Vikas Jhabakh, managing director and director of Mahavir Group, the new partner of Benelli India, was in Goa recently to draw up strategy for the brand sales in the state. In the interview with Serilda Coutinho, he speaks on upcoming launches and overall superbike market
Q: What is the trend you observe in Goa in terms of superbike purchases?
Goa has a huge in flow from remittance from residents who shifted abroad for education and jobs. It gives them easy access to money. Also with the large number of tourist coming to Goa the exposure the state receives is also vast as it creates the awareness for high-end products that was not possible about 10 years back. We have also observed that the younger generation here is capable of financing their own purchases without the support of their parents.
Q: How do you plan to popularize the Benelli brand in Goa?
A lot of the people today are using digital references to make purchasing decisions like YouTube, blogs and websites that gives them a fair idea of the product. So we will be making use of a lot of digital initiatives so that when buyers go online to research about a particular bike we will be available on that platform. We will make sure that through our partners in the state we will be part of auto shows and critical activities so that the locals can see, touch and feel our bikes. Apart from that we are also looking forward to organize ride activities for our customers as well as potential buyers so that we can give them an experience of the superbike. Our main aim is to give exposure to customers on various platforms which will hopefully convert them into Benelli customers soon.
Q: What is the local market share that you are expecting in future?
If you take a comparison of Kawasaki, Harley Davidson, Triumph and Benelli, we are looking for a market share of approximately 30 per cent. In terms of sales we target around 250 bikes by 2019 by setting up a dealership network in the state.
Q: What new models can customers expect from you?
In 2019 we will launch about four- five new bikes and by the end of 2020 our portfolio will have a total of 12-13 bikes. The upcoming two launches are Leoncino and TRK, both will be launched with a 500cc engine and will be available in the on road and off-road variant. Another promising launch for the coming year is the Imperiale, a commuter cruiser that will be available in the 400cc and 530cc.
Q: With 12 new launches over two years, how strong is the demand for superbikes among consumers?
When Royal Enfield started selling 350cc bikes consumers were skeptical about the sales but today they have sold close to 70,000 bikes and are planning to roll out a 750cc bike, Harley Davidson also plans on launching 500cc bikes, Triumph has tied with Bajaj to make bikes so I do not think there will be an excess of bikes out there. The way the Indian economy and the two wheeler biking segment is growing, definitely there is an appetite for these bikes in the market. Today the consumer wants choice and wants to be able to choose from a platter of options. The competition in the superbike segment is heating up but that is a good sign because everybody believes that the segment will continue growing and hence invest in it. We are also working on the option of manufacturing in India and that will make us competitive in terms of our pricing.
Q: How do you plan on making affordable spare parts available to customers?
Our team is currently doing a lot of research on the cost of spare parts across brands. We are also trying to explore the options within India where we can supply good quality spare parts to customers at reasonable pricing and at every point we will make sure that the pricing structure and policy is shared with customers so that they understand what they are buying. The charges will available on the website so that anyone who wants to buy a spare part will have transparent access. We are also open to feedback incase the pricing does not fit their budget and will work on those lines.
Q: What is the current spending capacity of bikers on superbikes bikes in India?
Today a lot of people instead of buying their first used car prefer to invest that money to upgrade to a superbike. So I feel it is the Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh bracket that buyers are ready to spend.
Q: What is the support that you intend to provide to existing customers?
The spare part supply has already started throughout the country. We have given our existing customers the assurance that their service contracts and warranties will be honored. Apart from that any other concern raised will be addressed through the direct line of communication. Going forward we are planning to expand our service network from 15 to 60 dealers by 2020 so that we can get closer to our customers.
Q: How has the huge demand for mass commuter bikes affected the sales of superbikes in India?
If you take absolute numbers about 11 million motorcycles were sold in the 100cc -150cc segment last year that makes it the higher selling segment. We feel that a lot of these riders are looking to upgrade to a higher cc motorbike and that is where we feel the growth will come. So we do not intend to replace the mass commuting motorbike market but are looking for those consumers to upgrade to our bikes.
Q: Will third party insurance for bikes impact sales?
I think the five year insurance policy that the Government has brought out is a very positive move because a lot of the bikes that are on Indian roads do not insure after a span of three years. With the new insurance rule we know that every product is covered for five years. Initially there will be a difference in pricing experienced by the consumer but at the end of the day the rule is for the entire industry so the pricing will more or less be the same. There will be no impact on the sales.
Q: As Benelli’s new partner are you at an advantage since it is already a known brand in India?
Yes definitely there is an advantage. Today we have 5400-odd customers on Indian roads and a lot of effort has gone into branding and developing customer relations. So in 2014 when we started our association with Benelli it was a relatively unknown brand in India but now people at least have an opinion of the brand and are aware about its existence. Currently we will look to work on those trends and work on many other layers to make Benelli a stronger brand.