Sunday 22 October 2017 News Updated at 11:10 AM IST
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A two-wheeler segment that's not here to scoot - Deccan Herald
A two-wheeler segment that's not here to scoot
Hrithik Kiran Bagade, DH News Service,
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In more than a decade, the market has witnessed the emergence of some legendary products that actually got the scooter segment zooming. DH File Photo
Growth story
When the Bajaj Chetak was introduced in India in the 1970s, the humble scooter came to be accommodated as an integral member of the middle-class Indian family. The slogan 'Hamara Bajaj’ resounded in all four corners of the Indian two-wheeler market, heralding the scooter revolution.

The scooter’s journey that took off then is never going to stop, for the two-wheeler has undergone a multi-faceted transformation, from offering India its nayiummeed through the Hero Duet, to defining zyaada ka fayda through the TVS Jupiter.

Today’s scooter has shed its gears and become popular with motorists across the board - the family man, the student, the senior citizen, the homemaker, and novices who have just taken to the road. It has provided a sense of independence and easy mobility. Above all, it has created a booming segment around itself, with enough to choose from, and yet waiting to grow, even competing with the tough motorcycle space.

It’s important to dissect the scooter segment in its varied hues and understand some unique trends. Of the total 1.6 crore two-wheelers sold in India last year, almost 57 lakh were scooters.

An automobile sector update by Motilal Oswal published last month quotes Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Senior Vice President (Sales and Marketing) Yadvinder Singh Guleria, who expects scooterisation in the Indian two-wheeler market to continue.

"Going forward, the share of scooters is likely to increase to around 40% of the overall two-wheeler market in the next two to three years (from 33.7% in FY18 YTD), overtaking entry-level motorcycles, to become the single-largest segment,” Guleria says.

In FY12, the motorcycle segment contributed 74% to the two-wheeler market in India, while the scooter segment contributed 20%. A tiny 6% was held by the moped segment, which today is almost inconsequential. Come FY18, the contribution from motorcycles has shrunk to 62%, while scooters’ share has risen to 34%.

"The scooter segment has grown from 11%, to around 34% of the total two-wheeler industry, which has seen an almost 20% CAGR over the last five years. We foresee robust growth and continuing scooterisation in India,” says TVS Motor Company Vice President (Marketing - Commuter Motorcycles, Scooters and Corporate Brand) Aniruddha Haldar.

There are multiple factors that have led to the spurt in scooter acceptance among people. "Essentially, within the two-wheeler industry, people have slowly begun to migrate from motorcycles to scooters, looking for a convenient vehicle that all people in a family can use. People seek more value-addition, and OEMs are able to offer that and more,” PriceWater House Partner Abdul Majeed tells DH.

Echoing a similar view, Suzuki Motorcycle India Executive Vice President (Sales and Marketing) Sajeev Rajasekharan says, "From cumbersome two-stroke engines, scooters have evolved into advanced gearless four-stroke two-wheelers that offer better performance, fuel efficiency, riding comfort, and ease of maintenance.”

Additionally, with features like self-start, under-seat storage space, and tubeless tyres, and extra goodness in the form of digital consoles, mobile-charging docks, and so on, scooters today are able to fulfill practical needs better than commuter motorcycles.

Segment snapshot
One of the most evident aspects that divides the Indian scooter segment today is engine configuration and performance. There are three engine capacities on offer - 90-110 cc, 125 cc and 150 cc, with the base segment dominating volumes at over 50%.

"The market for scooters ranges from 90cc to 150cc, with bulk of the volumes coming from the 110 cc segment, owing to ease of use and maneuverability. The comfort provided by these scooters in bad traffic conditions, coupled with their improved durability, mileage and affordability have led to the growth,” Haldar says.

In more than a decade, the market has witnessed the emergence of some legendary products that actually got the scooter segment zooming.

Honda Activa, which is in its fourth generation currently, has attained a cult status among customers and auto industry trackers. In May this year, the 110-cc Activa achieved a mammoth 1.5 crore in cumulative sales, becoming one of, if not 'the’ greatest two-wheeler industry success story, in India. Launched in 2001, this scooter came with a taste of Japanese ingenuity and sold 55,000 units on debut. Before long, it is a key scooter that India rides. In FY17, Honda ruled the scooter segment with a 57% share, which included sales of the Dio, Aviator and Activa i.

Close on Honda’s heels followed TVS, whose 110-cc sensation Jupiter clocked two million unit sales within four years of launch.

"TVS entered the scooter market with the Scooty, which has since come to represent a generic name for gearless two-wheelers in India. Now, 24 years hence, the brand continues to be relevant and has evolved to reflect the aspirations of modern India. We now have a strong presence in the 110 cc category with the WEGO and Zest 110, apart from the Jupiter,” relates Haldar.

Power in premium
While the 110-cc scooter is the favoured choice among a bulk of scooter buyers, a few seek more power and performance, and are willing to pay for it. However, it must be noted that largely, the market has not grown at par with newer designs, powertrains, and features,when compared with motorcycles, which have diversified from 100 cc commuters to superbikes.

The definition of 'premium’ in a scooter is quite unlike what can be expected from the closest of its motorcycle siblings. Experts state that premium in a scooter may refer to minor design changes and body graphics, and some utility frills to make a purchase more value for money. Premium seldom points at performance.

Majeed says that the very mindset that governs scooter purchase and use differs from that of motorcycles. "Scooter premiumness in India will take time, and would be driven by performance. Right now, people don’t demand high-end scooters, as scooters in general are viewed as vehicles for urban commute, while motorcycles are preferred for road trips and adventure, besides commute,” he adds.

Unlike India with its 125 cc and 150 cc offerings at most, countries in Europe and even Japan have a sizeable market from high-performance premium scooters, with engine capacities as high as 1,000 cc - from the stables of Yamaha, Aprilia, Honda, BMW and Ducati.

However, in India, the demand for 125 cc, 150 cc and beyond is only just picking up. "We feel that the transition from 110 cc scooters to 125 cc scooters is still at an initial stage. With the growing acceptance of scooters as a preferred mode of commute, more customers will opt for a 125 cc scooter in the coming days for the dual purpose of superior performance and economy,” says Rajasekharan.

Suzuki is the leader in the 125 cc segment with its Access range, which has the sole serious competitor in the Honda Activa 125. Piaggio with its Vespa and Aprilia range opens the 150 cc category, which is still fledgling.

With the improving economy, road infrastructure, and purchasing power, a lot of latent demand for automatic scooters in non-metros and non-urban areas has been observed, and manufacturers are thinking out of the box to offer something exotic, away from traditional utilitarian options. Some of them are improving the overall scooter-buying experience itself. Recently, Yamaha launched its Scooter Boutique in India, which will offer customers both scooters and fashion accessories.

In FY18, the scooter segment has grown at 18.2%, compared with motorcycles’ growth at 6.6%. Mopeds have de-grown by 13%. As the segment grows, scooter manufacturers will be looking at weaving the needs of the commuter, with the demands of the customer.