18 Dec 2023 6:37 AM GMT


Will Harley, Triumph make Royal Enfield's road bumpy?

Jayaprakash K

Will Harley, Triumph make Royal Enfields road bumpy?


Harley’s local avatar of X440 was launched early this year and, and is offered from Rs.2.4 lakh.

US bike major Harley-Davidson and UK giant Triumph have kick-started their race in the Indian market that is likely to give a run for the Royal Enfield’s money, their main rival in the local market.

The American giant is testing the Indian market for the second time. In the first race, the most iconic brand in the bike world miserably lost. Harley-Davison set up shop in India in August 2009, Harley-Davidson India was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Harley–Davidson Inc.

The company had tried to build up its business in the largest two-wheeler market, now worth $16.63 billion (Rs.1.38 lakh crore) with imported machines, but the strategy didn’t work well. The higher import duty made its bikes too expensive for the middle-income group, the targeted consumer of the company. For instance, the company’s cheapest motorcycle Nighster carried a price tag of Rs. 12 lakh ten years back. Unfamiliar weather conditions and potholed roads made the journey for Harley-Davidson bikes bumpier on the Indian market. Having hit the dead-end, the Milwaukee-based company had to beat a retreat. So it left the Indian shore in 2020.

But the company returned next year with a different game plan. They found a friend in India – Hero Motor Crop Ltd - to manufacture their machines locally. The move drastically cut the price of its bikes. Harley’s local avatar of X440 was launched early this year and, and is offered from Rs.2.4 lakh.

The company claims that in the second attempt, it could make inroads into the Indian market. Since July, X440 has had over 25000 bookings and counting.

Bajaj Auto Ltd is the local partner of Triumph. The former makes and distributes the latter’s Scrambler 400X and Speed 400. The tie-up helped the UK two-wheeler maker offer its two Indian versions of Scrambler 400X and Speed 400 at 2.63 lakh and 2.33 lakh respectively. The company claims that the market response is encouraging. The booking started only in the second half of this year, yet the orders have crossed 10,000 units.

The numbers have instilled confidence in the two-wheeler makers to go ahead with their locally made smaller-engine motorcycles at affordable price strategy. They hope that it will enable them to take on Royal Enfield which rules the roost of the small-mid engine bike segment.

Born at the beginning of the last century in the UK and served in two world wars, Royal Enfield bikes were introduced to India by the then colonial regime. The brand was acquired by India’s Eicher Motors Ltd in 1994. Royal Enfield bikes’ affordable price- its highest-selling Classic 350, starts from Rs. 193,080- its enduring legacy and historical value made the Indian bike riders the choicest brand. The thump and roar of Royal Enfield have been close to the hearts of Indian bike lovers for many generations. Weaning of such loyal customers, even in small numbers is a big task.

But the price, technology, brand strength, and blitzkriegs will play spoilsports on their rival, hope the two new entrants in the market.

Analysts endorse their viFor the fast-growing cash-rich Indian middle class, the price tag is not a big issue. Now they are driven by brand consciousness, said Rakesh Sharma, a senior analyst with a Delhi-based market analysis firm.