Mumbai: Kinetic’s 50 cc Luna model, which became synonymous with the moped category in the 1980s, has long faded into oblivion. But mopeds, as a category, continue to be popular, years after the Chal Meri Luna TV advertising campaign was last aired.
The humble moped continues to provide affordable mobility to thousands of people, especially in semi-urban and rural India. In current times, TVS Motor Co. Ltd’s TVS XL model has assumed the leadership mantle in the category. It’s commonly referred to as “Bikki”, “Luna” and “Heavy weight” in parts of Uttar Pradesh—one of the biggest markets for the low-cost, low-speed two-wheelers.
In the year ended 31 March, moped sales zoomed 23% to 890,367 units from a year earlier, according to data compiled by Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam). The fastest sales growth in six years came on the back of the launch of a new moped with a four-stroke 100cc engine, said a TVS dealer, who declined to be identified. This was in a year when the broader two-wheeler market expanded by a mere 4% from last year.
The popularity of mopeds defies the prevailing trend in India, which has transformed into a multi-brand, multi-product market where high-speed performance bikes and gearless scooters have emerged as the hot favourites.
So, what makes the moped click? Besides the TVS XL’s affordable price, (Rs35,000, ex-showroom, Maharashtra), the vehicle’s ability to carry light loads makes it popular with small businessmen, said a Navi Mumbai dealer of TVS, citing instances of vegetable traders who use the moped to travel to and from the wholesale farm produce market in Vashi. He declined to be named.
A TVS spokesperson declined to comment, citing the so-called silent period ahead of the company’s earnings announcement later this month.
Less is more, said a two-wheeler industry veteran, also declining to be identified. “The fundamental of any good brand is consistency and the least amount of tinkering,” he said, pointing out that the XL still retains the three-decade old look. The only change is a bigger engine, that too because of the four-stroke technology.
For TVS, the XL has been an old workhorse, a bread-winner, he said, pointing out that it has kept the company going even during tough times when sales of other models were not picking up because of various reasons. The company just decided to be consistent in its approach and kept selling the model without making too many changes, even when others like Kinetic and Hero Cycles which sold the Luna and Hero Puch, respectively, gave up and exited the segment, he said. “A consistency of efforts in the product, branding, packaging and promotion and strong distribution network has worked to its advantage,” he said.
“They (TVS) have been reinventing the wheel and have a product in every segment and sub-segment and the approach has worked well for them,” said Abdul Majeed, head of automotive practice at consulting firm PwC. The moped has been plugging the last mile at an affordable price, really well and is expected to remain relevant for many more years, he added.