Premium bike mkt to grow at 25% a yr: Benelli-India

Italian superbike manufacturer Benelli QJ partnered with Adishwar Auto Ride India (AARI), a subsidiary of Hyderabad-based Mahavir Group for distribution in India. Since 2019, AARI has been handling completely knocked-down (CKD) operations of Benelli at its local facility. It reassembles individual parts of the bikes that were stripped down at the origin country. Benelli-India has three own dealerships and 42 associated dealerships across the country. It currently has five bikes. In an exclusive interview, Vikas Jhabakh, Managing Director, Benelli India, shares with Bizz Buzz about company’s expansion plans, new launches, more dealerships, festival offers, road safety aspects and the overall demand for super bikes in the country

Let us know about Benelli’s journey in India? How has the brand been revamped after the tie-up with Mahavir Group’s AARI?

Benelli started its India journey in 2016 and had to halt operations for eight months in 2018. The brand restarted operations under AARI in early 2019. Benelli under AARI has made many customer-centric changes such as reduction in service costs, extension of warranty period, service DIY sessions and an improvement in workshop touch points across India.

Toward the end of 2019, Benelli had launched the Imperiale 400, our retro-classic offering, and this has helped the brand become more accessible to a wider consumer base. Over the last three years we have also established a strong riding community for Benelli in India and have organised customer rides and training programs across India.

Currently, how many variants are available at the showrooms across India? What is the price range? Which one is the best selling bike among all of them?

We have five motorcycles in our product line-up that serves to different segments including, Imperiale 400 (Retro-Classic), Leoncino 500 (Neo-Retro Scrambler), TRK 502 (Adventure Touring), TRK 502X (Off-Road Adventure) and the recently launched 502c (Urban Cruiser). Our offerings fall under the Rs2-5 lakh bracket.

In terms of sales, our retro-classic offering, the Imperial 400 tops the charts. We have also introduced a limited period offer, where customers can avail of a low EMI offer of Rs 4,999 per month, with up to 85 per cent funding on the Imperiale 400, to make it more accessible for customers.

Can you reveal about the new variants coming up? When are you planning to launch the new bikes in the country?

We are always exploring the opportunity to bring the right products for the Indian market. We are currently working very closely with our headquarters and are looking to launch 2-3 new models in the market by the end of this financial year.

Tell us about the dealer network across the country. Are you planning to increase the number of dealers?

We currently have 45 dealerships across 41 cities. Yes, we are planning to open 14 more by the end of this financial year. We have recently launched its 45th exclusive showroom in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. Our customer service philosophy is in tandem with the principles of our Bhubaneswar Dealer Partner SR Automobile.

Our employees are trained to offer the best customer experience. Our key motive is to ensure 3-S (sales, services and spare parts) facilities are present across India to generate strong brand presence. Our dealership is not just a place to serve customers but a platform for enthusiasts and brand purists to come together and interact with other like-minded riders.

How many showrooms and service centres are owned by the company? Are the service centres and spare parts available in every city where you have a showroom?

We have three brand owned dealerships and service centres. They are located in Hyderabad, Kochi and Pune. Yes, we have service centres in every city where we have a showroom. Spare parts are also available at all the service centres.

Are there any challenges in CKD operations? Are you seeking support from the government while importing the products?

Under CKD format the technical process of assembling and quality control is very crucial. Fortunately, these are topics where we have invested in technical manpower and machinery to keep things under control.

External challenges include delay in international cargo and rising logistics cost. However, these are macro challenges and hopefully will settle down over time. We have always worked very closely with the government and will continue to do so in the future.

As most of your bikes come under the 300-500cc category, how is the demand for super bikes/premium bikes in the country?

The Indian bike market is highly concentrated between the 125/150cc categories. Improvement in the overall macro-economic conditions of India (GDP and per capita income) in combination with easy access to global cultures (via social media and electronic media) has redefined the standard of living for the people. This in turn is creating a demand for premium bikes in India.

We are witnessing a lot of upgrades from the 125/150cc bike category to higher cc purchases. We believe this trend is expected to continue over the next few years. The market between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs10-12 lakh constitutes the premium motorcycle market, which stands at around 30,000 units annually. This market is expected to grow at 20-25 per cent annually.

Do you see stiff competition from other manufacturers in this category? What steps are you taking to dominate the market?

The super bike/premium bike market consists of players like Royal Enfield, Jawa, KTM, BMW, Kawasaki and others. Many global brands exist in India because they recognise the potential for this segment in India. At Benelli, we have always focussed to offering value for money products and we will continue to work by this principle for our upcoming products as well.

We have a clear focus to work around the theme of customer satisfaction and building a riding community for Benelli across India. We also have plans to expand our brand to cater to more cities. We recently expanded the assembly capacity at our plant in Telangana to 40,000 units per annum from 7,000 units per annum earlier by setting up new assembly lines to gear up for the future demand.

What are the safety measures being taken by the company to prevent accidents on Indian roads? Can you throw some light on the braking system and suspension?

We regularly run informative campaigns on our social media handles to educate our customers about the importance of road safety. All of our motorcycles have a dual-channel ABS feature that avoids the wheels from locking during panic braking, this feature is crucial to prevent the motorcycle from skidding.

At our dealerships we ensure that no test drives are given without the essential protective gears. Moreover, we have also conducted training programs, through professional and experienced riders, for our customers to familiarise them with safe driving techniques.

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