Harley here at last! Starts at Rs6.95 lakh

Having hyped its brand equity to the hilt, American cult motorbike maker Harley-Davidson Inc is bracing for its real test in the Indian market as it has begun accepting bookings for its bikes today.

To begin with, its Indian subsidiary Harley Davidson India will launch 12 models from five of its motorcycle series – Sportster, Dyna, Softail, V-Rod, CVO and Touring. All carry price tags as hefty as the bikes, ranging from Rs6.95 lakh to Rs34.95 lakh (ex-showroom, New Delhi).

The iconic bikes will be available across five cities - New Delhi, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Mumbai. Deliveries are expected to start in June. All the motorcycles would be imported from the manufacturer's US facilities as CBUs, or completely built units, in Indian parlance; which means Indians will pay more than double for the same bike that people ride abroad for half the price. But there seem to be enough potential buyers for Harley to finally launch its product.

Harley-Davidson was first granted permission to start operations in India in 2007, but held back the launch because of the massive import duty. It finally commenced operations in August 2009.

Harley cruisers may not be very practical for Indian roads; nonetheless demand is apparently high enough. Srinivas Reddy, owner of Tusker Harley Davidson in Bangalore, said, ''We have been flooded with enquiries ever since we announced the launch of the bike a month ago. Going by that, I am expecting a huge response.''

Actual bookings will of course be the bottom line, but the company and its dealers are clearly confident. Harley-Davidson has been inviting potential buyers to ''stake their claim'' on its website. Nearly 1,000 people have registered themselves, the company said, but declined to specify how many of these it expects to convert into actual orders.