At 5 am on any given weekday, when the rest of Delhi is still asleep, and the morning air is fresh and dewy, a group of bikers in their 50s hit the Yamuna Expressway to ride all the way up to the Taj Mahal, only to return at night. Calling themselves ‘Rewinders’, they hope to rewind their lives to a time when they were young and restless, and the Capital wasn’t choked with traffic. “It’s not the speed but the experience of travel that matters,” says Rohit Aggarwal, at 49, the youngest of the lot.
Aggarwal, who owns a ‘Triumph Tiger 800 XRx’, is also managing director of Lite Bite Foods Limited. As a passionate adventure biker, Aggarwal has exhilarating trips from Sikkim to Bhutan under his belt. “A lot of clubs have come up across India and are very active on weekends as also on occasions on national holidays just as an excuse to ride together and take their hobby forward,” says the biker from the corporate world, giving a peek into the world of premium bikes, whose growth in India is rising at over 20 per cent annually.
Tutu Dhawan, Delhi-based auto-expert who restores bikes and organises rallies, says, “More than 70 per cent of such club members are from the upper class, who drive Audis, Mercedes and BMWs, and have no problem in splurging in this activity.” The recent India Bike Week 2015 in Goa witnessed a participation of nearly 10,000 bikers with around more than 2,000 Harley-Davidsons.
Clearly, John Abraham and Mahendra Singh Dhoni aren’t the only ones in the elite club. Even those who were once in a fanatic romance with the thumps of their bullets seem to be eager to burn rubber, by splurging on super bikes that are above 250 cc and cost anywhere between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 40 lakh. Taking a cue from the original Indian macho bike, the Royal Enfield, which has registered a growth of 49 per cent in domestic sales to 29,491 units in the month of February, other global bike majors like Harleys, Triumph, Indian Motorcycle, KTM are now exploring the vast Indian market. “The growth in the motorbike sector is phenomenal. This year, Royal Enfield sales are all set to cross the four lakh mark,” says Siddhartha Lal, managing director of Eicher Motors, which manufactures the bike.
The market for premium category motorcycles in India has been growing at more than 20 per cent annually as compared to premium cars that has been steady at around 15 per cent. The race is full on with every global brand launching high-end models and joining the luxury bike bandwagon.
Vimal Sumbly, managing director, Triumph Motorcycles India feels, “The market is poised for growth as everyone wants to experience the thrill now. Ten years ago, consumers were upgrading from small cars to big cars and then to premium segment cars. This is the kind of rush we are witnessing in the motorcycle segment.”
TechSci’s India Premium Motorcycle Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2019 puts CAGR at more than 30 per cent during 2014-19. High networth individuals (HNIs) are the key target customers for these premium motorcycles. According to their research report, as HNIs in India are projected to increase by more than 115 per cent over the next decade, the market outlook for premium motorcycles looks positive.
The exorbitant price tags on these machines with heavy import duty don’t seem to be a deterrent. The industry wanted a reduction in the custom duty on the premium category bikes to make the environment conducive for both the manufacturers and consumers. There is a 75 per cent customs duty on imported bikes (completely built units) with above 800 cc engine capacity. While Harley-Davidson has launched its entry-level Street 750, which is completely manufactured in India, Triumph Motorcycles assembles many of its product range in India. This allows the companies to derive cost benefit and price advantage from domestic assemblage.
Polaris India, whichmarkets and sells Indian Motorcycles, and imports all premium bikes from the US, is betting big on its cruiser brand model ‘Indian Scout’, the most affordable cruiser from Indian Motorcycles priced at Rs 12 lakh (ex-showroom). Pankaj Dubey, managing director, Polaris India, says, “Import duty on motorcycles should be reduced to encourage usage of bikes in tourism and security of the nation and to increase adventure sports in the country.” However, global brands are also investing in complete knocked down (CKD) kits assembly facilities to attract lower duties and offer products at cheaper prices. Under CKD mode, companies can import the bikes in parts and assemble them in local units.
With the Indian market seeing a proliferation of biking enthusiasts with a strong love for riding, an increasing number of bike manufacturers are indulging them by unleashing on Indian roads, one mean machine after another.