India has overtaken China to emerge as the world's biggest market for two wheelers. A total of 17.7 million two-wheelers were sold in India last year--that's over 48,000 units every day. Neighbouring China trailed with 16.8 million units sold.
Besides rising incomes and growing infrastructure in rural areas, one big reason for the spurt in sales has been women commuters who like the ease of zipping in and out of chaotic city traffic on their gearless scooters. For Honda, which leads the scooter market, the share of women is at 35%.
The market in China has been on a decline over the past few years, perhaps due to the fast-paced growth in car sales there as well as the curbs on petrol two-wheelers in top cities. The Chinese market has been coming down from the highs of 25 million or so reached a few years ago. Howwever, the sales of electric two-wheelers have been on an upswing in China.
Indonesia is holding steady as the third-largest two-wheeler market with annual sales estimated at 6 million units. Here too, volumes have slipped from 6.5 million units sold in 2015.
The need for mobility is very large in India. Easier finance options, newer and more fuel efficient models, rising incomes have only added to the push even as new business models, such as e-commerce, also help purchases. The growth of infrastructure in smaller towns and non-urban areas is helping demand.
In metros and the larger cities, the sales are also being aided by the choked infrastructure. People are buying two-wheelers for shorter commute and errands, even if they have a car. It is difficult to move around in congested cities, and even more difficult to get a space to park. So, two-wheelers are increasingly becoming the second vehicles in the household.
Industry officials say that the market will continue to grow over the next few years. The growth is not only being led by commuter vehicles, but even larger and expensive two-wheelers are being sold in good numbers. Royal Enfield -which sells bikes comfortably priced upwards of Rs.1lakh -has seen sales grow by over 30% last year, and is now preparing to boost its production capacity.