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A quarter of scooter buyers are women

In an otherwise sluggish two-wheeler market, the demand for scooters has been growing, primarily due to an expanding base of women drivers. Now, more than a quarter of new scooters are being registered in the names of women buyers.

Companies say the actual share of women using scooters is estimated at about 35 per cent, as a large number of sales are registered in the names of male family members - husband, father or brother - in case a woman is not eligible for a loan.

"Last year, the share of registered female customers was about 20 per cent. Now, it has grown to 25 per cent. There is a definite trend of increased female employment. Women not working also want individual mobility because public transport remains poor," said Yadvinder Singh Guleria, senior vice-president and operating head (sales and marketing), at Honda Motorcyle and Scooter India (HMSI). The company is recording 75,000 new women buyers a month. HSMI has a share of 59 per cent in the scooter market, against 55 per cent last year.

A spokesperson for Hero MotoCorp, the second-largest player in the scooter market, said the company was seeing similar growth in the number of women customers.

The unisex appeal of scooters has helped. In the case of many families, scooters are bought by males but are increasingly being used by women. Last month, the company launched its first scooter specifically targeted at women.

"Our existing models have a unisex appeal. For the first time, we launched a female-specific scooter variant of the Activa-I, in orchid purple and pearl white body panel and floral graphics," said Guleria. Last month, Honda roped in actress Taapsee Pannu as its first woman brand ambassador. A host of woman-specific accessories, including helmets, are also being made available.

Honda is also trying to promote scooters by offering free driving lessons to women at its eight traffic training institutes. "We have female safety riding instructors who have been trained at Honda's Safety Park in Thailand. We are training women to ride the Activa in a matter of four hours," said Guleria. The company claims to have trained about 51,000 women so far.

In June, scooter sales increased 14 per cent, while motorcycle sales remained flat. For the quarter ended June, scooter sales grew 7.35 per cent, while sales of motorcycles declined two per cent. While a rural slowdown has hit the demand for motorcycles, the scooter segment continues to grow because of an urban/semi-urban focus.

Scooters such as the Honda Activa give mileage of 60 km/litre, comparable to a 100cc motorcycle (65 km). This factor, too, has aided scooter sales. Other benefits aiding scooter sales include their light-weight bodies and automatic transmission.

Scooters account for 28 per cent of the two-wheeler market, against 17 per cent in 2010-11. In FY15, the share of the scooter segment increased to 28.15 per cent from 24.33 per cent a year earlier, while that of motorcycles declined from 71 per cent to 67 per cent.