An off-road track in a 5-acre property in suburban Mumbai called Tao Experiences at Roaring Farms became the 54th 'Polaris Experience Zone' in India on Thursday. Such zones offering rides in Polaris All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) constitute the largest customer group for Polaris India, followed by individual customers and government establishments. The ATV market in India, at 1,000-1,200 units a year, is not big yet.
However, Pankaj Dubey, managing director, Polaris India, is bullish that the market will grow significantly in the coming years. And that's when Polaris will invest in a full-fledged CKD assembly facility in India. Speaking to our sister publication Autocar Professional, Dubey said: "For CKD, we think the volumes have to be 2-3 times of what we are doing right now. It seems to me that it will take about three years or so of the models that we are getting from US."
Polaris India recently started assembling a 150cc go-kart-like ATV called Hammerhead, which it imports from China. Polaris Industries acquired HH Investment, the maker of Hammerhead, last year. This acquisition is aimed at tapping price-sensitive markets like India. The Hammerhead is priced at Rs 2.85 lakh, that's nearly half of the entry-level price of Polaris' ATV portfolio.
Polaris and Suzuki (which entered the Indian ATV market last year) are the only global brands available here. Growing acceptance of ATVs and entry of more players will provide the economy of scale for Polaris to seriously 'Make in India'. Dubey said, "The industry size of 4,000-5,000 a year is when it would make us an interesting company to invest into this. That is what at the minimum is what we are looking at." The groundwork for the local assembly/production is already happening though. Polaris Industries has an international purchase office (IPO) in Chennai. The vendor base meeting Polaris' global production specifications is "growing". "That will create the future ground for us to get some components also here. It doesn't make sense to import all components and assemble here," says Dubey.
One of Polaris India's three warehouses and the small facility to assemble the Hammerhead ATV is located in Faridabad. Fresh investment will be made to setup a plant to locally assemble/produce Polaris models.
ATVs are not road-legal in India. A green signal by the government authorities could lead to exponential growth in that market. Polaris has held discussions with government authorities but approval is still some time away. "There have been mixed reactions from the government. There has been no concrete proposal or finalisation. I am hoping that as some point of time they approve that," said Dubey.
Polaris being the sole player in the negotiations is not helping much. The entry of more players into the market and then approaching the government as a group will perhaps make the difference.