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Vimal Sumbly says Triumph’s main differentiating factor is the fact that it offers a whole range of motorcycles. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Vimal Sumbly says Triumph’s main differentiating factor is the fact that it offers a whole range of motorcycles. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Rebuilding the Triumph brand in India

Vimal Sumbly talks about plans to increase Triumph motorcycles' share of the Indian luxury bikes segment

Vimal Sumbly, a 20-year veteran of Bajaj Auto, has a very interesting task on his hands right now. His new job is to build up the British motorcycle brand Triumph in India. The Indian appetite for high-end luxury motorcycles has exploded. From the start in 2009, when Harley-Davidson first came to India along with official imports from Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha, the market has grown from 400 motorcycles annually to an estimated 8,500-plus for the 11 months ended February. But the market is also getting more crowded. How will Triumph, a historic name in the industry, stand out? We spoke to Sumbly at the launch of Triumph’s newest adventure motorcycle models—the Tiger XCx and Tiger XRx. Edited excerpts:

So how is Triumph different from the rest?

I think our main differentiating factor is the fact that we offer a whole range of motorcycles. Our rivals either have just roadsters and cruisers or just sportsbikes. We offer all of those as well as products like the ones we have launched now, the Tiger series that is adventure offroad series of motorcycles that can go anywhere. Bear Grylls endorses them. Yet, even these motorcycles have our Triple engine—an 800cc, three-cylinder engine—and unique ‘ride-by-wire’ controls as well as anti-lock brakes and traction control. We also offer our riders the ability to change the throttle map of the engine, i.e. how the engine responds to inputs in four modes. So, I believe that we also do distinguish ourselves on the technology front.

The market is still quite small though. What are your ambitions for Triumph?

Well, we have 10 dealerships right now in all the major cities. We will be opening dealerships in Indore and Jaipur as well this year alongside a dealership in Nepal. The market for 500cc-plus motorcycles is just around 8,500 this year, however, with the economy picking up I do believe that sales should improve in the coming years. The market should cross 10,000 units in the next couple of years and Triumph should be selling 2,500 units a year in the same timeframe.

So what would define your target demographic? A typical 25 TO 40-year-old rich Indian male?

That is making it far too simple. You have to understand that brands like us are all still seeding the market. Of course, rich young Indian men are an obvious market, but we are also targeting the successful professional or entrepreneur who wants to reward himself with a nice motorcycle. Perhaps they were riders back in college. And for that we have to make our products affordable as well. So we are assembling nine different products in India because that helps keep our products affordable. The Bonneville range starts at just above 6 lakh.

And what about women? are they a target market for you as well?

All our motorcycles are easy for women to ride; some of them could have some height restrictions, but with our levels of technology, particularly ride-by-wire that gives a smooth throttle response, I would argue that our bikes are easier to ride than automatic scooters. There has been a fairly good response from women to products such as ours. And with the evolution of women riders groups such as Bikerni and Riderni, I will not be surprised if more women walk into our showrooms.

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