrace the Avenger with more eagerness and catapult Bajaj into the superbike-maker of the country sooner.

Apr 16, 2007

Heavier bikes in India

On rare occasions, out of curiosity I flip the pages of The Economic Times. And when I did today, I read Heavyweight bikes queuing up as Indian Roads get wider. The headline was big and bold. Perhaps it isn't a conincidence that just yesterday I was wondering that time can't be better for bigger bikes to launch in India.

So, the news is that government has allowed the import of bigger bikes with engine specifications of 800-cc and above. And these motor-bikes might carry tags of no less than Rs 9 lakh.

As with every thing, there are two sides to this coin. That these bikes are being allowed in the Indian market implies that there's been a latent demand for heavier bikes in India. However, the size of the market is hard to predict. It's possible that there isn't such a big market after all for bikes with capacity greater than 800-cc. That takes us another important point - there could be a good market for bikes with engine capacity between 200cc and 500cc. And there's no bike other than the Bullet in this segment.

Market observers have always believed there isn't a market for such bikes and that the dismal sales of Bullet is an evidence. However, I must remind all the enthusiasts that Bullet, in spite of whatever cult-status it has, is a sub-standard product. And therefore, perhaps this segment never could grow. And even if we accept that there was little growth in this segment in the past, right now the time is just ripe for this segment to grow.

So, where do we (bike-makers) go from here. Get into the 800-cc plus market? Nope. Get into the 200-cc to 500-cc market. I predicted that the scooter would grow if better and heavier scooters (cruiser scooters) are launched. Launch of Eterno and Kinetic Blaze and their reasonable success proves me right.

Assuming that 200-cc to 500-cc market really holds potential, which Indian company can take advantage? Who has the headstart? I think it is invariably Bajaj. They've experimented with their Pulsar range and have been successful. After a not so successful debut of Eliminator they got it right with Avenger. And Avenger can now be fitted with higher capacity engines. In fact, it's surprising that while Bajaj has made Pulsar 220, they didn't do much in the cruiser segment where Avenger has really made a mark. It's about time for Bajaj for another great move; don't let this opportunity go.

Apr 7, 2007

Rajasthan

A typical cactus plant found in this part of the state.

Rajasthan

Well near the temple...

Rajasthan

The 'Sati' goddess at the temple and the pujaris. It's said that long time back when the Thakur of the area died, this is the place where his wife became a Sati.


Rajasthan

At the lake beside our temple. Simmering and pristine...





Rajasthan

That's the compound outside our house. Seems barren. And hotly silent. But I stood there hearing many sounds - parrots, cuckoo, sparrows, cows, buffaloes, pigeons...


Rajasthan

A barren street outside our home. This woman was carrying her little kid in that basket atop her head. Temperature - 41 C.

Rajasthan

I enjoy the barrenness of Rajasthan. Here, I'm on my way to my native place, a village called Bansera, in Bhilwara district.