The power of two - The New Indian Express

The power of two

Published: 24th November 2013 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 23rd November 2013 04:12 PM

A helicopter pilot who loves to fly—on the road. Giving 29-year-old Delhi resident Rohan Arora the wings is Brutus aka Harley Davidson 883 XL. But even before Brutus, named after Arora’s beloved dog who died, rode into his life, three generations of Arora’s family have been proud owners of Royal Enfields, the ultimate Indian mean machine. As Arora puts it, “I love the thump of the engine. Besides, the bike is perfect for comfortable cruising.”

INDIA’S FIRST CHOICE

Whether it’s the thump, the pricing, safety, fuel-efficiency or comfort, India’s love affair with motorbikes has never been stronger. Of all the sectors that have registered growth in India over the last two decades, the story has been particularly spectacular for the more than `10,000 crore two-wheeler segment. So much so that India now stands next to China and Japan in terms of production and sales. Ease of commuting, the variety, latest technology and enhanced mileage have only added to their popularity.

Despite an overall economic slump, the Indian two-wheeler industry registered a 1.04 per cent growth in April-May 2013 compared to the same period last year. Hero MotorCorp, the biggest two-wheeler manufacturer in the country, sold more

INDIA’S FIRST CHOICE

Whether it’s the thump, the pricing, safety, fuel-efficiency or comfort, India’s love affair with motorbikes has never been stronger. Of all the sectors that have registered growth in India over the last two decades, the story has been particularly spectacular for the more than `10,000 crore two-wheeler segment. So much so that India now stands next to China and Japan in terms of production and sales. Ease of commuting, the variety, latest technology and enhanced mileage have only added to their popularity.

 Despite an overall economic slump, the Indian two-wheeler industry registered a 1.04 per cent growth in April-May 2013 compared to the same period last year. Hero MotorCorp, the biggest two-wheeler manufacturer in the country, sold more than a million units during the same period.

 Says Pawan Munjal, MD and CEO of Hero MotoCorp, “We have crossed the landmark 6 lakh unit sales for October. As despatches are still continuing, the final tally for the month will be well over 6 lakh. This is our highest-ever despatch sales for any month and indeed, a new industry benchmark. While the economy is going through a challenging time and the industry continues to be sluggish, I remain optimistic about the two-wheeler industry. We have had a normal monsoon this year and that is likely to result in good harvest across the country, which will help two-wheeler sales in rural areas.”

The picture only gets better. According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the Indian two-wheeler industry is expected to post an annual growth of 11-12 per cent, and the market is expected to double every four years till 2020.

 For 29-year-old Sagar Neil Banerjee, a social media supervisor with WebChutney’s, the tryst with bikes started when he unabashedly stole his father’s Hero Honda CD100 from the garage and took it for a spin. The reprimand that followed failed to shame Banerjee as he went on to steal it over and over again. The curiosity and excitement only increased over the years and Banerjee made bikes his primary vehicle. Most recently, he got himself a Royal Enfield Thunderbird. “This would be my fifth bike, two of which are with me in Delhi and the other three are in my hometown, Purulia, a small town in West Bengal, (and yes, I don’t sell my bikes),” says the enthusiast.

His relationship with them is uncannily emotional. They are not ‘just’ vehicles for this young adult. “It’s a feeling only bikers would understand. It’s so strong that you often feel as though your bike responds to your emotions. I share a very unique connection, as if there is an untold pact between us. They have never left me stranded,” says Banerjee.

The story is similar for PR professional Aman Singh Madaan (25). He takes his Royal Enfield Electra 4S for a spin every day, and is very choosy about who gets to ride pillion. The pleasure in his voice is unmistakable when he describes taking his bike to his ancestral village in Punjab Khor. Wearing an off-white kurta, brown leather juttis and Rayban aviators, he entered the premises of his house with the bike’s signature dhuk dhuk dhuk announcing his entry. The experience, he says, was out of the world. An experience that one can get only on a Bullet. His father, who waited for his arrival was elated to see his son’s shaan ki savari. Madaan bought the silver beauty with his first salary in 2009 and the first time he rode it, he knew it was for keeps. “The registration number is the same as my year of birth. My family and friends call it Bullet 1988,” he says.

Playing a significant role in the sale of bikes has been the recent hikes in petrol prices. According to SIAM, most first-time four-wheeler buyers in rural India and tier II and tier III cities have deferred their purchases. Two-wheelers account for a whopping 76 per cent of market share in the automobile sector in Asia’s third-largest economy, with passenger vehicles accounting for 16.25 per cent.

Hero has a market share of around 56 per cent in the overall domestic two-wheeler market. At 25.5 per cent, Bajaj comes a distant second, but maintains a healthy lead over Honda and TVS, which have 7.5 per cent and 6.2 per cent market share, respectively. While the auto sector in India is under pressure due to a sluggish economy, the two-wheeler segment is expected to outperform the rest of the industry. The export potential for India’s two-wheelers is huge given that Indian auto companies have under-penetrated potential export markets. Exports account for around 15 per cent in volume terms for the industry.

