Arun Siddharth, VP-Marketing (premium motorcycles, international business, TVS Racing) shares his strategy for the flagship model in TVS Motor's stable.
TVS plans to focus on the sports segment. How do you see this category developing in India in the years to come?
I think the 150cc-300cc segment, which is a growing one, accounts for 175,000 to 200,000 units a month. The demographics that we have will continue to make it grow much faster. Motorcycling will exist in that segment where people are more involving and experiment with their riding styles.
Today this market constitutes about 15 percent. I don’t think the game is in competing for share; this is our view at TVS Motor Company. Rather than competing for share in a segment which is growing, it’s better to really work towards exploring that particular category. I am a big fan of growing and building the segment rather than competing for share in a category where there is enough action. I believe this is a much more sustainable model of looking at things.
Why did you choose the Apache brand to position the RR 310 and not Akula?
Frankly, there are two reasons behind this decision — brand architecture and product specifications. From the brand architecture point of view, which is the more important part, we have always asked ourselves ‘What is it that the brand stands for?’
The Apache brand is always going to be about racing. So if this bike (RR310) is a sports bike and behaves like a racing bike, it is meant to take our racing programme to the next level, just like we are taking it to the next level in off-road with Dakar (rally). Apache stands for racing. Why complicate things unnecessarily with a new brand name?
The moment there is a different consumer benefit then, maybe, yes we will think about a different brand, which will have to stand for something else but racing. We are totally open to that.
Is the Apache range (especially RR310) expected to do for TVS what the Pulsar did for Bajaj Auto in terms of establishing the credentials of the premium sports bike maker?
The idea here is that this segment is a sports segment. But this is a generic view of this category. So what is it that we can differentiate ourselves on? We need to be relevant with a different product. We can’t be irrelevant just to be different. We believe in being relevantly different. It’s very important that our products stand out in the sports bike segment as the race machines.
We have been saying that we need to strengthen our racing credo and bring it alive with the experience part, and that’s where we want to differentiate ourselves. I am not sure about our competitors because we do a lot more work with our consumers and, specifically, Apache owners. Most importantly, we expect our owners to build our brand by word of mouth. If we keep them happy, they will bring more customers to us, and that’s how we can grow the segment.
We have enough on our plate in terms of developing the culture of motorsports in India. We are happy growing the motorsport sensibilities in this country and this is why we take part in Dakar, INRC. We are now promoting the women riders racing championship. We believe racing does not have any gender, colour, creed, religion or nationality. We have been running a racer bike scheme for the past 10 years where good bike racers, who might not have the financial resources, can come and use our machineries and our clothing and we take care of everything for them. All they need to have is a motorcycle race license. This is the purity of concept that has worked for us, and we want to just follow that.
How do you view the market opportunity for an off-road adventure motorcycle in India at the moment?
We do see opportunities for on- and off-road motorcycles, but at this point in time that segment is nascent. We need to see how it develops. We have been so hands full with the RR project that we have been focusing only on it. For us, right now, the race sports segment is where we have a story to tell. We are focusing on how to build that story.
What is your outlook for the growing midsize motorcycle market in India?
The midsize motorcycle segment currently accounts for 15 percent of the total market; we expect it to grow further because demographics are supportive. Going forward, it appears the market will clearly be driven by what applications people want. I think in this segment, the riders are very clear with what they want from their motorcycles. So there will be multiple formats, and all of them will be equally successful. The differentiation will come in the form of how the product strategies (for each of these segment-defining products) will evolve as unique stories.
It will be a very interesting space to watch out for. Many sub-segments will emerge and this will happen a lot faster. As new technologies (ABS, EFI) are coming in, riders will eventually get used to them once they start seeing value in them.
What is the age group that brand Apache targets as ideal customers?
Young riders between 18-30 years old are our ideal customers.
The Apache RR 310, which is manufactured at TVS' Hosur plant, has a high level of localisation and some level of imported content. Among its many highlights is the bi-LED projector headlamp — claimed to be the first such example in a motorcycle — made by Rinder India. While the dual-channel, lightweight ABS with active speed sensor from Continental, the RR 310's suspension setup is from Kayaba, alloy wheels from Wanfeng and the brakes from Brembo.
(This interview was first published in the December 15, 2017 issue of Autocar Professional)