One doesn’t have to be a mathematical genius to get how staggering a number ‘1,00,000,000’ is. That’s one hundred million, by the way, and that’s how many Hero-badged motorcycles have been produced to date, since a day not long ago, in 1985. If, somehow, the sheer incredulity of that statistic hasn’t coalesced between your ears yet, let’s attempt to put it this way - a Hero has been born every 11.3 seconds in India. That’s a new motorcycle produced and rolled off the production line in about the same time as it has taken you to read this sentence. Alright, I stretched that sentence deliberately, but you get it, right?
The ‘hundred million motorcycles’ tag isn’t representative of the sheer volume alone, however. It’s a validation of just how accurately Hero tapped the pulse of the Indian two-wheeler buyer. More so, just how accurately it has gotten it all along, year after year. To be able to achieve this in what is, arguably, the most cost-sensitive motorcycle market in the world is, in simple words, a very big deal. Motorcycle-buying is an intensely emotional matter in our part of the world, perhaps outdone in its reverential status only by the car, and to have produced and sold these many dreams, consistently, over three and a half decades, is a fantastical thing.
The first bike from Hero - the CD100 - was co-developed with Honda.
Those with stronger emotional restraint than myself may point out, perhaps accurately, that Hero’s story wouldn’t have been the same without the technological wealth it inherited from erstwhile partner Honda. Absolutely plausible. But if ‘what ifs’ were to be taken that seriously, we’d surely have found out, by now, if America did indeed put a man on the moon or if the Earth isn’t as round as some claim it is. It’s an unscientific rebuttal that we can, however, choose to see the bright side of; the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world is Indian.
This milestone business isn’t new to Hero, by the way. It had produced its first million motorcycles in 1994, nine years since it set up shop in Dharuhera in the state of Haryana. The year also gave us another milestone in the form of the Splendor, which, aside from being a glaring typographical error, is a metaphorical reflection of economy-minded middle-class India. I say this because the Splendor’s is a success story written not only by favouring economics of scale, but also while swimming against the tide of a dramatically evolving market and customer. Hero’s attempts to keep with the times, with motorcycles such as the CBZ, Karizma and, more recently, the XPulse and Xtreme 160R haven’t necessarily been blockbusters, but that it has kept the faith and optimism alive, despite the world’s sharpest manufacturers having made India its playground, is something that ought to be taught in business schools - if that isn’t already the case.
The Splendor is a metaphorical reflection of economy-minded middle-class India.
While the motorcycles you and I dream about today look a lot different from what they did in the ‘80s or even ‘90s, what they mean to us hasn’t changed one bit. They still are, and perhaps always will remain, fascinating machines that lead us to dreams, whether of livelihood or leisure. Another hundred million motorcycles in the next ten years, then? You really shouldn’t be surprised.
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