Friday, March 28, 2008

Extending your hatchback might not be a great Dzire!

How does that look? It's Swift Dzire - latest launch from the Maruti Suzuki stable.

Another company which pulled off the stunt is Tata Motors. Yes, they stretched Indica to make an Indigo. What happened? Indigo looks still as bad. The sales have been dropping consistently.

In fact, before Tata it was Opel which played around with its Corsa brand and rather unsuccessfully. Opel, right from the start, couldn't do much anyway.

Extending the brand stays tricky as always. Even where products are low-involvement, brands find it extremely tough to successfully pull off an extension. Here it is a high-involvement product like car. On the contrary, someone can say that since it's a high-involvement product, it would be wise to extend an already successful brand like Swift; people might trust and accept the new product faster. Perhaps. But longer term success, extremely doubtful.

Look at the picture. Does it inspire a 'wow'? Swift, when first launched, inspired that. But Swift Dzire doesn't. Swift was a radical departure, more on the design front than the performance. The design really differentiated it from all the available cars - big or small - in India. The performance only substantiated it as a real good premium hatchback (and therefore, a smallish) car. Yes, I repeat, a real good premium hatchback car. Rather, the best premium hatchback car of India. Hope you would agree.

With the launch of Swift Dzire, are we saying that the hatchback has transformed into an entry-level sedan? It seems Swift was originally conceived to be a hatchback. The perfection in design suggests that it was meant for a hatchback. Extension into a Dzire seems more like an after-thought. The picture suggests that. Swift isn't sedan. It's a hatchback and it's great at that. Swift is premium, Swift Dzire is entry-level (in their respective segments). There's an inherent contradiction.

Tata did a similar thing with Indica. Indigo hasn't been a success. In fact, Indica is an economy hatchback car and Indigo is an entry-level sedan. Indigo also, to my opinion, was an aesthetic disaster since it was more like an after-thought. Indica wasn't designed originally to be transformed into a sedan.

Having said this, I wouldn't claim that Swift Dzire won't sell. Of course, it will but I doubt it would be any great a success. Extending brands is always tricky. All the good work done by the original brand might get endangered. Your heart might desire Swift, not Swift Dzire!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Balaclava - Useful head gear for bikers/motorcyclists in India

Does your helmet stink because of perspiration, and of other things that you apply on your head? Is the inner cushion of your helmet dirty? Do you believe that wearing helmet is making your hair fall in increasing numbers or damaging your hair in some way? Do you get troubled by the dust and pollution in spite of wearing a helmet while riding your bike?

If you answer any of these questions in the affirmative, read on. I've spent considerable time figuring out solutions to these problems. One solution, I see most motorcyclists adopt, in the absence of bandanas, is wrap their skulls and faces (covering the mouth and nose) with handkerchiefs - under their helmets. I myself use two scarves every time I ride to my office or any other place which takes a little time reaching - one scarf I wrap around my skull and and the other I wrap around the lower part of my face. Done daily and frequently, it becomes quite a chore - rather tedious.

So here's a better alternative; use balaclavas. What are balaclavas? Very similar to monkey caps used during winters in India. But balaclavas have a different origin (you can read more here). You might've also seen robbers shown in movies wearing such head gear :).

For a long time, I've searched for this on google typing face mask or bike mask, but couldn't quite find the right stuff and the right place to buy. Today luckily, while again I typed the same words, I noticed the word balaclava in the results and finally found the right head gear and perhaps the right place to buy it too.

It will not only save you from dust and pollution and sunlight exposure, it's easy to use too - no more knotting bandanas every now and then. It might also help reduce some helmet-related hair problems. Very important to enjoy biking without getting bald. Hair matters :).

Balaclavas come in all sorts of material - stretchable, woollen, cotton, lycra, nylon - depending on where you want to use them.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Unusual morning ride

It couldn't have been better. Completing 6 weeks of ownership of this little cruiser - Avenger 200 DTSi Oil-cooled :). And I had the easiest of rides to office this morning what with people sitting at home for Maha Shivratri. Where everyday I take 65-70 minutes, I took barely 45 minutes today.

Past 1600 kms. Has been a pleasant experience. It's refined. Smooth. Of course, don't expect it to give hassles being a new bike. It's comfortable for the pillion rider too, though the seat seems quite narrow compared to the driver's seat in the front.

Though the bike doesn't have a kick, it does give a kick riding on open roads. Yes, it doesn't thump but then, it's not meant to; understanding this aspect of new-age cruisers is important. It takes the bumps rather well too. Just initial days, so can't take it beyond 65kmph; doesn't even go even if I try.

Good bike.

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