INDIA@75: When Luna was the buzzword
Apart from its catchy ad campaigns, the Luna offered mobility for the woman as well as the small business persons.
In 1972, the Arun Firodia-run Kinetic group introduced the licensed version of Piaggio Ciao - Luna which became synonymous with its central theme ‘Chal Meri luna' giving mobility to the common man to upgrade from a bicycle to motorised transport.
At 50 kgs, the Luna was a hybrid between a bicycle and a scooter and it stormed into the scooter market carving its own niche with its twin shock absorbers and a centrally mounted engine as compared to side-mounted engines in scooters which gave it a fairly stable ride quality.
The Kinetic Luna, very early in the history of Indian automotive manufacturing, also introduced the use of plastics for light weighting in the fan, air filter, sari guard, and headlights to reduce the load. Moreover, it's 16" wheels as compared to 9" diameter wheels in the scooters gave it better traction on the road.
In the words of brand management expert, Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Inc Consults, Kinetic Luna entered the Indian market where scooters were the order of the day and lesser mortals rode bicycles. The Luna changed all that and offered mobility for the woman as well as the small business persons as a milkman to hang his milk vessels. “For the lady of the house, it was her go-to vehicle for grocery shopping or even dropping the kids at school as it fit like a glove between a cycle and motorcycle,” says Bijoor.
Veteran Adman Piyush Pandey's maiden ad campaign "Luna Safalta Ki Savari" emphasised its reliability and cost-effective operations. The vehicle was given away at many sporting events and to students who excelled in academics as a prized possession. In the Ahmedabad test of 1983, Michael Holding the West Indies speedster was awarded the Man of the Match. And guess what the prize was? A Luna!! It was quite a sight watching the six-footer bowler with his moped.
The moped found its way into the export markets of Argentina, Brazil, the US, and Sri Lanka. In Arun Firodia’s words, the Luna even raced to reach first ahead of the Deccan Queens' march from Pune to Mumbai in a unique race to demonstrate its sturdiness across the Western Ghats much before the Expressway was built. The product in the first of its advertising in the US Time Magazine also hailed India's entry on the American roads.
Much later the launch of its competitor the TVS50 offered its stiff resistance as India started graduating to entry-level motorcycles, but Luna was a woman's best friend. Around the same time, TVS Scooty and Bajaj Sunny diminished Luna's growing prowess in the market attracting the younger India to smarter-looking scooterettes.
Knowing that Luna was on a weak wicket ride and to take advantage of its high brand awareness, the Firodias launched the gearless KH100 with an electric start, and most importantly technology from Honda as its JV partner that was cutting edge.
Kinetic Honda took mobility for women to a new luxurious high till the Firodias had a run-in with Honda as the JV restricted the brand to scooters. Kinetic Group got limited by Hondas JV with the Hero Group clipping its wings to tap into the fast-growing motorcycle market.
Honda wasn't keen to give new technology but offered to buy out Kinetic instead. But the Firodias were not willing to sell leading to Honda's exit from the JV which hurt its brand image the most with its forthcoming offerings looking jaded. When Honda launched its own scooter Activa it hurt the old warhorse like never before to see the gradual death of Kinetic Honda.
Firodia being the old automobile engineer didn't give up. Subsequent launches like Kinetic Pride, Marvel, and Kinetic Y2K right up to Kinetic Nova and Kinetic Zing had one common issue. The prices went up, and looks were good, but the product features didn't keep pace. Kinetic Honda is no more, however, can India see an electric version of the iconic brands including Luna?
It's certainly Arun Firodias's daughter Sulajja Motwani, Vice Chairperson of Kinetic Engineering to take the call for E-Luna. In an earlier interaction with Autocar Professional, she said, "Kinetic has always been out there amongst the top brands given that we created life-changing products like the Kinetic Honda and Luna that were category creators. The brand was always iconic. Interestingly, there is a lot of buzz in the market about the electric Luna."
The buzz around the Luna is such that the upcoming Kinetic Luna Electric may enter the low-speed category with a 1KW electric motor powered by a Li-ion battery pack with a range of 80 kms on a full charge, top speed approx. 25 kilometers per hour and have features like electric self-start, LED light, DRL, USB charger, and digital instrument console. You don't need an adman to give this caption- "Chali Meri e-Luna".
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