The Harley Biker…Executive?

By Tripti Lahiri

April 26, 2010 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – The words “Harley-Davidson” might traditionally conjure up a vision of a beefy grizzled leather-clad biker. But in India, the typical Harley rider is likely to be a sober, hardworking businessman for whom the bike is the one time he (or she) can disconnect from the laptop and Blackberry.

Harley-Davidson India, which has been asking motorcycle-lovers to “stake their claim” through their web site for several months, began taking actual bookings on April 20. The company hasn’t yet said how many people have put their money down for a bike, but marketing director Sanjay Tripathi said the response had been “overwhelming.”

Now the company is taking the 12 models they’re selling in India to the five cities where they have dealerships so that the prospective customers who have written in can try them out. Last week they were in Chandigarh.

Vikram Bhalla, the 35-year-old head of marketing agency Vivify, is the first person in New Delhi who will own one of the iconic motorcycles, which he’s dreamed about at least since he was a teen and saw them in movies like “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man,” starring Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson.

“The Harley’s a dream bike. When I was young I used to have posters of them on my wall,” said Mr. Bhalla, who also owns two Royal Enfield motorbikes, a Honda Civic and a Maruti Swift.

“My driver drives my car. If my driver doesn’t show up I take my bike,” said Mr. Bhalla.

Mr. Bhalla has booked the Nightster, which sells here for 995,000 rupees or about $22,258 (it starts at $9,999 in the United States) and he said he hopes it’s just his first Harley — words that must be music to the company’s ears. (He has his six-month old son in mind for the bikes he outgrows.)

The most expensive model they’re selling here costs 3.4 million rupees, putting it out of the reach out of all but the most well-heeled professionals.

The company’s bringing the bikes to Delhi this weekend for test drives. But Mr. Bhalla isn’t sure he’ll be there to try them out. He may have to work.

SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal