Op Ed: What should be the right product strategy for UM Motorcycles in India?

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Added in: Features

Upcoming UM Motorcycles to reach showrooms by June 2015 (3)

Of late at the Motoroids office, we’ve been riddled with calls inquiring about the new crop of UM Motorcycles that will reportedly arrive in India sometime later this year. The range, which was displayed at the 2014 Auto Expo managed to create quite a stir. In fact, the relentless inquiries made us mull what would really work for them in this extremely competitive market. Their original strategy was to develop and manufacture all-new, localized 300-500cc cruisers for India. Are they on the right track?

UM who?

Upcoming UM Motorcycles to reach showrooms by June 2015 (2)

UM Motorcycles are a US based motorcycle outfit that predominantly deals with lower capacity bikes ranging from 100cc to 230cc – perfect playing ground for developing markets with population issues like ours. Their current range, which includes affordable, yet stylish street bikes, cruiser and even motocross specimens, is quite unique and vast – do give them a look once you’re done reading this.

The Indian connection

Upcoming Motorcycles 2015 - UM Motorcycles Renegade Commando

UM recently signed a strategic joint venture agreement with Lohia Auto (erstwhile LML- they make half baked electric two-wheelers now) which envisions the formation of a JV company, named UML, with a 50-50 partnership between the two companies. After revealing the Renegade cruiser at the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo, the company’s market research revealed that an all-new range of bikes, based on an all-new platform, will be a better option instead of the Renegade.

The company also revealed that it is working on up to 500cc bikes, and will roll out its first product in the second quarter of 2015. Initially, UM plans to launch affordable cruisers in the 300-500cc range and intends to enter other segments at a later stage. To make these bikes affordable, the company is aiming to achieve up to 70% localization level.

The product strategy

Upcoming UM Motorcycles to reach showrooms by June 2015 (1)

We know that manufacturers tend to test waters in new markets by introducing their halo products first followed by the bread and butter earners later, just to boost their image and showcase their capabilities. Enthusiasts apart, their current crop of 100-230 cc motorcycles manage to strike a chord with the average Indian biker’s preliminary wants – those big bike aping looks, the affordability and more importantly, all bear pint sized, frugal drive-trains of which every Indian approves.

While the ploy to enter the higher range is arguably apt, it may backfire too. The 300-500cc range will have very few takers given the cost conscious mindset of the Indian customer. There is a good possibility that they will be evaded by aware enthusiasts, who will prefer settling for already established players like Royal Enfield and KTM. Soon, even Harley Davidson will join the party with the Street 500, which means UM will have to fend for themselves in the big, bad world solely for themselves with their still-to-be born cruising contender.

Upcoming Motorcycles 2015 - UM Motorcycles Renegade Sport

Alternatively, coaxing an average Indian biker to buy the 175cc Renegade, who’s already enamored by it, seems like a healthier proposition, rather than selling a heavily localized, built-to-cost specimen to the well versed enthusiast, even though they might be costing a smidgen less than competition. By developing all-new India-specific, medium capacity motorcycles, UM wants to up their image, and best of luck to them for that, but with the current field that they have, we see a lot more potential.

Um have a wide product lineup, and we have done another story listing all their products. Do have a look, and share with us you opinion on which of the UM products should be brought to the Indian market first.

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  • But you can’t keep a premium brand cheap, or else there would not be any differentiation. We agree with the quality and promptness of service part, though.

  • dadul says:

    well sorry for the late comment. To me and from my view no product is better then one which can be restored at very low cost and in any place. If customer service is good then product will be selling like chips. If that is not the case then case will be same as Skoda fabia, comet 250 and the list goes on.

  • Deepu says:

    Hello

    You said Harley Davidson is gone come out with the 500 – “who will prefer settling for already established players like Royal Enfield and KTM. Soon, even Harley Davidson will join the party with the Street 500, ”

    I think the Street 500 is not going to hit Indian Streets – reason being the cost is like Rs10,000 or so less than than the Street 750…

  • Jayesh Chauhan says:

    Hi,

    I want to know about the kawasaki vulcan, as to if they have any plans to sell these. Cruisers in India.

  • karikor says:

    I feel that UM should first bring in their flagship 500cc cruiser bike into the country as a brand flagship model and sell it at a sub 2lakhs price to target the Royal Enfield products. This will build up their brand. UM will not want to get into the mess of actually bringing in a lower displacement model in the 80k-1 lakh price point and then after getting good acceptance and orders, not be able to supply the demand. That will kill UM operations and plans in the country with the first model itself. Making customers to wait for months, when they are showing interests in tye products, should be the last thing UM would want to get into. So bring in their flagship model first, price it competitively in the market, sell a few thousand numbers and in the process build their brand awareness with the first couple of models. In anycase the customer will be more willing to pay a little more premium since he is getting a bigger motorcycle, in his mind. Once their manufacturing capacities are ready enough to satisfy the demand in the market, they can then launch lower end 125-223cc models. There is no point of bringing the Renegade 175cc and pricing it at 1.5-1.8lakhs since they will not have the volume of scale right now to price their products more reasonably. The Renegade 175cc, in my mind should be priced at around the Pulsar 200NS price segment of 80k-1.2lakhs max. A smaller cc motorcycle will never be able to sell in India at even a small premium. Case in point, KTM never brought their Duke 125 to India, since they knew a 125cc bike priced at 1 lakh rupees will never be accepted in the Indian market, no matter how superb the product may be.