A woman riding a scooter waits for a traffic signal along a street in Mumbai yesterday.
NEW DELHI: ‘Plush pink’ and ‘burgundy bliss’ scooters are the new buzz on India’s roads, even as the rest of the autos market is sputtering amid an economic slowdown.
The scooters go by names such as “Pleasure”, but marketing aside, this new fleet of women-friendly bikes reflects a deeper change in attitude and society in India, and has captured the attention of foreign manufacturers such as Japan’s Honda Motor Co Ltd and Yamaha Motor.
Young, well-heeled and independent-minded women, who are also conscious of the perils of using public transport, are helping to propel a boom in sales of scooters.
Weighing convenience as well as safety, some young women, and their parents, see the scooter as the best solution for commuting to work, going to college or simply going out to meet friends.
Scooter sales were up nearly 20 percent in the nine months through December.
Both Honda and Yamaha have identified the growth potential in scooters, and are building models designed for women and adding new plants to keep up with demand.
“College-going girls and working women are really creating this demand-wave in the scooter segment,” said Abdul Majeed, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers India. “Housewives are also using scooters to drop (off) kids and buy vegetables,” Majeed said.
Yamaha launched its first Indian scooter designed for women, the Ray, in 2012. The bike sells for around about 47,000 rupees ($750) and comes in colours such as ‘starry white’, ‘plush pink’ and ‘burgundy bliss’. About 70 percent of the women who buy it for themselves are under 30, the company says.
“They don’t want to trouble their parents or brothers. They want personal mobility,” said Roy Kurian, vice president of marketing and sales at Yamaha in India.
Honda Motor said yesterday it would build a fourth motorcycle factory in India with initial investment of roughly 11 billion Indian rupees ($175.7m) and annual output capacity of 1.2 million vehicles.
Last month, Honda expanded production capacity at its third motorcycle factory in India by 600,000 vehicles a year. The fourth plant will bring Honda’s total capacity in India to 5.8 million motorcycles a year.
Local player Hero MotoCorp also sees the potential of women buyers.
Besides being more manoeuvrable than motorbikes, the step-through frame of scooters makes it easy to ride wearing a skirt or traditional saree. Scooters also usually have space under the seat big enough to stow a handbag.
Manufacturers have identified the south and west of the country — regions that tend to be less socially conservative than northern India — as the most profitable markets for women-friendly scooters.