Motorsport enthusiasts in India have not one but two reasons to cheer. British sports car maker Caterham announced its entry into the Indian market on the day the country witnessed the first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix on its soil. Caterham India will be launched in association with Dabur India Limited’s Mohit and Gaurav Burman. “This venture is not linked with Dabur India Ltd. It’s a personal investment by me and my brother Mohit Burman, and so is part of the overall Dabur group,” explains Gaurav Burman, adding that the decision was driven by his own love for the sport. “With motorsports poised to become a big business in India fuelled by the growing affluence among Indians and the rising awareness, I feel this is the right opportunity for Caterham to enter the market,” he adds.
Matt Cummins, a commercial airline pilot-cum-race car driver and also an investor in the Indian venture, will head the India operations as CEO.
The company will launch two cars — Seven and SP/300R — in India, priced in the Rs 28 lakh to Rs 90 lakh range. The entire product range is on offer, including all gearbox and engine variations and combinations. The cars will be Euro-5 compliant. While the Caterham Seven will be available both as in- road and track options, the SP/300R, designed by Caterham and Lola Cars, will be a new track-only model, scheduled for launch in May next year. “We hope to get the first Caterham Seven to India by end-January or early February next year to be showcased to potential customers. We have started booking orders for the cars in India and expect to start making the first delivery in April 2012,” informs Burman.
Given the price range, the target customers will predictably be affluent Indians and motorsports enthusiasts. An assembly plant will be set up in Noida, near Delhi, for building the cars locally, making Caterham the only road, race and track car assembled in India.
Also on the cards is the launch of Caterham Academy, a motor-racing championship exclusively open to novices as their first foray into motorsport. It aims to develop racing talent in the country and is open for anyone with an Indian driving licence. The entire package will include driver training and vehicle maintenance, followed by a championship. “We will establish the Caterham Academy in 2012 at the Buddh International Circuit. The idea is to make motor racing accessible to a wider audience,” says Burman.
Caterham India will invest around $10 million in the first phase. “This investment would cover all aspects, right from establishing the assembly unit, to establishing the Caterham Academy as also the Caterham Drive Experience, which allows general public and potential consumers to rent a Caterham car and experience it,” says Burman. The company will rely on the Caterham Drive Experience to promote the cars as it will give potential customers an opportunity to get behind the wheels of the Seven and get first-hand riding experience. Burman, however, refuses to talk about the sales targets for the company. “These are custom-built hand-made cars and each Caterham car is built on order, so we are not setting a sales target,” he concludes.