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Old 22nd February 2013, 16:53   #1
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Default Harley Eyes India’s Seven Sisters

Harley-Davidson Inc. says it has discovered a growing fan base in the northeastern states of India and may look at opening a dealership there.

As part of its 110th anniversary celebrations, the motorcycle maker recently held a Harley Owners Group or HOG rally for the first time in India. The event in Goa attracted 600 riders, including many from the northeast, said Anoop Prakash, managing director of Harley-Davidson India.

“We have a dealer in Kolkata right now that serves our customers in the northeast. As critical mass builds, we may open another dealership,” Mr. Prakash told India Real Time recently.

India’s northeast region includes Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura and Nagaland, a group of states collectively known as the “Seven Sisters.” The region is known for its rock bands and influences of Western culture.

The potential for a dealership there fits Harley-Davidson’s larger plan to open dealerships in smaller towns in the country.

“We find that there’s a lot of pull from those places and we are hoping to reach like-minded people who want to experience the brand,” Mr. Prakash said.

The Milwaukee-based company has nine dealerships in India and plans to open more in Indore, Jaipur, Goa and Pune by December. It sells 13 models in India, including the Superlow Sportster, the Fat Boy, the Fat Bob and the Road King. It assembles six of those at a plant in north India and imports the rest from the U.S. It has sold more than 2,000 motorcycles since it started sales in the country in July 2010.

Harley-Davidson’s heavyweight “chopper style” cruiser motorcycles have been a part of popular culture since the 1900s and the company’s motorcycles were used in both world wars. It markets its brand through a famous line of apparel and accessories, rallies, musical events, clubs and a museum.

Motorcycles are the most popular mode of personal transport in India, but that is largely because standard models are relatively cheap. Style and iconic brand names are luxuries many can’t afford. Vehicle demand in India is also contracting due to the economic slowdown, rising fuel prices and high interest rates.

But Mr. Prakash says he isn’t worried, as India still has a growing number of very wealthy people.

“We find demand for premium products in India is scaling up… also, Harley-Davidson is a lifestyle – it doesn’t make sense to compare us to other automotive companies,” he said.
Source - http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2...seven-sisters/
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