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Sanjay Tripathi

Marketing Director | 27 Oct 2010

“The motorcycle market in India is like no other with millions of young riders craving relevant global experiences, and with vast highways and variations in terrain, the potential for leisure riding is endless. Whether one looks to the north to ride into the mountain ranges, south on the endless coastal roads, to the west in to the deserts or even East through the greenery – we have a bike for every terrain.”

Sanjay Tripathi is the Director of Marketing for Harley-Davidson India, where he leads marketing and brand development for motorcycles, parts, accessories, apparel and merchandise.

Sanjay, a veteran in the automobile industry, brings with him 14 years of enthusiastic motorcycle experience and knowledge. Prior to joining Harley-Davidson India, he has worked with several distinguished motorcycle brands as Division Head of Brand Management and Product Planning at Yamaha India, he’s been a part of the Honda R&D India team and served as a Product and Brand Manager at Piaggio and Royal Enfield.

Being a motorcycle enthusiast he has a lot of experience riding and racing various motorcycles in India, Japan and Europe. He is a keen customizer of motorcycles and motorcycling is a way of life for him.

Schooled at Mayo College Ajmer, he went on to earn a Master of Arts Degree from Kirori Mal College, Delhi University. He also earned an MBA from the Institute of Management Technology Ghaziabad. He is an avid Rock fan and a passionate photographer and Wildlife conservationist.

Q. What were the challenges for an ultra luxurious motorcycle company to set up shop in an ultra sensitive-to-price-market such as India?

The market for big bikes in India is growing rapidly. We are at the right time and the right place. The motorcycle culture is very strong here, with many people starting to explore the joys of riding rather than taking it as a point to point mode of transport. We have brought the pure Harley-Davidson culture and commitment to India’s already rich biking heritage, and the combination has been explosive for enthusiasts and riders craving for a better riding experience. The passion, enthusiasm and respect received from enthusiasts by our brand in India have been truly amazing.

The challenge for us is to expand the base of our market in India and the opportunities are vast given the large youth segment that has a very global outlook and vast exposure. Another challenge which we face is the high duty structure on our CBU bikes. The rapidly expanding big bike market and the development of high-end biking culture in the country also offer immense growth opportunities.

Q. Please tell us a little about the various marketing initiatives that have been undertaken by Harley Davidson in India?

In order to provide a complete opportunity and exposure for our target audience to touch, feel and experience the true Harley-Davidson spirit and culture, we will follow a multi-media, 360 degree marketing approach with a clear focus on experiential marketing and target advertising. Apart from that, we will launch the H.O.G (Harley Owners Group) which is the largest biking community in the world with over 1.4 million members, towards the end of this year.

With respect to experiential marketing, we conduct riding events and boot camps, where a prospective customer can come, test ride the bike and experience the brand. We have recently launched Harley-Davidson India’s annual rock music property called Harley Rock Riders. Through this, we aim to provide these rock bands the right platform and establish a culture that honors Harley-Davidson’s historic association with Rock and Roll and its legends. Targeted towards our customers, prospective buyers and rock music aficionados, this marks the beginning of our association with Indian rock music. Additionally, we have a very interactive website with a lot of information about our products and people can contact us and also calculate their EMIs on the website.

We have launched an unprecedented range of 12 motorcycles from each of the 5 Harley-Davidson families in addition to authentic Harley-Davidson riding gear, apparel, and merchandise from our MotorClothes collection. Available at Harley-Davidson India dealerships across New Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and soon-to-be-launched in Bangalore, the range will give our target audience the true look, sound and feel of our heritage, our culture and lifestyle.

Q. What is your target audience and what medium would you prefer to reach out to them?

In India, we have clearly identified our target audience that falls in the age group of 22 to 55 years. The passion for Harley-Davidson bikes is more of a state of mind. It transcends all age barriers. Harley-Davidson is a very experiential-led brand and our aim is for the brand experience and the cult to be understood and enjoyed first. Towards this, we are initiating a 360-degree approach that includes target advertising, riding events, boot camps, H.O.G., Harley Rock Riders, interactive website, opening of our dealerships, introduction of our products, launch of a wide range of apparels, merchandise, parts and accessories, finance initiatives and more experiential events. These are towards providing our target audience the true look, sound and feel of our heritage, our culture and lifestyle.

