Every couple of weeks I open a newspaper or magazine in India, to see these gorgeous photographs of superbikes (like the one above), with accompanying headlines like “the superbikes are coming!” and alternately “the big bike question” (ET AutoMania, 2nd November 2006).

Enticed enough by the visuals, I end up reading the article, only to discover either:

1. The “superbike” planned by some company or the other is a 180cc or at best a 220cc (!) wannabe superbike.

2. The article interviews half a dozen top executives from Bajaj, Hero Honda, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki about them introducing real superbikes (500cc and above), only to conclude that Indian roads (!) are not ready for these superbikes, and they will not be successful (?)

Give me a break! Being a superbike fan, I am not even going to address the first point, because you have to be daft to put “220cc” and “superbike” in the same sentence (yuck, it hurts to even say that!).

As for point 2) the conclusion that Indian roads are not ready and they won’t be successful, shows either a complete lack of understanding of the market/consumer insights, a lack of guts and something lower, or simply reflects a case of “sour grapes”!

Let’s consider each element of the case against the launch of superbikes in India, one by one, and see what makes sense, and what does not:

1. “Indian roads are not suited for superbikes”

– It is not about the road, silly! It is about the bike and the passion to ride one!

– Indian roads are as good or as bad as roads in Bangkok, Johannesburg, Lima, Mexico city and Rome, to name just a few. And we haven’t heard them complaining, have we?

– The point is, these bikes will never be used for day-to-day-commutes to places like Chandni Chowk or Lower Parel. But they will be used for thrill seeking and statement making.

– For the thrill seekers, places like Delhi-Gurgaon Jaipur highway, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the Hyderabad-Secunderabad Tank Bund will do. For some, even two spins through Phoenix Mills and the malls in Gurgaon will give the desired satisfaction!

– Anyway, most of these bikes are best enjoyed at night, when the toy bikes and cars have gone home to bed, and every street becomes a super-highway!

2. “won’t be successful”

– How do you define success? Compared to the 100cc, 100kmpl motor-bicycles that are consumed by the millions in this country?

– You’ve got to be more realistic. Even in the rich countries they don’t sell as many superbikes as perhaps one Hero Honda dealer would sell in New Delhi!

Now, for my perspective, on what would help – not rocket science, but a little common sense!

1. Belief Systems: First and foremost get your own mind in order! Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

2. Honesty: The problem isn’t the roads, it’s the numbers – if it does not make business sense for you, say that. If taxes and laws are killing, explain. Don’t blame the roads and other irrelevant aspects. If you identify the problem correctly, you will always find relevant solutions.

3. Understanding your audiences: You have two kinds – the passionate money-bags and the passionate money-lacks.

With the passionate money-bags, eliminate the fears (put there yourself, and by your peers) of bad roads, and sell the bikes which you have so lovingly created.

For the passionate money-lacks, just organise the finance! I rememember, the BMW 650 launched many years ago cost as much as 3 cars at a time when people couldn’t even afford 1! And when I went to a Yamaha showroom last year to see their proposed Royal Star, I was told I would have to cough up around 900,000 rupees without any chance of finance! I may be bike looney, but ain’t bloody loaded, so help me out here!

India is a vibrant dynamic country. The economy is booming. And the kids here (18 to 40 year olds) are ready to take on additional financial EMIs, if you promise enough social and emotional ROI.

If this gets the wheels in your head moving, puts serious superbike plans into gear in your company, I along with plenty others will be delighted. And if you decide to give me a call to help out with the strategy, I’d be ecstatic!

Related Reading: Looking Ludhiana, Talking Tokya: Why Yamaha has lost it, in India


  1. […] This is my second post in recent times on the automobile industry in India. While I talked about the superbike dilemma the last time, this time I want to share my thoughts on the actual – current battle of the bikes going on between the supposed hero number one, and whom I think is the real baap (hindi term, for big daddy) of two wheelers in India. […]

  2. You’re right about there being a market – there is one and it grows everyday with an exponential number of young people who’ve wayyy greater purchasing power than their fathers.

    The problem is that our motorbike czars are content to make volumes, see bajaj whose bikes are made of lower quality parts to allow the bike to last longer and Hero Honda who is more content to make the lower cc bikes to keep volumes up and would rather not get into higher cc bikes in order to avoid paying royalty to Honda!

