Harley-Davidson, the iconic bike maker, is set for an exciting journey in India as it prepares for manufacturing its sub-Rs5 lakh bikes in the country. Anoop Prakash, managing director, Harley-Davidson India, spoke to Yuga Chaudhari on how India will play key role for the company. Excerpts from the interview:
Harley-Davidson has exciting plans for India. But the competition in this segment is expected to intensify...
It’s a very exciting time in the market. When we entered in 2009, we were probably the only major manufacturer investing in leisure motorcycling and developing the culture. Now, we see the existing players as well as the new players coming into the space. So it’s a great time for the market and customers as we will see a lot of choices. Since 2009 we have set up 13 showrooms and have around 4,000 customers riding Harley-Davidsons across India. We will bring Street 750 at the upcoming Auto Expo (Delhi) and it will be built in India as well as in the US. That’s the additional investment that we are making in India and I think it’s going to be a big year.
With new models in pipeline, do you expect growth to be faster?
We have had a good double-digit growth and we will continue to see that, not only because of the Street 750 offering, which is under Rs5 lakh on road, but also because the market is getting bigger as well. I think the growth here on will be faster because we will be reaching a new set of customers. At the end of 2012 we had around 2,000 bikes on the road and in 2013 we have over 4,000. It gives a sense about where we are. In 2014, between both plants (US and India) we expect to ship about 7,000–10,000 units globally in only five markets.
When will the bookings start?
We will start the bookings after the Auto Expo and we will start deliveries in June.
When would you launch the Street 500?
We have not made any definitive plans for that yet. We will wait to see how 750 does. If it goes well, I see Street 500 coming by next year.
When was the decision of manufacturing Street in India taken?
The initial market research for Street started even before we were in India. It’s a global bike, so the market research for this platform happened in 10 different countries and after 3,000 interviews in 2008. So you can say that over the last five years there has been work done to develop and design Street.
What prompted Harley to start local manufacturing in India?
One is certainly the strategic importance of India as a market and the encouraging response that we have seen. Also, we have a very maturing components industry for some of the localisation.
And India makes sense also from the export point of view in Asia. So rather than having a long cycle of exporting from the US, why don’t have Street here.
Would Harley consider a larger range of bikes getting manufactured in India?
It all depends on how we do with the Street. Street 750 and 500 are completely new platforms in 14 years from the company.
Do you see India becoming an export hub or a hub for manufacturing of low-cost bikes for Harley?
It’s very early to even speculate on what we might do in future. Street is one model that is getting built here from our global line-up, the rest 36 plus models are still made in the US. We are very happy for the opportunity for serving our customers based in Asia and India.