Twenty-nine-year-old Ronnie Thomas’ day job at Juego Studios is that of a 3D artist, which he says matter-of-factly is visual development and games. This soft-spoken young man rarely lets his excitement show, but he cannot hide his enthusiasm for motorcycling.
As one of the founding members of the Yamaha Riders Club (YRC) in Bengaluru, Thomas’ romance with the brand started eight years ago. In 2011, he bought his first motorcycle, an FZ16. The following year, he bought the YZF-R15 and, in 2017, money was spent on YZF-R3. None of these came cheap with the YZF-R3 costing a handy Rs.330,000, taken out as a loan. “I really wanted it at any cost,” he says. The next bike he wishes he could buy is the YZF-R1 costing an eye-popping Rs.2.5 million.
YRC’s members meet one Sunday every month at 5 am at the Tumkur exit of Hoskote, in the outskirts of Bengaluru. The camaraderie among bikers is not uncommon — you just meet, chit-chat, bike, and ride along. There are more than 120 YRC members in Bengaluru; the numbers in other cities are hardly anything to talk about.
The cult of Yamaha is very much existent, it’s not exactly thriving like the other brands like the Royal Enfield or Harley Davidson. Much of its equity actuallystems from the legacy of the RX 100, a bike launched in partnership with Escorts in 1985 which was discontinued in 1996 because it could not stand up against the fuel-efficiency of Her Honda CD 100.
The Indian market has come a long way from there, but the Yamaha brand has become insignificant. Its sales stood at 796,000 units across a portfolio of seven motorcycle brands and three scooter brands in 2018. As of March 2019, Yamaha commanded a 5% market share in the 21-million two-wheeler market, with motorcycles bringing in 65% of its revenue (see: In the slow lane).
The Yamaha management in India wants to change this by focusing all its attention on t