As Indians take up newer lifestyles, adventure sports are gaining more popularity. One of the most accessible segments is power sports, where Polaris is a major player. Globally, the company posted revenues of $ 3.2 bn in 2012. India being a new market is relatively small, but growing. To get a clear picture of this niche industry and the company, we caught up with Pankaj Dubey, Managing Director, Polaris India Pvt Ltd on the sidelines of a drive experience of Polaris vehicles.
The India story has been promising for Polaris, said Dubey and has grown at a good pace starting January 2011. And despite many challenges, the journey has been satisfying. The company presently has about 100 people working for it directly and indirectly through 14 dealers across the country. Being present in all key areas of the country has played an instrumental role in the business growth and brand building, said Dubey. The company presently has 16 experiential tracks in India, which have played an important role in introducing the new concept of off-road adventure vehicles to the market. From being confusedly known as similarly-named software, creating a now well-known identity for vehicles has in particular been quite rewarding for Dubey.
The company doesn’t share month-wise sales data but we were told that the company already has more than 500 customers in the country. Dubey believes that such numbers in two years of operations is a healthy indicator and will serve as a strong foundation for the next level of business growth.
The company presently offers various product ranges – snowmobiles, ATVs, RZR and utility vehicles. Of these the ATV segment in particular has received good traction in the market, primarily due to the popularity within the adventure and tourism segment. Among other products, the RZR 800 has performed very well. The utility vehicles, depending on the model, can carry up to one tonne of weight in the form of people or goods. Presently, the company imports all products from the US and will continue to do so, said Dubey. He added that if numbers justify and there is the required economy of scale, the company could look at local assembly.
Talking of the range of engines, Dubey told us that the company presently offers 50 cc to 900 cc units. Of these, the 200 and 500 cc powered vehicles are doing particularly well in India. The company also has the option of petrol, diesel and electric motor for its vehicles. The electric versions use a lead-acid battery pack and can be driven up to 70 km in off-road conditions.
NEW BUSINESS AREAS
The nature of its vehicles has led to interest for Polaris India from government organisations, especially in the national security area. There are many areas alongside the borders of our country and within, which are impossible to be manned on foot. The company had given product demonstration to some organisations earlier and as a result some of them have already bought Polaris vehicles. There are some more in the process of buying these vehicles, adding to the future business.
Dubey said the adventure and tourism sector too has made a significant business contribution in the past two years. There are young entrepreneurs, who are buying these vehicles and offering drive experiences, and making profit from it. Even though this segment is an immediate major, Polaris expects sales from armed forces and security agencies to become a significant revenue source in the next couple of years.
Given the kind of terrain India has, the coastal terrains are a challenging area for any vehicle. Some coastal agencies have done trials with other vehicles but they succumb to damages arising out of the saline water. Polaris vehicles, however, have undergone trials of thousands of kilometre without any reported problem, said Dubey. These segments, along with newer applications would drive growth in days to come. Going forward, Dubey expects the market for such vehicles to grow to about 5,000 units per annum by 2018, if growth continues even at the present pace. Given the expected business from the armed forces the number could be significantly higher too.
Text: Arpit Mahendra