    You’re wrong about Bankoks roads being bad – their roads are freakin awesome, and i was there 4 years ago – endless stretches of flyovers, and (get this) flyover UPON flyover so that two way traffic is possible without them being on the same flyover!!

    Our roads are truly bad – and it gets worse every year, driving at 30 is still a hazard, hundreds of people who jaywalk while eyeballing the drivers to ‘come get them’… stry dogs who look the wrong way when crossing, errant children, autos cutting lights, taxis cabs disobeying law, you’re actually telling me that you can ignore these when on a superbike?

    John Abrahams recent experience on his superbike wherein he hit two errant cyclists is a case in point as to how the law targets the bike owner…

  3. i am all set for a rs 3 lac superbike now..here I means thounds of guys like me 24-29 age bracket

  4. Hi Bobby, I like the intent behind what you’re saying… but it would be nice to know what you’re actually doing about it – like what, when, where?

    And yeah, I love your wheels!

  5. Yeah i seriously agree with you its really hard to find a seller of super bike in india and if we want to import one oh god we have to spend half of our fortune and incase we manage to get one superbike from somewhere from where the hell will we get our spares should we wait for a month to get one spare part

  6. Hi SS,

    Yamaha has announced it is launching super bikes (including the YZR1) in India this November – but No, there is no customs duty exemption given by the government of India.

    So customers will have to pay around 100% extra as customs duty on the bikes which would be priced around USD 12000 (INR 480,000).

    Eventually these bikes would cost the Indian consumer approximately USD 24,000 or around 10 Lakh rupees!

  7. Personally I think the whole policy is convoluted. Our current action is in the 100 cc – 150cc space with dozens of models in that config. Then you have 1 offering in the 180 cc 1 offering in the 160 cc 1 offering in the 200 cc and 2 offerings in the 220cc. sorry but Enfield is not really a modern day 350 cc or 500cc . Consider at least 1/2 that cubic capacity – the RE bullets are really like 150 or 200 cc bikes. SO, effectively from 220 cc you suddenly permit imports of 1600 cc and 1360 cc and what have you ?! What about the KEY space of 500 cc – 1000cc where most of the buyers for quality bikes in India would bite. Its foolishness to the highest degree.

  8. Hi all,

    I am looking for in site into market potential for super bikes in India, and happened to see your wishful thinking, we at JL Enterprises, engaged in Import/Export have imported YFZ R6, ‘ 07 model as a test case.

    Our research shows that there are about 500 super bikes in India, mostly arrived thru gray market, and it cost not less than 10 lac rupees, and your parents have to be influential to bail you out if you run into cop’s.

    And to SS’s comment the Government dose permit the bikes to be Imported at a lower cost provided the importer and the bike meets certain conditions set in Indian Motor Vehicle Act.

    Any one Interested can mail me at [email protected]

    Sorry noshtradamus if you feel that I have used your blog for my marketing. But i felt the need to share the information with the enthusiast.

  9. Nicely written … atleast the manufacturers should be honest about why they can’t get in superbikes — “volumes” and not blame “bad roads” and stuff…

    If “bad roads” issue were true, then how come cars worth a couple of crores are launched, which are meant to be driven on these same roads !!

  10. @ Nadir: You’re right! A sensible comment indeed …

    We really need good 500 – 750 cc bikes, and plz don’t even mention Enfield LB 500 !

    and yes, should be manufactured in India only, This Yamaha R1 @ 12 Lacs is not fair …and not comparing with Gray market …

    I’m comparing with Japanese/ US/ Thailand/ Canada/ etc. residents. Damn, Why we indians suffer?

    Yamaha or Bajaj (with Kawasaki):–> A 600 for me plz …

  11. The main problem with superbikes is its cost factor,if u see an american website of suzuki you would see that a suzuki hayabusa costs around $12000 dat is Rs.6lacs in india (12000*50)but this amount gets doubled wen the bike is imported to india due to customs and other taxes.which takes the price Tag to Rs.12 lacs and more.If these bikes are manufacturd in india there cost will automatically come to $12000.Correct me if i am wrong

  12. Dear All

    I have sports /super bikes over 10 units here in sri lanka if you interested please drop me a message all r in very good condition



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