In a conversation with Head of operations, Safat Ishtiaq!
How do you think the motorcycle market is doing?
Honestly to me, motorbike industry has been in a booming phase for the past 4-5 years growing at an average of 20% every year till 2018 but currently, it is quite stable now. I believe there must be some drastic changes and policy amendments in order to save the industry from declining. The Government should uplift the Engine CC restrictions in order to introduce better bikes with more safety features. If no innovations are introduced, bike sales will go down in the future. Moreover, if advanced safety features are not introduced then the number of road accidents will never be controlled. To do this, Engine CC restrictions must be lifted and Bangladesh riders are highly deprived of this opportunity. We have to break the social stigma that higher CC bikes are dangerous, this is not true. More safety features lies in the bikes that are mostly above 250cc.
Motorcycles to me can also work as an economic indicator; the more people ride motorcycles, the better they can contribute to the aggregate income. One best way to explain this after the introduction of app-based ride-sharing services – people have become independent and found a very good source of earning.
Tell us about yourself.
I am an automobile enthusiast and anything related to Bikes and Cars interests me. I am currently leading the businesses of Kawasaki (Motorbikes) and Vulcan Lifestyle (Premium Motorcycle Gears & Accessories) currently since 2018 at a very young age Alhamdulillah. Previously I worked as Assistant Brand Manager of Suzuki Motorbikes since 2015-18. So I have been working with the motorbike industry for more than 5 years now and the journey has been outstanding. The best part is, I am living and working with my passion, both.
The Government to focus more on the motorbike industry as this could be one of the greatest contributors to economic development from various aspects. First, they need to lower the taxes and make motorcycles more affordable.
What possibilities do you see for Kawasaki in Bangladesh?
Kawasaki is arguably the most demanding and popular Motorbike brand in the World. It builds the world’s fastest motorcycle Ninja H2R running at record-breaking 400 km/hour and also Ninja ZX-10RR that has become 6 times World Superbike Champion in 2020. There’s no need of describing Kawasaki bike’s built-in quality, performance, and styling as we all know about it. But in Bangladesh, due to Engine CC restrictions, we are depriving our customers to get the best out of Kawasaki. Kawasaki has ample opportunities in the future as Bangladeshi riders prefer Kawasaki over any other brands so if we can introduce our product line-up, we can definitely grow big and offer a lot to our riders. Currently, we have entry-level sports bikes like Ninja125, Z125, and Off-road Bikes like KLX150BF and D-tracker. Even though we have a limited line-up but our biggest strength is our customers as we have managed to deliver the best bikes of the best quality and give them excellent after-sales services making them the happiest of the lot.
In this pandemic situation, how did you cope up with everything?
Pandemic has been a very difficult situation for all businesses but to my surprise, the motorcycle industry has been one of the exceptions. Almost all motorbike companies have seen a sharp rise in sales figures in the post-lockdown period. One of the main reasons behind this is people are preferring to ride their own instead of availing public transport during the pandemic. Secondly, at the same time Motorcycle companies have slashed their product pricing abnormally to cover up their losses during the lockdown and also liquidate their stock for re-rolling. These two main factors have synergized motorbike sales from June to September.
How would you demonstrate the tax and duty facilities in Bangladesh when it comes to the automotive industry?
The taxation policy is definitely not favorable for the motorbike companies and nor the customers since they are actually bearing the sky-rocketing tax on motorbikes in the end. The taxation should be lowered to a point where motorbikes should be made affordable so that lower-income people can avail motorbikes for mobilization helping them to earn more money. Currently, the cheapest motorbike with good quality is 80,000/- This should be lowered to at least 50,000/- and for that, the taxation policy should be revised.
Do you think this market is feasible? What do you think about export opportunities?
The motorbike industry has ample opportunities in the future as a lot of the companies have started manufacturing in Bangladesh that is directly contributing to our GDP. Although in Bangladesh we prioritize more on RMG sector Motorcycle exports can become very lucrative. There is already a company manufacturing and doing the exports but sadly due to CC restrictions, these bikes can’t be tested before exporting. To make our mark to the Global market, we should ensure our locally manufactured bikes should meet Global standards. In order to make this industry one of the front liners of exports, Government needs to focus here more and uplift the CC Ban – that’s the first groundbreaking task that needed to be done immediately.
The government needs to focus here more and uplift the CC Ban – that’s the first groundbreaking task that needed to be done immediately.
For new and young graduates, I believe the motorcycle industry is a very good and lucrative place to kick-start their careers and develop themselves as front line professionals in various fields. I urge them to choose this industry as one of their preferences to build their careers.
As an industry expert, what do you expect from the government?
I would expect the Government to focus more on the motorbike industry as this could be one of the greatest contributors to economic development from various aspects. First, they need to lower the taxes and make motorcycles more affordable. Secondly, they need to uplift the engine CC ban to fulfill the expectation of the bikers, bring in more safety-enabled bikes from higher CC to reduce road accidents, and most importantly by doing this Government will open the doors for all motorcycle companies to focus more on exports.
Words & photography: Curtesy