We not only built the brand but also the market – Anoop Prakash, MD, Harley Davidson India
Anoop Prakash, a Harvard Business Graduate, an ex-Intelligence Officer with the helicopter squad in the US Marine Corps, and now Managing Director, Harley Davidson India. At Harley, Prakash's biggest challenge was to bring down prices in India as the bikes cost more than a premium sedan. Under Prakash, Harley launched four families of motorcycles in India - Sporsters, Dyna, Softail and V-Rod - spanning 10 variants. The total number of bikes sold went up to 4,000 from just 100 in 2010. EE, in conversation with the veteran about the India Bike Week, Harley plans for the future and the challenges faced.
“When we entered India in 2009, the leisure motorcycling department was very underdeveloped, almost non-existent. Previous players were focused on the commuter and lower CC segments and what we had to do is not only develop the Harley Davidson brand and relevance to our riders, but we also had to develop the market for leisure motorcycling. So we were not only building the brand but also building the market - and that was the biggest challenge, not only being able to build our business and pick the right partners and dealers, bring the right products to market and the right experiences, but we also had to set up the right demonstrations of leisure motorcycling for people to understand what kind of fun and the spirit of adventure and freedom that people enjoy,” says Anoop Prakash, MD, Harley Davidson India.
“Over the past year we have had some major milestones, from 9 Harley models being assembled here in India, to the India Bike Week, it’s been a great journey”, says Anoop. The IBW is a property run by 70 EMG and Fox Traveller, of which Harley is the principle sponsor. The three of them came together to create a festival that would reflect the passion Indians have for leisure motorcycling. The India Bike Week took off in 2013, with its first edition in Goa, then its second edition came to a close in January 2014. “We had over 8,000 enthusiasts there, over 1200 Harley owners, and overall it was a great experience. What we have done is built a festival for everyone, there’s no other place in the country where people who ride Harleys, Enfields and Pulsars, can all come together and celebrate motorcycling.
They called the rendezvous “The Woodstock of Biking” and touted it as the biggest and meanest of its kind in India. The first such event, in 2013, attracted motorcycle aficionados of all hues. In 2013 the scene was even more flamboyant, drawing all comers to the sweltering cauldron at Vagator, despite the hefty entry fee. The centerpiece of India Bike Week was the HDG (Harley Davidson Group) parade, where about 1,000 Harley riders converged on Goa from across India. “IBW was our initiative to give people a festival to enjoy the whole experience of biking – leisure biking. We wanted to create a community of sorts and turn it into an experience for our consumers. 70EMG, Fox Traveler and all of us at Harley conceptualized this festival together which turned out to be a huge success”, says Anoop. “Harley being the prime sponsor made the major chunk of investment while the rest was covered by other investors. The ROI on IBW was incredible due to the amazing response we received at the festival”, divulges Anoop.
What does Harley have planned for the rest of 2014? “2014 is going to be a big year for Harley Davidson. We do have the Street 750 launching here, it’s an all new platform from Harley Davidson, the first new platform in 14 years and its going to be built in two places – the United States in Kansas City, and in India in Haryana – not only for domestic sales but also for exports. It will serve a new generation of young riders and its going to do extremely well. We are also targeting new dealerships in Surat and Coimbatore. We have a lot of customers in these places but they are just located a little further away from us. We would like to serve them better by being in their city itself”, finishes Anoop.
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