Home Economy Zooming passion for superbikes in India overrides cost factor

Zooming passion for superbikes in India overrides cost factor

By Pupul Dutta, IANS,

New Delhi : A niche market for superbikes is quietly picking up pace in India, with enthusiasts increasingly seeking that tantalising rush of adrenaline, undeterred by the high prices of these roaring mean machines.

Yamaha, the Japanese biggie, alone has sold about 125 superbikes, YZF R1 and MT01, since its launch in December 2007. Suzuki with masterpieces like Hayabusa and Intruder has sold about 100 of them since 2006, while Honda and Ducati are others in the market.

While the regular models on offer have engine powers ranging from 100 cc (Bajaj Boxer) to 350 cc (Royal Enfield), the superbikes on Indian roads start from 1,000 cc (Yamaha’s YZF R1) to 1,300 cc (Suzuki’s Hayabusa).

Incidentally, the 350-cc Royal Enfield has for long been India’s answer to the Harley Davidson that has a cult following worldwide.

“It’s like an addiction, an adrenaline rush,” says Arun Thareja, a head and neck cancer surgeon at the Maharaja Agrasen Hospital here. “You literally feel you’re a cheetah as these machines are awesomely powerful,” Thareja, 46, told IANS.

Little wonder his passion has made him president of a club called Group of Delhi Superbikers, which has 25 members ranging from doctors like him to businessmen and students.

The superbikes also have cult status in the country since most of them are imported. Indian manufacturers are yet to enter this elite segment as they are more focussed on delivering what is most in demand than in catering to a niche segment.

As a result, auto majors like Bajaj and Hero Honda have not gone above a 250 cc bike.

The positioning of superbikes is for a limited segment as they cost between Rs.125,000 and Rs.5 million – some custom-made machines can even go higher.

Says Sanjay Tripathi, head of product planning and brand management with Yamaha India:”The customers of superbikes already have two-three cars. They are real bike lovers. They can splurge as much money on a bike as they can for a car.”

One may think it is the youth that is most enthused by superbikes. But age is no bar – owners include teens, young actors like John Abraham and middle-aged professionals like Thareja.

For those unable to acquire one, modifying existing machines is an answer. Thareja, for example, owns about five bikes, and has modified three. And Hero Honda’s Karizma, a modified version, is his favourite for Sunday group rides.

“Modifying a bike costs around Rs.10,000. It also depends if you want to tinker with the engine or not. Otherwise, with a normal carburettor-modification, the cost can be as low as Rs.5,000,” he explains.

There is also an equally thriving grey market of superbikes as import duty is as high as 113 percent. “To avoid this, people dismantle them and import them as spare parts, which attract 25 percent duty. It is then re-assembled and sold,” says Yamaha’s Tripathi.

He estimates the market for superbikes at 600-700 units a year.

“It’s a crazy passion for crazy machines,” says motoring critic Murad Ali Baig. “These bikes are for the seriously rich. I don’t think India can have a very big market for such machines, at least in the near future.”

Agrees Atul Gupta, Suzuki India vice president for sales and marketing: “I don’t see the market expanding. Not because people don’t have the buying capability but because there is lack of good roads in the country.”

(Pupul Dutta can be contacted at [email protected])