Meanwhile, the domestic two-wheeler industry recorded sales volumes of 13.8 million units in 2012-13, a growth of 2.9 per cent over the previous year.

Domestic high-end vehicles such as Royal Enfield and KTM (promoted by Bajaj) have been well received. Ajay Shephiya, auto analyst with Centrum Broking adds that high-end segments are faring much better than other value segments. “Royal Enfield is doing really well. Their monthly sales are going up. This is mostly to do with easing of their earlier supply constraints. The waiting period has come down from 6-8 months to 4-5 months due to increase in capacity,” he says.

He says that close to 50 per cent of the total volumes come from the top 15 cities while the rest is from the remaining regions. “There is no clear indication as where this demand is coming from. It depends on the brand and biker preference,” he adds.

For Chennai-based Ameen Nawaz Khan, biking is more than a pastime and a sport—it’s a full-fledged passion—a passion that was fuelled while in school and right through college. The bike he owns now is a 400cc Honda Super 4. What he likes about his bike is the easy facility it provides on public roads as well as racing tracks. The first superbike that the 48-year-old remembers riding is the Honda CBR 600 RR. But Ameen is very clear that superbikes should be ridden only on the race tracks. “Transport it to the racing track on a truck if need be and do whatever you want here,” he advises.

Also believing in driving safe is Hyderabad-based company director Mihir Shah. The proud owner of a Honda Fireblade 1000cc, Shah denies the thrill of speed, insists he is just like any other responsible rider, even though he is passionate about his machine. “Blame some of it on the movies in recent times, as they show bikers in less than a positive light. It can be dangerous if you want it to be. But if you are riding for your own pleasure and not to show off, then it can be a very pleasurable activity in the bargain,” says the bike enthusiast.

SUPERBIKES LEAD

Of the 805 superbikes sold during the period between April and October 2013, the Indian arm of iconic US company Harley-Davidson Inc sold the chunk of 629 units. Harley Davidson, Suzuki Motorcycle India and Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India were quick to spot the opportunity and launched their best selling superbikes in India. Precision Motor India also brought in Ducati bikes from 2009 as CBU. British bike manufacturer Triumph is all set to launch its bikes in India soon.

Acknowledging the significance of India in Triumph’s global strategy, Paul Stroud, director sales & marketing (Triumph global) says: “2013 is a very crucial year for Triumph Motorcycles in India and we are confident about the timing of our market entry. In the past few months, we have carefully assessed the market landscape and will be making well-honed efforts to provide our discerning customers with a complete brand experience.”

Words that will sound like music to the ears of superbike fanatics like 28-year-old Lotus Sabu from Thiruvananthapuram. Sabu owns a Ducati and has clocked 292 km/hr on a Honda Fireblade (CBR 1000RR) and worships Valentino Rossi.

“Kerala has some very talented motorbike riders,” says Sabu, who was a member of the stunt biking team, Ghost Ryderz. The love for bikes was cultivated right from childhood; as a collegiate he rode a Yezdi. It was just a matter of time before superbikes grabbed his attention. He thought of buying one for years, though he was able to realize his dream only in 2012 when he got himself a Suzuki GSX-R 1000. He then traded his Honda CBR 1000 for a Ducati, which he now rides. Quality, good braking system, power, sound, look and weight are the features that make him go gaga over superbikes. “It’s the equivalent of flying a fighter jet,” he says. Another Rossi and superbike worshipper is Chennai’s Roya Khaleeli (19). With three older brothers in the family, it was not surprising that Roya’s interests grew to include motorbikes and cars. As a 15-year-old, she drove a car and then bikes caught her fancy. Not just any bike, but the one that belonged to her brother—a Yamaha R15. Her brother abroad for some time, Roya utilised the opportunity to ride it, with her dad as coach. Last year, she rode it all around the place. Now, she has got her sights set on the latest version of the Yamaha R1 5 and is hoping her father will do the honours.

The best thing that attracted her about the super bike was the way it looked and also the feel. The huge rush of adrenaline that it provides is better than a car, she feels. The best she has managed is 100 km/hr.

With so many seekers, it’s little wonder that this year, the market for superbikes over 800 cc displacement is estimated at 1,500-1,600 units, which will grow to 5,000 by 2015.

Says Anoop Prakash, managing director, Harley-Davidson India: “The constant growth of India’s middle-class has resulted in a growing number of affluent customers that seek new leisure experiences. The premium motorcycle segment in India has grown over the last three years, with consumers looking for riding experiences coupled with style, comfort and performance.”

Sonia Jain (27) should know. Jain, an assistant manager of motor sports marketing and promotions at Yamaha India rides an 1600cc Yamaha MT01. She is the only Indian female Yamaha licensed instructor and is spearheading the Yamaha Female Riding Training Programme. “Started in January, the programme trains young girls to ride bikes and scooters and we train 80 girls per day and go out for these training sessions 10 times a month,” she says.

A complete tomboy, Jain was always more interested in purchasing a bike than designer wear. “It was in 2008 that I convinced my parents to allow me to participate in the Yamaha rally from Manali to Rohtang Pass. We did tasks, rode, blogged and that trip got me completely hooked. Having subsequently ventured into various Himalayan trips, she started taking part in pan-India rallies and rode close to about 8,000 km.

