New Delhi: The battery-operated, two-wheeled, self-balancing vehicle invented by American entrepreneur Dean Kamen is set to hit the Indian market as soon as next month.
Hot rods: The first Segway showroom in India will be in Gurgaon, with Mumbai and Bangalore to be added to the list later this year.
Segway Inc., maker of the personal transportation devices, plans to start selling the product in India in a tie-up with the Bird Group, which plans to start imports in February. The Bird Group has business interests in travel and information technology.
“We expect the Indian market to be a significant one in the years to come,” Jason Barton, vice-president, worldwide sales and marketing, at Segway, said in a telephone interview. He declined to elaborate on the estimated size of the Indian market or give details on how many units the company plans to sell in its first year in India.
The privately held Segway does not disclose global sales numbers, but estimates put the total number of devices sold since its launch in December 2001 at about 50,000, a far cry from the 40,000 units the company had expected to sell in the very first year, according to Fortune Small Business magazine.
Although an attention grabber, the product launched amid much hype has been limited to a niche market, crimping its sales potential.
The company was acquired by British businessman Jimi Heselden last month.
Initially, Segway plans to enter the Indian market with two base models—the X2 and I2. The I2 is meant for indoor use while the more rugged X2 can be used outdoors.
The Bird Group plans to import the units as three separate knocked-down parts and assemble them in Gurgaon. Import duties are higher on fully assembled products. Its first showroom would also be in Gurgaon. Mumbai and Bangalore are to be added to the list this calendar year.
In the US, the devices retail for between $4,500-5,500, but the company hasn’t decided on how to price the products in India, according to Ankur Bhatia, executive director of the Bird Group.
Higher prices could trip the company’s plans in India and Bhatia realizes that Segway’s, as the contraptions are known, are very expensive for the average Indian consumer where the Tata group is selling the Nano small car at Rs1 lakh.
Globally, 70% of Segway’s sales are to institutions. In India, that number is likely to be even higher as Bhatia plans to target only institutions, to start with.
On his radar are large campuses like those at information technology firms where they can be used for in-house transportation of executives. Patrolling narrow roads and alleys presents another opportunity.
Bhatia also plans to target tourist operators. Around the world, Segway tours are available in over 500 cities. Institutional sales are charged a 5% duty rate.