Q. What are your sales and revenue targets for 2010 and how has the performance been so far compared to projected figures?

We have recently opened the first four of the five Harley-Davidson India dealerships in Hyderabad, Chandigarh, New Delhi and Mumbai, and will soon be opening in Bangalore over the next few weeks. At this point, our target is to first establish the brand and have our dealership and after-sales network in place. We want the Harley-Davidson experience and the cult to be understood and enjoyed first. We have been thrilled by the enthusiasm for our brand and what we stand for, and we will honor that enthusiasm by creating unique opportunities for riders to congregate, ride and experience the full power of the brand.

Q. Which is going to be your next campaign?

We have just started our lifestyle campaign in October which reflects the spirit and emotions of Harley-Davidson. This campaign will showcase our attitude and culture.

Q. With quite a few ultra luxury motorcycles entering the Indian market, how do you perceive the market grow in the next five years?

The motorcycle culture is very strong here, with many people starting to ride from an early age. Until we came to India, riders here have experienced Harley-Davidson and leisure riding only through media imagery and popular culture. We have begun to initiate a new chapter in motorcycling called leisure riding – riding what you want, where you want, when you want and with whom you want!

The motorcycle market in India is like no other with millions of young riders craving relevant global experiences, and with vast highways and variations in terrain, the potential for leisure riding is endless. Whether one looks to the north to ride into the mountain ranges, south on the endless coastal roads, to the west in to the deserts or even East through the greenery – we have a bike for every terrain.

With global big bike manufacturers planning to set base in India, it will help increase the customer base and will be great for the market. Given the tremendous potential of this market, I believe India will soon be known the world over as an ideal riding destination. With highways improving the premium motorcycle market will further get a boost.

Q. How is your product positioning compared to the competition?

The luxury motorcycle market in India is a niche segment, with a rapidly growing market for big bikes. We have begun to initiate a new chapter in motorcycling, which we call leisure riding. For over a century, Harley-Davidson has inspired motorcyclists across the world to celebrate their passion for riding. We are not just a motorcycle company or just about technology or racing we are a culture on two wheels and this is our positioning in India. Our brand truly stands for freedom, passion and self expression.

Q. Please tell us about the consumer trends in this industry.

The Indian luxury auto market has moved along extremely fast and shows no sign of slowing down. The consumers are looking for riding experiences that provide style, comfort and performance, and allows them to confidently explore each and every corner of this great country, and enjoy every minute from start to end. We, at Harley-Davidson India, strive to provide just that to our riders and enthusiasts across the country.

First from a sellers market it has become a buyer’s market as there are so many options in the market. Customization of the product has become rampant. Earlier there was a commuter culture but motorcycling as a hobby is developing now. Earlier one bike would serve many purposes but now specialization is increasing and the market segmentation is becoming far more well defined. In the near future many more specialized bikes are going to hit the road.

Q. Have there been any marketing innovations that you have carried out for Harley Davidson India?

In order to provide a complete opportunity and exposure for our target audience to touch, feel and experience the true Harley-Davidson spirit and culture, we will follow a multi-media 360 degree marketing approach with a clear focus on experiential marketing.

We are in the process of initiating a 360 degree marketing approach. This will include target advertising, HOG, riding events, boot camps, Harley Rock Riders, interactive web site, finance options and more experiential events where our target customers can feel the true Harley-Davidson experience. The passion for Harley-Davidson bikes is more of a state of mind and transcends all age barriers.

These initiatives coupled with the opening of our branded dealerships, introduction of a wide range of products, launch of apparel, accessories, parts and accessories, will enable us to reach a much wider audience and expose them to the true brand culture and lifestyle.

Q. Who are your creative and media agencies?

Republic from Mumbai (creative as well as strategic) and Saatchi & Saatchi are Harley-Davidson India’s creative and media agencies.

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