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.

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