Considering that there is no year zero in the Gregorian calendar we follow, December 2020 is the last Autocar issue of this decade. Conveniently, it will also mark 10 years since I’ve been in this business. And what a decade it’s been; by far the best of my life, but also for the Indian two-wheeler industry.
Sure the sales volumes have swelled to nearly unfathomable numbers, but that’s to be expected in a country of over a billion people with ever-growing aspirations. Instead of boring ourselves with statistics, let’s talk about the industry achievements.
What towers above all else is how nearly every significant ‘western’ motorcycle manufacturer now wants to be associated with the Indian two-wheeler industry. The most successful so far has been the Bajaj-KTM connection that has evolved to new heights this decade. In fact, the India operations helped KTM become the biggest manufacturer in Europe.
Then there was the 2013 TVS deal with BMW, while Bajaj struck another new deal, this time with Triumph. And of course, in 2016, the Mahindra co-owned company of Classic Legends revived the Jawa brand (there’s a BSA revival plan as well), although this operation has, thus far, not been as smooth or transparent as many would have liked.
Earlier this year, TVS went and bought out the iconic, but troubled British brand Norton. And most recently, India’s largest manufacturer struck a deal with America’s biggest bike maker. Hero will now take over the Harley India operations, and you guessed it, co-develop new models in the future.
Speaking of Hero MotoCorp, its great separation from Honda was also completed this decade, and while some predicted the Japanese giant would simply run to the No 1 spot, it never happened. In fact, the gap has been growing since and Hero went on to become not just the world’s biggest manufacturer, but it also greatly contributed to making India the world’s biggest two-wheeler market.
Clearly, we’ve proven to be the go-to destination for cost-effective, yet quality manufacturing. And it’s those very attributes that have also helped India to become an export powerhouse. Today, Bajaj exports nearly as many motorcycles as it sells in India. The Pune based company isn’t just India’s biggest two-wheeler exporter, it also ranks highly in the list of Indian exporters of finished goods in general.
On the topic of success stories, the last decade has seen fairy tale levels of growth for Royal Enfield. In the last few years particularly, RE has begun turning out some soulful, yet modern products born of world-class engineering. The 650 twins provided the first taste of RE’s new capabilities, and it’s not just India that loves them – the Interceptor recently became the bestselling motorcycle in the UK.
The Indian two-wheeler industry has truly come of age this decade and it’s something to be proud of. While the path ahead is littered with economical, environmental and regulatory uncertainties, the future remains exciting nonetheless.