Harley-Davidson: Wheels of fortune

Nov 17 2013, 10:37 IST
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'It’s not always the growth charts that high-flying corporate executives prefer to chase.' (AP) 'It’s not always the growth charts that high-flying corporate executives prefer to chase.' (AP)
Summary'It’s not always the growth charts that high-flying corporate executives prefer to chase.'

Rajat Uppal, the 30-something marketing head of Red FM, literally swears by his Harley-Davidson. Whether it’s going to the gym, shopping at malls, hitting pubs or even commuting to office (which is unusual, to say the least, given that most high-flying corporate executives prefer to use chauffeur-driven cars), Uppal bets big on his mean machines—as much as his pie-charts and growth targets, if not more.

Biking is serious business, and enthusiasts like Uppal go the whole hog to satisfy their passion. In 2012, Uppal got himself his first Harley-Davidson, a Forty Eight, and this year, he bought another one, the Fat Boy. Starting with a price range of above R8 lakh (for Forty Eight) and above R14 lakh (for Fat Boy), these mean machines don't come cheap. But then, “biking is a passion. I ride every weekend with my riding buddies and other HOG (Harley Owners’ Group) members. In between, I try and ride to work sometimes too,” says Uppal, a resident of Delhi.

In recent years, Uppal has moved towards bikes and does not like splurging much on four-wheelers. He has even converted quite a few non-bikers in his group to regular ones owning a Harley. In fact, his wife is a pillion to most of his rides. He used to drive a Skoda Octavia VRS and loved the turbo petrol motor it sports, but moved to a “regular” commuter—Skoda Rapid—not too long ago.

Uppal is not the only exception. There’s a growing breed of corporate biggies—mostly in their 30s, city-bred, rich and successful—who are taking some time out of their busy schedules and riding the “big machines”. You’ll often find them on Sunday mornings on the Greater Noida Expressway near Delhi, or the Mumbai-Pune highway, or at some HOG event across India—riding their bikes in groups. The recent HOG meet in Chennai is one example in which members from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Indore and Kochi came together with their families to make it a milestone for Harley-Davidson in India.

For these bikers, riding their Harleys is not just a hobby, but more of a passion, and as much a mode of refreshment from their daily corporate lives. There are even some who feel that owning a Harley is impacting their professional lives.

“It does raise some eyebrows, especially if you are at a senior position. But it also attracts appreciation and reflects independence. On certain occasions, it

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