We are selling leisure motorcycles, not two-wheelers

Written by Ajay Sukumaran | Anand J | Updated: Nov 30 2012, 09:25am hrs
After clocking 40% sales growth last year, high-end motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson has now set its sights on Indias non-metros in its attempt to grow the market for leisure motorcycling in India. Anoop Prakash, the managing director, Harley-Davidson India, told Ajay Sukumaran and Anand J that the company is confident of its investments in an assembly plant in Haryana and customer outreach will drive demand in whats still a niche segment in India. Excerpts:

Harley has been expanding to the countrys smaller cities. How has the ride been

Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore certainly form the three biggest markets for us. The last three cities where we have started selling are Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Kochi, and all these have had really strong starts with the momentum continuing well post- launch. We entered the Indian market with our first showroom in July 2010 and since then, have opened nine showrooms. We have expanded so fast because of the kind of enthusiasm we saw across India. By year-end, we will have 10 showrooms, including one in Goa. Next year, we will be in Jaipur, Indore and Pune.

Is it pent-up demand that is driving sales for you How long do you think you can sustain this momentum

First, since July 2010, we would have sold over 2,000 Harleys. We have really focused on accessibility, implying we have invested in completely knocked down (CKD) operations. By assembling six models here, we have been able to propel the value-for-money equation. Second, we brought to India the full Harley-Davidson ownership experience. When you look at other manufacturers who have come to India (whether its cars or motorcycles), they havent brought the full range of products. Neither have they invested fully in assuring excellent after-sales operations and a strong supply chain. You cant grow like that. But we have made those investments.

At what pace will you introduce locally assembled models

I would love to introduce at least one new model every year. Globally as well, we launch new models every year. Whenever there is a relevant model that is likely to do well in India, we would bring it here.

Whats your long-term vision for the Indian market

Whats telling about India and its importance is that it happens to be the first market where we entered as a wholly owned subsidiary, right from day one. Harley had never entered a market that way before; it had always been through distributors or partners. Thats a huge recognition of the promise that India holds for us. On top of that, its only the second market after Brazil where we have an assembly plant, after the US. Thats the kind of potential the Indian market has. But then, its too early to make predictions because we are still developing the concept of leisure motorcycling in India and, hopefully, other manufacturers will come in and help us shape and grow that segment, which we define at the moment.

The high-end bike segment forms a small part of Indias two-wheeler market. Where does this niche segment seem to be heading

I think the important thing is to look at it as part of the leisure sports market, not the two-wheeler market. Its about leisure motorcycling, a segment that is in the nascent stage, and we are shaping it since we are the first brand to really invest in it and shape the customers experience. These days, we are seeing even the current manufacturers in India moving up the engine capacity range and starting to mimic some of the things found in leisure motorcycles. Thats good news.