Action Replayy…scooters are back

Updated: Dec 08, 2010, 09:47 AM IST

Anil Kumar Satapathy

Fashion never dies, it just rediscovers itself. From films to dresses, everything of yore days is now resurfacing. Now, it is the turn of the all-familiar uncleji’s scooter. Yes, the scooter! Remember the Hamara Bajaj ad…

Bajaj may have exited the scooter business but other players like Honda and TVS have joined the bandwagon, launching a range of scooters suiting the need of today’s customers, including the young ones.

According to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the domestic scooter segment witnessed sales of over 11 lakh (11,63,127) units during April to October, 2010-11 compared to 7 lakh (7,64,643) units in the same period last year.

This translates into a whopping 52 percent jump in sales in the first seven months of this fiscal year.

To be more precise, in October alone the segment witnessed 104.27 percent jump in sales to 1.8 lakh (1,88,633) units compared to 92,346 units in the same month last year.

"At one point, people had written off scooters. However, scooters have been repositioned and it has helped. It is doing exceedingly well by targeting a different segment of customers," SIAM director general Vishnu Mathur says.

Scooters’ glory days date back to the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, after which the Indian consumer started shying away from the two-wheeler. A big factor was that scooters were looked down upon as the poor cousins of motor-cycles due to their weaker engines.

However, in recent times a number of popular models like Activa and Aviator have helped revive this segment’s dwindling sales. While models like Hero Honda Pleasure or the TVS Scooty Pep have a cute and stylish image, other products like Activa, Rodeo, and Duro are promoting their powerful engines to tap customers.

"Scooter is a product whose time has come. Many other players have also come into the market and is helping in expanding the segment," says Anil Dua, Hero Honda Senior Vice President (Marketing and Sales).

"Earlier, the scooter market was mainly geared and male oriented. When we entered in 2006, with Pleasure, we came with gearless (product) and targeted the women`s (segment) and the strategy worked," Dua adds.

The renewed vigour among scooter-makers can be gauged from another instance too.

Italian automaker Piaggio, which earlier used to sell scooters in partnership with Kanpur-based Lohia Machinery Limited as LML Vespa, has now decided to invest 30 million Euros in India to set up a scooter facility in Baramati, Maharashtra.

It will re-introduce the iconic Vespa scooter by early 2012.

Another reason behind such a phenomenal rise in the sales of scooters is the jump in fuel costs. With scooters giving better mileage than bikes, consumers offset the rise in fuel prices. While some bikes also give an equally good mileage these days, scooters score over motorcycles in terms of safety. Some also attribute it to the attachment masses have with the scooter.

A rise in nuclear families and working women too could be reasons. Working women and college going girls often prefer scooters as their most desired conveyance.

"As for the future of the segment, I think it will continue to grow at double digits as more products are being introduced and the overall economy is growing... Many players are coming into the market targeting different segments and it has helped in expanding the market," says NK Rattan, Head of Marketing & Sales at HMSI.

Yes, the scooter-mania is yet to grip the males, especially the young ones, in a significant way. “These scooties are easy to handle and are just tension free ride,” one of my fried, who has one, said. So, it is certainly interesting to see how long the scooters can go when the Harley Davidson cult is engulfing the highways.