Italian bike-maker Benelli's 10-in-1 strategy for India

By S Ben Raja Published on Aug 10, 2018 03:29 PM IST

Chennai: Chinese-owned Italian bike maker Benelli trod down the unusual path by placing their trust in the Indian market when they first entered here a few years ago.

Now, after finding sure-footing in the country, Benelli's top bosses have decided that what India needs is a slew of motorcycles in the mid-segment.

On Thursday, the manufacturer made a bold announcement in Chennai that it will launch 10 new products before the end of 2019. Further, with backing from its new partner Adishwar Auto Ride India - Mahavir Group, the brand also has plans for launches to be made by the turn of the decade.

'News Today' had an exclusive chat with Benelli chief marketing officer, Dante Bustos.

Excerpts from his interview:

Q: There has been a gap in your sales post the breakup with DSK Group. How are you planning to overcome it?

A: All of our products have found success in the Indian market. To give you a clue, in a short span of our existence in India, we have sold 5,650 units of motorcycles in the 250 cc and above segment which also includes our flagship bike TNT 1130. With the new set of products to be rolled out soon, we are sure about scaling new heights with our new partner.

Q: Let us know about your upcoming launches.

A: After our strategic partnership with Adishwar Auto Ride India - Mahavir Group, a few days ago, we have signed an MoU with the Telangana government to set up an indigenous manufacturing plant in their State. Our actions for the next couple of years have been divided into two phases. In the first phase, we will only assemble the motorcycles which come via the CKD route. This process will start before this October and our target is to roll out our first product by that month itself. Then in order, we will launching the following 10 new products before the end of 2019 fiscal: Leoncino 500, Leoncino Trail, Leoncino Sport, TRK 502, TRK 502 x, TNT 302 S, Leoncino 250, TRK 251, Imperiale 400 and Imperiale 530.

Benelli chief marketing officer Dante Bustos with Mahavir Group director Vikas Jhabakh at the event in Chennai on Thursday.

Q: Will the existing products continue to be on sale?

A: TNT 899 and 1130 have been discontinued due to BS IV transition and we don't have any plans to re-launch them at the moment. The TNT 25, 300 and 600 GT have also been discontinued. So, among the existing ones, only the TNT 302R and 600i will be carried forward.

Q: How will Benelli look at BS VI coming into force in 2020?

A: With presence in over 60 countries, we are highly aware of each and every country's regulations. So, as far as BS VI is considered, it's almost similar to Euro VI norms which is in place in Europe. Our products are already compliant with those regulations and it will be easy for us to bring the technologies here in India. Also, post- BS VI, we have a slew of products planned and the first one will be the 402 S cruiser. You can get a clue about our other products in the upcoming EICMA show.

Q: Your Imperiale looks like a classic bike. Will Benelli take a classic approach from now onwards?

A: We move in the direction customers prefer. In India, classic bikes have a great fan following and it's always best to capitalise on the current trend. Being one of the oldest manufacturers, we are going to project ourselves as a lifestyle brand from now onwards. So, our showrooms will be themed based on Benelli's heritage. There will be cafe and other recreational facilities available. Our target customers are software engineers and there will be many aspects attracting them. In a nutshell, our showrooms will be in line with our competitors but with the Italian flair.

Q: When will the bikes be fully localised?

A: Our phase-2 development will be fully on localisation but we are not sure about the time-frame. Secondly, Qjian Jiang (QJ) Group's greatest strength is manufacturing. That's the reason 80 per cent of Benellis' parts are made in-house and not outsourced from suppliers. So, when we start the manufacturing process here, we won't have any local suppliers. If at all we are in need of suppliers, we will bring the ones who are supplying to Qjian Jiang (QJ) Group in China.

Q: How will be the pricing of your products? Are there any plans of setting up an R&D centre here?

A: The prices will surely be competitive but won't be that cheap due to the heavy taxes we are paying for the CKD route and the amount of technologies incorporated. As far as R&D is considered, we already have an R&D centre in China. We are also planning to set up one here in Telangana and we are very serious about it. Our phasing away of the inline 4-cylinder 600 cc engine of the old R6 and the development of the 3-cylinder 750 cc is the best example of our efforts in R&D.

SALES EXPECTATIONS

Bustos said, "In the first quarter of this year, despite the breakup with DSK, we sold over 600 units. Till date, we are holding 21 per cent market share in the 250-650 cc segment. Now, with the new partner, we are expecting 30 per cent market share in the same segment. When we entered the Indian market, we are not able to gauge it but now with experience, we will be launching country-specific products."