 Among women riders, Ambika Sharma (34), managing director of Pulp Strategy Communications is the only woman in the country who owns a Harley Davidson Road King. She loves the fact that it packs some mean power, equipped with a 1700 cc Twin Cam 103 engine and a 6-Speed Cruise Drive transmission.

 “I found it perfect for long trips and outstation touring. The Road King allows me to plan long distance trips with ample space, power and a well balanced posture,” she says. She rides every weekend, sometimes alone, sometimes with her friends. Unwanted attention from people on the road is inevitable but she says, it’s the bike they check out, more than her.

 



Bajaj Pulsar

The first sports bike launched in India, in November 2001. Available in variants Pulsar 135, 150 and 180 and the new Pulsar DTS-Fi 200 and 225, the bike has made its presence felt with superior handling and macho styling. The one million plus sales mark was testament of popularity.

Features

Digital Twin Spark ignition or DTS-i technology

Power: 16.5Bhp (12.28kw) at 800 rpm in Pulsar 150 and 13.5Bhp (9.94kw) at 8000 rpm in Pulsar 180

Torque: The Pulsar 150 has a maximum torque of 15.22nm at 6000rpm and the Pulsar 180 a maximum torque of 12.28nm at 6500rpm

Price: Starts from Rs 60,000 and goes up to Rs 87,000 approx.

Hero Honda Splendor

The most successful bike in India. The Splendor was synonymous with the words “100cc bike” for almost two decades. After Hero Motor Corp became a single brand entity, the Splendor Pro was launched.

Features

Power: The power and soul is the 97cc Honda engine

Speed: 0 to 60kmph in less than 9 seconds

USP: Ride and seating position

Mileage: The traditional 4-speed gearbox manages an impressive 65kmpl

Price: Starts at Rs 42,000 approx

Bajaj Discover

Launched in 2009, it became one of the top selling bikes in the segment. It was the first Bajaj bike to feature the improved version 2.0 of the DTS-Si engine. The Discover 100 is also one of the few bikes to have a five-speed gearbox in its segment.

Features

Power: A single cylinder, 4-stroke, air-cooled 94.38cc engine puts out a maximum power of 7.7ps at 7500 rpm and a maximum torque of 7.85nm at 5000rpm.

Speed: The 5-speed transmission offers extra push on the bike’s performance.

Mileage: 91kmpl

Price: Rs 46,000

TVS Star City

A commuter’s two-wheeler, the TVS Star City offers great handling and returns best in class mileage amidst the other 110cc bikes in the country. Stylish body graphics makes the Star look impressive and distinct.

Features

Power: A superior 109.7cc engine that’s of a 4-stroke nature gives out 6.1KW at 7500rpm and a punching 8.1nm of torque at 5000rpm.

Mileage: Coupled with a 4-speed manual gearbox, the Star delivers a class leading mileage of 88kmpl

Price: Starts from Rs 40,000

Hero Xtreme

Successful both commercially and critically. This is in the 150cc segment.

Power: Like the CBZ Xtreme, the new Hero Xtreme is a 149.2cc bike that is powered by a single cylinder 4 stroke engine that can deliver a max power of 14.4 PS and torque of 12.80nm.

Mileage: 66 kmpl

Price: Starts at Rs 65,000 approx.

■ Salman Khan has a huge collection of superbikes, the recent addition being a Suzuki Intruder M1800RZ.

■ John Abraham is a diehard car and bike lover. He is the proud owner of a Yamaha R1 1000cc and V-MAX 1700cc.

■ Fardeen Khan owns a Kawasaki ZZR 1200 and a Ducati.

■ Shahid Kapoor is another enthusiast. He owns a Yamaha MT-01 and a Harley Davidson and is seen using his toys frequently to commute through the busy streets of Mumbai.

 ■ Model-turned-actor Arjun Rampal has had a long association with bikes beginning from his college days. He owns a Hyosung and a Yamaha bike.

■ No Tollywood actor is more vocal about his love for motorcycles than Nagarjuna. Even in the early 1980s, Nagarjuna owned a Suzuki GS750, a Yamaha 1000cc, a Honda 1000 CBR and a Kawasaki 1000cc Ninja.

■ His passion seems to have influenced his son Naga Chaitanya, who is the proud owner of an Aprilia RSV4.

“I ride because it calms me and the insane sense of power,” says Naga Chaitnaya.

■ Superbikes are a rage among Kannada actors. Darshan owns a Hayabusa, Intruder, Harley Davidson and Bullet.  Sudeep’s garage boasts a Hayabusa and a Harley. On the growing list of superbike lovers are actors Ganesh, Prajwal Devaraj and Chiranjeevi Sarja as well.

With inputs from M K Nidheesh (Kochi), Swati Sharma,  (Hyderabad), Sharadhaa Srinidhi (Bangalore), Sunita Raghu  (Chennai), Sharan Poovanna (Bangalore) Ayesha Singh,  nDeepshikha Punj (Delhi)

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