Dream wheels

Comeback of the humble scooter

A family of six or seven merrily perched on Bajaj Chetak – a common memory most of us would associate with our childhood. Scooters were an important part of the average Indian family.

The ease with which these tiny vehicles maneuvered on Indian roads made them an all-time favourite of the Indian middle class. In the early 70s and 80s scooters were priced possessions of their owners and those who owned them were considered connoisseurs of style. Those were the heyday of scooters. One had to either pay a premium or pull a few strings to get hold of one. Even the waiting list for scooters sometimes stretched into years.

Although scooters were first manufactured and introduced in United States of America, they became popular in Italy during the World War II when scooter was the only vehicle that effortlessly managed to ferry the commuters on the dilapidated Italian roads after the war. Bajaj Auto was the first company to import Vespa scooters and get it to India in 1948. Scooters received an overwhelming response in India. In 90s however the scenario changed.

Soon after their initial years of high, scooters started losing their sheen when another kind of two-wheelers began to emerge in Indian market. Bikes with their better performance and mileage caught the attention of the Indian commuter and soon the space of scooters were taken up by motorbikes. With a shift in consumer taste, motorcycle sales outpaced those of scooters.

That was when Bajaj owing to drop in number of sales stopped the manufacturing of its scooters in 2000. And this was like the final nail in the coffin and scooters’ fate was sealed. Right when we thought the humble scooter might vanish from the fabric of the Indian society, Kinetic came up with its gearless scooters.

In collaboration with Honda, Kinetic company launched Kinetic Honda. Even TVS Scooty was a great hit. These automatic scooters rekindled the magic. They improved the sales numbers for scooters but the real magic happened when Honda Activa was launched by Honda. These sleek and stylish two-wheelers overturned the sales numbers and scooters again had the fan following it was missing. They kind of brought back the lost glory for scooters.

Activa’s success was followed by a number of other variants like Duo, TVS Jupiter and Mahindra Gusto. The latest entrant in this category has been Vespa. With their sexy design and attractive colours they are wooing the Indian customers like never before. Their better performance and stylish looks are giving the bikes a run for their money.

Today the sales figures for scooters look better than bikes. In a span of few years they may outrun the sales of bikes. Looking at the overall projections Bajaj might be thinking of getting back to the scooter market all over again. Whatever be the market situation the more number of manufacturers jump into the market it is the consumer who is going to be spoilt for choice.