Our Sister Sites:

Bikernet Trikes Bikernet Baggers Bikernet Blog
Ride Forever - Bikernet.com
Sunday Edition


Competition is heating up in the East.

by Ujjwal Dey

Share this story:

Motorcycles and scooters are a common sight in India as in rest of Asia. The roads are full of two-wheelers, as easily spotted as dung by the roadside. We published a feature on Bikernet about 10 years ago called “Two Wheeled Trucks” http://www.bikernet.com/pages/TwoWheeled_Trucks.aspx (2006). If you read that article, you would understand that two-wheelers are a simple practical essential tool in the life of an average Asian.
Motorcycles are a lot cheaper than cars, consume lesser petrol, take you faster and farther in bottleneck chaotic traffic of Asia, are off-road vehicles meant for the awfully bad Martian terrain roads of Asia, takes small parking space, cheap to maintain, etc. For a vast majority of Indians and Asians, the motorcycle is the very first vehicle they ever drive or own.
Daily millions of commuters travel to work, office, or handle home delivery on motorcycles in India. It is a boon to the poorer masses too. In rural areas and poverty stricken provinces, a motorcycle changes the life and fortune of a family. It delivers them to a payday, to a hospital, and hauls them away to success from generations of destitution. Two wheels empower the common man. They make him reach out and grab opportunities. Yes, that’s the motorcycle in a land such as India.
Now it is 2015. China is buying American debt. India is the preferred investment destination for every American multinational. The closed economies of China and India are opening up to not just foreign investments but also to the foreign culture and lifestyles.
A decade ago a party was a real party if there was a Johnny Walker Scotch at the bar. Now we want Jack Daniels and Corona beer. Jim Beam Bourbon is bottled in India as of 2015. Yes, the classic bourbon has picked only India for that honour. Outside USA, only India has a bottling company of Jim Beam Bourbon. Back in 2007 when Bikernet.com had a discussion forum, I was so proud to announce the purchase of my first Zippo lighter which had a Jim Beam branding on it. Oh, how times have changed.
And motorcycling is changing too! HarleyDavidson started the revolution in India by bringing motorcycling as a lifestyle choice. A definition of one’s personality and character. Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki tried tempting us with those super-bikes. But Indians steeped in MTV of the '80s and the Hollywood glory of the '90s wanted the real deal, the man’s machine, Harley-Davidson.
When the first authorized dealership opened in India, Harley-Davidson sold one motorcycle per month. Why? Because the on-road prices started at Rs. 700,000, and the best model cost was a mind boggling Rs. 4,500,000. I mean you could either own a Mercedes car or a Harley-Davidson Road King at the top-end prices. What do the commuter bikes cost? They start at Rs. 45,000 and go up to Rs. 90,000 only. So Harley-Davidson never did have a chance in the commuter segment of the industry. Their only hope was a cultural change in the mindset of the frugal Indian family. A few celebrities and Bollywood superstars were seen riding a Harley-Davidson instead of a BMW car.
After one year of advertising and marketing, the first authorized dealership of Harley- Davidson India was selling one motorcycle every single day. Yes, this was a big deal. Economists and industry leaders couldn’t believe it. Harley pushed sales with attractive tie-ups with banks and financial institutions. Incredible EMI schemes and sponsorships in Rolling Stone India magazine and the Hard Rock Café India changed the desirability of a motorcycle from being coveted by a regular bloke to being ridden on the streets by a sophisticated high society executive. http://www.bikernet.com/pages/HarleyDavidson_IndYEAH.aspx (2012).

The other major brands around the world stood up and took notice. Soon there were quite a few Triumph India Authorized Dealerships. http://www.triumphmotorcycles.in/ Even the incredible giant Indian Motorcycles took the bait. www.indianmotorcycle.com/en-in with five authorized dealerships across India: http://www.indianmotorcycle.com/en-in/dealer-locator. Others who joined the party were Vespa, BMW, Ducati and Benelli. Motorcycling would never be about commuting now. It was attitude, persona, fanboy craziness.
A good Indian website to compare two-wheelers, their specifications, availability and on-road expense at local prices is http://www.bikewale.com
The author and his pride.
The author and his pride.

