New Delhi: With customers in rural India moving beyond frugality and beginning to demand safety and performance oriented bikes, Bajaj Auto Ltd is gearing up to cash in on the new trend with products suited to meet requirements of the hinterlands.

The firm that is aiming to sell around three million units in the domestic market this fiscal is witnessing robust demand for more powerful bikes of 125 cc and 150 cc for its Discover model from the rural areas.

It will be adding another model, Boxer 150 cc – dubbed as 'Tank on Two Wheels' -- by August this year targeting the rural market.

"Our market studies have found that there is a change in the demand from rural customers. They are moving beyond frugal, mileage driven products. They are asking for bikes that provide them safety and performance," Bajaj Auto ltd (BAL) President (Motorcycles) S Sridhar told a news agency.

The company caters to the rural market mainly with its Discover range and has been experiencing the change as reflected in the pattern of sales.

"Out of about 1.3 lakh units of Discover that we sell every month, about 45 per cent is from the 125 cc and 150 cc and the rest from the 100 cc variant," he said, adding till about a year back the entry level 100 cc accounted for over 95 per cent of the sales.

"Within three months time we expect the ratio to be 50- 50 and eventually the Discover 125 cc and 150 cc combined will overtake that of the 100 cc," he added.

The company has been conducting a lot of market research and found that the rural customers are seeking for bikes with wider tyres that give more road grip, which essentially requires higher engine power, he said.

"Already in North and East India, half of the Discover market has moved to the higher engine capacity bikes but the South and West is lagging behind. We are focusing on these regions," Sridhar said.

In order to add more punch to its portfolio to cater to the rural market, the company will be launching its Boxer 150 cc by August.

"This will not be a mileage driven product. We are currently test marketing it in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. By August we expect to launch it in the market and take it across the country in the months to follow," he said.

The Boxer 150-cc will be the typical bike that can handle rugged terrain and carry a lot of load through its performance, Sridhar added.

Overall, BAL is aiming for 3 million unit sale this fiscal in the domestic market, up from 2.4 million last fiscal, Sridhar said.

Apart from the Discover, BAL's other models include the Pulsar range of bikes and also from the stable of its European partner KTM.

The impact of the new initiatives taken up by the company to tap to the changing requirement in rural areas would be felt fully in the next fiscal, he said, adding the rural market would to continue to drive growth of the domestic two-wheeler sales.

"Almost 60 per cent of the motorcycle market is in rural areas," Sridhar said.

Motorcycle sales in the country during 2010-11 were up 22.86 per cent at 90, 19,090 units as against 73, 41,122 units in 2009-10.

(Agencies)