By Shashank Chouhan and Ankush Arora
Among the companies hoping for tax credits from the business-friendly Bharatiya Janata Party since its election victory in May is the Indian distributor of the Segway Personal Transporter. The company hopes that the government will recognise the battery-run two-wheeler as a green vehicle, a move that could spur sales of the expensive device in a country where many people today cannot afford it.
The U.S.-based Segway Inc. was founded by Dean Kamen based on a vision to develop “high-efficient, zero emission transportation solutions” that are manoeuvrable and can be operated on sidewalks and pathways.
In 2002, Segway, adapted from the word segue that means “to transition smoothly from one state to another”, got the right to operate in over 30 states in the United States. By 2007, the New Hampshire-headquartered company had a worldwide presence in 60 countries, according to a report. It made its India debut in 2010.
Four years later, the Segway has a presence in Delhi, Mumbai and parts of the state of Maharashtra and southern India, including Bangalore. The company is building the vehicle in the city of Gurgaon just outside Delhi, and wants to sell it to airports, hotels, the police and upscale neighbourhoods, according to a top executive of the Bird Group, Segway’s Indian distributor.
However, the product’s steep price (a single unit costs between 400,000 to 500,000 rupees or around $8,000. For that price you can buy a sedan in India) in a price-sensitive market like India coupled with high customs and a lack of infrastructure weighs on the vehicle’s sales potential. The result – it has been confined to commercial and institutional use or at farmhouses or by tech-savvy rich people.