The outrider

How Harley-Davidson is 'making' it in India

For us as a nation, the prevailing philosophy has always been: the bigger the better — be it weddings, mansions, cars or bikes. Demand attracts its own supply and a host of brands help us flaunt. But ignore the flaunting and you realise both, great brands and striking architecture, are about build quality. Think Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolex, the Sistine Chapel or Grand Central Terminal. It’s as if human ingenuity and will power have conspired to make possible the best, in form and function. 

Appreciation for great architecture is not commonplace but appreciation for a shiny pair of wheels is universal. After all, there is something about men and their machines. For them, emblems have always had a special significance, and nowhere does a badge mean more than in the automobile business. Even petty thieves are aware that coveted emblems will fetch them more at the flea market. That is the power of these brands.

If you thought badge pilfering was an activity indulged only in India, let me remind you that Mercedes-Benz and Harley-Davidson emblems are actively bought and sold on eBay. While Harley owners here are yet to report any case of badge flicking, the company’s success in India is a pointer to how aspirations and spending power have evolved. Way back in 1995, BMW was the first to launch a power bike in the country at an astronomical price of ₹4.5 lakh. If you could splurge that much then, you were better off buying a Maruti Esteem, and many did. The BMW F650 bombed. 

Now, the likes of Harley and Triumph are seeing the sales speedometer go berserk in the same market at a similar price level. If the high-end market continues to gallop at the current pace, it will not be a surprise if BMW also decides to play the volume game that Harley has played. To find out how Harley-Davidson made a success of its India journey, click here.