MUMBAI: Triumph and Indian Motorcycles — the bike manufacturers known for their big, powerful cruiser machines — seem to have shaken off the demonetisation blues faster than the mass-market players, which still find the going tough in the local market.
UK’s Triumph and US-based Indian posted strong double-digit growth in India since December, in an otherwise lacklustre fiscal year for the segment, with company executives citing recent expansions into more cities and easy availability of finance for the performance. To be sure, volumes are still small in India for Triumph, Indian and another cult American bike maker, Harley-Davidson.
But the market is expanding fast and offers big potential for companies providing niche products such as this bunch, as India’s list of millionaires is growing at a quick pace, with a number of young people who are ready to splurge on the best of luxury getting on to it. The entry-level products that these companies sell in India cost as much as some sedans and, at the top end, their bikes are as expensive as some premium luxury cars.
Triumph sold 300-350 motorcycles at the retail level from December to February, registering 37 per cent growth from a year earlier. The company’s dispatches to dealerships, though, increased only 8 per cent and the retail numbers included sales from the inventory that was lying at stockyards.
Vimal Sumbly, managing director of Triumph Motorcycles India, said many people who weren’t earlier ready to spend the cash that they were holding on to are more open to use the money now for discretionary purchases.
“In a way, demonetisation helped our industry… The off-take has been stronger than usual and the finance penetration has also shot up from 50 per cent to 75 per cent, indicating that there is strong demand in the market and people want to fulfil their aspirations,” said Sumbly.
Triumph, the second largest player in the segment of 500cc-plus bikes, is aiming for double-digit growth in fiscal 2018 as well, with a target of selling more than 1,300 units. It is estimated to have sold 1,150 units in the fiscal year that just ended. Indian Motorcycles saw robust demand in the January-March quarter. Pankaj Dubey, managing director of Polaris India that sells the bikes, said those who previously wanted to pay in hard cash to buy premium motorcycles now prefer cheque and are also happy to avail of loans.
“It is much easier and transparent business post demonetisation,” Dubey said. As against normal growth of about 8-10 per cent in the premium bike category, Indian witnessed an expansion of 15% in the last quarter of fiscal 2017, Dubey said. He, however, wouldn’t reveal the company’s sales numbers. Harley-Davidson, the leader in the cult bike market, didn’t share its sales numbers in India.
“While demonetisation did affect the industry at large temporarily, as the market leader in the category, Harley-Davidson has been focusing on consolidating the market and gaining market share,” its India spokesperson said. The segment where the bikes cost at least `5 lakh and come fitted with 500ccplus engines has grown at a compounded annual rate of 19 per cent from 2014 to 2016, thanks to the entry of all the big brands in the Indian market, said Sumbly.
The overall motorcycle segment posted a 1 per cent drop in sales in those two years. The last fiscal year, however, saw a minor blip, with the segment estimated to have posted a 10 per cent drop in sales, which industry executives blamed partly on a new rule that requires the deduction of a 10 per cent tax at source on any purchase costing Rs.10 lakh or more. Also, Kerala, Gujarat and Maharashtra increased VAT and road tax, which jacked up vehicle prices 6-9 per cent. These states account for almost a quarter of the big bike segment. Fewer product launches by these companies and the entry of brands like Ducati and MV Augusta with their entire lineup in the preceding year weighed, too.