We hope every Indian biker will find their ride in our vast range

Written by Malabika Sarkar | Malabika Sarkar | Updated: Apr 5 2010, 15:54pm hrs
The countdown has begun for iconic bike maker Harley-Davidson to open its first dealerships in India this June. Talking to FEs Malabika Sarkar, Anoop Prakash, managing director, Harley-Davidson India, talks about the motorcycle culture in India and how the company is going to hard sell its bikes here. Excerpts:

You are all set to start bookings in India this April. How many bookings are you expecting in the first six months of this financial year

We are excited to open bookings beginning April 20 through our initial dealerships in Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. As for what we expect, I can tell you that ever since we have been engaging riders and enthusiasts, the feedback across all model families has been tremendous. The racetrack-inspired Sportster family resonates with enthusiasts looking for sleek lines and maneuverability. The Dynas resonate with those looking for classic chrome styling and is a bike suited both for city traffic and open highways. The Night Rod Special appeals to those with a speed streak in them. The Softail family, with the legendary Fatboy and Heritage Softail Classic, allow for a timeless look and touring essentials. Finally, our Touring family offers extraordinary comfort, power and durability for any terrain or climate. With that broad a selection, and an equally broad price range, we hope every rider will find their ride.

India is one of the largest two-wheeler markets in the world. What potential do you see in leisure biking here

The motorcycle culture is very strong here, with many people starting to ride from an early age. We will initiate a new chapter in motorcycling we call leisure ridingriding what you want, where you want, when you want and with who you want! The motorcycle market in India is like no other, with millions of young riders craving relevant global experiences. And with vast highways and variations in terrain, the potential for leisure riding is endless. I believe India will soon be known the world over as an ideal riding destination.

How many dealerships are you planning to open in India and in which cities

Our first dealerships will open in Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi. Our vision for our dealerships is to provide owners and enthusiasts a full Harley-Davidson experience.

What are your plans for promoting accessories and apparel Do you plan to set up manufacturing base for accessories in the country

In addition to our 2010 motorcycle line-up, each of our showrooms will offer a range of genuine Harley-Davidson riding gear, apparel, parts and accessories to customise their bikes. We have more than 5,000 parts and accessories, all available either in our dealership or on order, for customers to design the bike of your dreams. A broad selection of riding and casual apparel from our MotorClothes collection will also be available so riders can be safe and define their look and style for the road.

Harley-Davidson clothing, accessories and licenced products are currently produced in various countries of origin, both in the US and elsewhere, based on the primary factors of quality, capability, cost and delivery. As of now, we will continue to source our accessories from the best providers, wherever they might be.

What would be the nature of the finance options that you are planning to provide to Indian customers Would you have a tie-up with any bank in India

We made an early commitment to make our bikes accessible to as many enthusiasts as possible. We have done this by offering a broad range of models, with an equally broad price range (starting at Rs 6.95 lakh ex-showroom Delhi). We will further support our customers by partnering with ICICI Bank to provide loans starting at 11% interest so all riders can take home the bike they truly love.

You participated in the Auto Expo 2010 by displaying the entire range of Harley bikes. The boot camp you conducted was also a success. You also formed a core management team in India. Whats next from Harley-Davidson India

The greatest experiences we have had so far are riding with our customers. This has given us the opportunity to create a bond with them and understand their needs further to improve on the best riding experience in the world. The boot camps were a unique opportunity that allowed us to engage with enthusiasts who gave us direct inputs as to which motorcycles they would want to see in India, and we responded at the AutoExpo.

Regarding our team, I am very excited by the calibre of leadership we have assembled, each having demonstrated skills in delivering premium customer experiences in India at their previous companies. We are now working hard on opening our dealerships, building our distribution capabilities and begin bookings in April. Once the bikes hit the road, the real fun will begin!

How many Harley Davidson bikes were sold in 2009 worldwide and how many are you expecting this year

The company does not formulate forward-looking sales targets by country or region.

How many units from each

Harley Davidson family are you planning to bring in India

We have introduced an unprecedented range of premium motorcycles in the market and we are looking forward to delivering them to our customers, as promised. The feedback across all models has been great and we will have to wait and see where we are once we start bookings in April. The good news for customers is that because we are a wholly-owned subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, we can and will fulfill our commitments and bring products to the market quickly and reliably.

Harley-Davidson is a culture in the US, which you keep active through clubs, events and museums involving hundreds and thousands of barreling motorcycles and their enthusiastic owners. Do you think you will be able to build a Harley-Davidson loyal brand community in India as well

The founder rides we held in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru celebrated the passion of existing Harley-Davidson owners and torchbearers in India that was cultivated before our formal entry. Our riders across the world are bonded by a sense of camaraderie that has kept us riding together for over a century. In India, we have been thrilled by the enthusiasm for our brand and what we stand for, and we will honour that enthusiasm by creating unique opportunities for riders to congregate, ride and experience the full power of the brand.

What is it that has made the company to come out of its traditional culture and foray into India, where there isnt any distinct biking culture

On the contrary, we have brought the pure Harley-Davidson culture and commitment to Indias already-rich biking heritage, and the combination has been explosive for enthusiasts and riders craving a better riding experience. We have heard directly from thousands of riders and enthusiasts across India over the past several months and we know they want riding experiences that provide style, comfort and durability, allow them to confidently explore each and every corner of this great country, and enjoy every minute from start to end.