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South and Maharashtra buyers make a beeline for KTM

Murali Gopalan | Updated on March 10, 2018

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These States account for 60 per cent of the Austrian bikemaker’s sales

When Amit Nandi reveals that the four southern States and Maharashtra are KTM’s top five markets in India, it comes as a bit of a surprise. One would assume that sporty bikes strike a stronger chord with people in Delhi and Punjab but the President (Probiking) of Bajaj Auto dispels that notion.

“The real biking States for us are the four in the South and Maharashtra,” says Nandi. “Here, people buy KTM for the love of a bike, which is more than what it is elsewhere.” These five markets are account for nearly 60 per cent of KTM sales and are perhaps a result of better awareness on biking and higher levels of affluence among youth.

Core markets

Yet, Nandi hastens to add that the focus is clearly on the whole of India even while these remain the core markets. “There will always be a scenario where some markets grow faster than the others,” he reasons. Further, it is only a matter of time before other parts of the country catch up. “Our riders are influential, active on social media and opinion makers,” he says.

Pitched against Yamaha, Honda, Bajaj, Benelli, Harley and the like (but not Royal Enfield) in the ₹1-2.5 lakh segment, KTM is the largest selling brand in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. It is a “very close no 2” in Maharashtra and a more distant challenger in Tamil Nadu where Yamaha has been historically strong.

“In Maharashtra, we hope to be No 1 in six months though this will take slightly longer in Tamil Nadu where the gap is longer,” says Nandi. “We hope that growth will continue for us and believe there will be an inflection point, which is not too far away in the ₹1-2.5 lakh segment. KTM will benefit the most when this happens.”

In his view, it is a niche, high performance brand, which is not everybody’s cup of tea when it comes to handling the bikes or its styling and colours. “In its narrow focus lies its strength and this is something that we will never dilute. The numbers will not define the brand and they will come on their own,” adds Nandi.

Bajaj Auto has a near 49 per cent stake in this Austrian bike brand where bikes are made at the Chakan plant near Pune and exported to Europe, the US, Australia and many other countries.

Growing big

KTM has had an annual compounded growth of 50 per cent over the last five years and is looking at very healthy double digit growth during 2017-18 too. “Somebody can always say that it is on a relatively low base but this is a five-year-old brand, which has a larger base than its rivals,” counters Nandi.

The market is also evolving, which means that in a price range of ₹75,000-1 lakh, the Pulsars and Apaches make up a huge market that was minuscule a decade earlier. Bajaj Auto, likewise, believes that the ₹1 lakh plus market should be much larger than what it is five years from today.

“Over the last five years, this segment has seen a compounded annual growth rate of 20 per cent whereas this is barely two per cent for the overall motorcycle industry,” says Nandi. “It is growing 10 times more on a base, which is growing with every passing year and the growth is intact and accelerating. The day is not too far away when we will talk of very sizable numbers.”

The current focus is to expand KTM beyond the present strength of 330 showrooms across 220 towns. In the coming years, the number of KTM stores will go up to 500 with 150 more towns added. From the company’s point of view, the added comfort for customers is the access to service centres.

Nandi says that in exclusive KTM outlets the showroom guy is a biker who is taking the same language. When the customer goes to the service centre, he is one of 10 people who are all KTM customers and the treatment is specialised “which no mass manufacturer can offer”. In those cases, customer rub shoulders with a scooter/commuter bike buyer whereas there is a sense of exclusivity with KTM.

For the young riders

The company launched the Duke trio in Mumbai some weeks ago where the surprise package was the 250 Duke to complement the 200 and 390. These are now available in price ranges from ₹1.4 lakh to ₹2.25 lakh with the 250 Duke available for ₹1.73 lakh.

“This makes our portfolio more complete and compelling,” says Nandi. “If somebody were to go in for an entry level product but in a completely new package, he has both the 200 and 250. In the 390, we have moved the game up to a completely different level and not just in the styling but a host of new features.” The 200 Duke is an entry product and the 390 becomes a serious product both in performance and behaviour. As he says, it is not everybody’s cup of tea and for the person who has come in from the 200 Duke, the 250 becomes a more natural progression rather than a huge jump.

For young riders in the 18-22 year ago group, a bulk of them will opt for the 200 Duke. Then there is the other breed of customers who could again be in the same age group but will be keen on owning the latest from KTM. For him, the draw will not be the good price of the 200 Duke but the all-new package of the 250. The 200 Duke is for the very young customer who is already stretching himself to buy his first bike.

“What we find, unlike in the case of cars where the more money you have the bigger is the model you buy, in bikes it is not like that,” says Nandi. “It is more driven by passion than by affordability.” The 18-year-old who chooses to come directly to the 250 Duke may just feel the 200 is a little jaded considering that it has been around for five years. He is not going to mind stretching his budget. Neither will KTM.

Published on April 20, 2017

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