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    Around 20,000 people die in India every year in fire incidents, according to the ministry of statistics and programme implementation. According to statutory guidelines in the fire service manual, fire trucks need to cover one km in one minute and reach an accident site within 10 minutes.

    This is exactly where fire fighting bikes find their calling. 

    “It makes sense for our brand,” said Venki Padmanabhan, chief executive officer of Chennai-based Royal Enfield, in a telephone interview. He said the company had its first meeting with Delhi-based Aska earlier this year. “Like all things, we need to do engineering studies and for that we need time. On the face of it we find it exciting.”

    For over a quarter of a century, Aska Equipments, which has German and American technical collaboration, has been selling a variety of fire fighting gear. In 2008, the company invested Rs. 1 crore towards a set-up allowing modifications on the 180-kg, Rs. 1.1 lakh Bullet bikes with fittings of blinking lights, water cylinders, a first aid kit and oxygen packs for the fire fighters.

    “Even though in cities fire stations are located every 2.5 km, reaching the destination on time in narrow lanes is difficult given the traffic jams, bottlenecks and narrow bylanes,” said S. Vijay Sekhar, deputy general, Tamil Nadu Fire Services. “A bike carrying fire fighting equipment can reach the destination faster and can definitely help with the initial response at least.”

    Aska Equipments’ bikes, labelled Blaze Buster, come painted red from the Royal Enfield factory. The two companies are in very early stages of talks to jointly work on exporting the bikes and selling them in the domestic market with the requisite safety guarantees.

    “We may look at how to proceed with exports to neighbouring countries, such as Malaysia,” said Ashok Garg, managing director of Aska Equipments. “Royal Enfield seemed interested in international marketing.”

    Aska Equipments, which earns Rs. 100 crore in annual sales, has sold 300 Blaze Buster bikes so far at Rs. 7-8 lakh apiece to some state fire departments and to some companies. It expects to sell an additional 300 modified Bullet bikes this year.

    Aska claims the bikes can reach a disaster site faster than a fire truck, easily navigating through crowded and narrow streets to douse a blaze.

    “In the domestic market, modified versions of Royal Enfield bikes, including the ones doubling up as fire extinguishers, are doing very well given their niche,” Padmanabhan said by email. “Although it is too premature to gauge demand or quantify it for export markets, we continue to explore such opportunities in India and overseas.”

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