Interview with Malo Le Masson, head, global product planning, Hero MotoCorp
OD: Love bikes?
MM: I was in the automotive industry working for a carmaker of Japanese origin. But I've always loved bikes and so one day when I was asked I would like to work for a bike maker... It's basically my dream job!
OD: Bike product planning versus cars?
MM: It is a very interesting job but it is exactly plug and play. There is absolutely nothing which I am discovering today when I am working on a bike that I didn't experience with cars.
OD: Riding bikes in India?
MM: At home I have a Hero Splendor Pro Classic which I love. We also test competition. This is basically fuelling me everyday - the ability to ride my own Hero or try the competition.
OD: The goal for the iSmart 110?
MM: The iSmart  was already a great success - in just over two years, we sold over half a million. We understood the triggers. There was the styling - very young and innovative. There was technology - our own idle start stop system, i3S. Then we looked at the usage. The guy wanted to pack in more into his day and to consume as little fuel as possible. So we decided that the iSmart 110 had to do more and be smarter. To do more with a single drop of fuel we made the engine more fuel efficient. And we developed the Torque On Demand philosophy to give the bike the ability to reach on time and at the same time to improve the ride and handling so that it could beat traffic.
OD: Why start off with a commuter? Tough no?
MM: I think we just like to take the hard road. To prove that we are clever people even if it means we have to suffer a bit. We wanted people to know that we can do a full bike change - concept, evolution, technology and all that coming from in-house engineering and testing. And be also able to show that we understood the customer in this extremely price-sensitive market.
OD: Premium products next?
MM: Hero is coming from a commuter segment - we all know the brand history. We are in a transition from moving people to moving people [puts a hand on his heart]. We want to become aspirational, it is a need and definitely in line with the market. The first priority for us was to prove that we can come with a full new product in the core of the market. That's the point of the iSmart 110. Now we will be looking at some other segments...
OD: 95PS 600cc twin?
MM: [Laughs] There will be some intermediate steps. We can come with a halo product or go from the bottom up. This is about how far your customers relates to you and how far they are ready to be stretched. Hero believes we must capture the needs of our existing customers first and then make them evolve to where Hero wants to do.
This means there will be growth in terms of engine capacity and in terms of getting to higher segments in terms of aspiration - sport, naked or adventure. But before we get there, we have to take ourselves, our customers and our dealers and make them grow with the brand.
That is why one of the steps we have already presented at the Auto Expo. We will probably come with a product around 200cc within the, let's say, sport naked segment before the next Auto Expo.