It did not however kill the India motorcycle manufacturers. One ancient legend kept its hold and expanded it. Enfield motorcycles is a brand still in production for way longer than Indian Motorcycles and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Yes, the British company of Royal Enfield motorcycles closed down but not the Indian franchise. We went on loving British engineering with cast iron engines and right-hand-side gear shifts. An engine, a chassis, a model unchanged since 1955: The Royal Enfield Bullet. Made like a gun, goes like a Bullet. Yes, the slogan was a nod to Enfield Rifles which was what Enfield did before getting into motorcycling. Surprisingly there are quite a few Enfield Rifles still used by Indian Police. That is gonna change of course because jihadi terrorists have AK-47 and AK-56. You can’t fight them with World War One Rifles.
So, what did Royal Enfield India do? They took the Harley-Davidson and Triumph head on by relaunching its catalogue. They now manufacturer new engines and more refined finished products. The Continental GT café racer was relaunched with an epic road trip from cafes of England to heart of India – to the tea-stall outside Enfield India factory in Chennai. A whole new UCE aluminum engine was unveiled. Instead of TCI-ignition and carburetor, the new models were to have Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI). And yes, Enfield Bullet finally got a meter that displayed the fuel gauge, telling the rider if he is running out of petrol.
Royal Enfield used the marketing campaign of Harley-Davidson and Triumph to its own advantage. Enfield welcomed them and their motorcycle lifestyle and realigned itself in India's motorcycle industry. The starting price of any Royal Enfield motorcycle was Rs. 170,000 onwards. It was definitely never a commuter bike. And it would not be a commuter bike in the new age of Harleys and Ducatis. Enfield dealerships started opening all over UK and USA. A few American celebrities bought Enfields as one of their collectibles. Enfield transformed its image from an ancient white elephant (prone to high maintenance and general high ownership costs) to a roaring new tiger capturing heartbeats across the landscape. Hell, even I was tempted to trade in my cast iron Enfield Bullet for a jazzy new cruiser. Well, I didn’t. Too many memories. And I always told myself I will never own more than one motorcycle. It’s like being a man-whore and sleeping wherever with whomever. Royal Enfield jumped into the same league as Harley-Davidson India. http://royalenfield.com/
The top management of Royal Enfield India were in it for the long haul. Soon Enfield hired ex-Ducati Designer, Pierre Terblanche as their Chief Designer. India was too small for Enfield. They were gonna go global and challenge the industry giants on their turf. The year 2014 was the epic year of Enfield. Royal Enfield India overtook Harley-Davidson in global sales. Enfield sold 300,000 bikes in 2014 while Harley-Davidson global sales was 267,000 bikes. Harley’s worldwide numbers grew 3% in 2014 whereas Enfield numbers grew a record 70%.

So the stage is set. A boy in India dreams to be that man riding that cool machine. Enfield doubled the stakes by launching its Royal Enfield Clothing and Accessories store locally and online. So Harley-Davidson India which sold record number of merchandise and clothing branded under its legendary American name tags were being beaten by Enfield India loyalists who were sporting the brand and its merchandise on the highways.
Triumph too has a merchandise and clothing line in India but it’s a British bike. And the only British bike that rules Indian hearts is Royal Enfield. So it is more of a culture clash. Tradition and heritage of colonial India versus the freedom and rebellious nature of Americana. Enfield and Harley-Davidson are the biggest players in the motorcycle lifestyle industry. Enfield too, for many years, has been organising biker fests and planned tours. Its annual event Biker Mania in Goa is always sold out and attended by hippies and yuppies alike.
http://www.bikernet.com/pages/Rider_Mania_2013_Goa_India.aspx The Himalayan Odyssey takes you across Ladakh and the highest motorable road in the world. Royal Enfield provides back up and factory trained mechanics. Similar is the desert safari at Rann of Kutch. The epic Tour of Nepal and the historic Tour of Tibet on motorcycles. Chinese government for a change accepted Indian tourism industry by making that tour possible. The Deccan Odyssey takes you to the southern Indian states and ancient timeless landmarks.
Harley-Davidson India is also attracting talent. They have poached some excellent Marketing and Touring people from Royal Enfield. For example, Manan Patel whom you see in the IndYeah article on one year anniversary of Harley-Davidson India was an Enfield rider and Marketing Manager. In 2015, Manan Patel runs the Mumbai dealership of Indian Motorcycles. He was poached by Harley’s ancient American rival.
Harley-Davidson India is also making unique promises such as breakdown assistance covered in the insurance. They will haul your bike to the Authorised Service Center, which so far no other motorcycle company in India offers. It is a bit of entertainment and a bit of cultural revolution. We are witnessing a booming Asian economy.
Hell, Nigeria is the biggest economy and GDP in African continent, way bigger than South Africa. So Asia and Africa are attracting entrepreneurs and investment and you will see a lot more positive development in these two regions. Investors and Professionals alike will benefit from the competition. The customer is king once more! 

Share this story:

Your thoughts on this article

Your Name
Anti-Spam Question:
Please enter the words you see in the box, in order and separated by a space. Doing so helps prevent automated programs from abusing this service.