Bhupender Singh crouched over a fuel tank inside a Harley-Davidson showroom. A row of motorcycles gleamed in the afternoon sun; one metallic red, another with a black matte finish and a slightly taller variant in blue. The motorcycles were not for sale, but for repair. The dealership’s front door was locked.
Harley-Davidson, the proudly American company, is giving up on India because of weak sales, after more than a decade of pursuing a huge but ultimately frustrating place to do business.
Read Here: Harley Davidson Announces India Exit
“It’s all over now,” said Singh, a service representative. “There are no bikes to sell anymore.”
The closure has dealt a blow to India’s ambitions to lure manufacturers, a campaign modeled on China’s success called “Make in India.” It has set back Harley-Davidson’s efforts to expand its popularity overseas. And it strands a small but devoted group of Harley devotees who are wondering how they will keep their prized rides rumbling.
“It’s like losing someone in your family,” said Sandeep Bharadwaj, chief executive of a bus manufacturing firm, who spent more than $40,000 on his Fat Boy motorcycle. “We had a mental assurance that they were physically present and they could help us with spare parts.”
Companies looking for the next boom have long eyed India, a country of 1.3 billion people with an aspirational middle class. Setting up shop there, however, remains difficult. Roads and rails are inadequate in many areas. Land policies flummox construction. India’s red tape is infamous.
With his “Make in India” campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to reduce bureaucratic hurdles, invest in infrastructure and take other steps to draw high-end manufacturing jobs and design work.
Even before the pandemic, the campaign had been disappointing. Manufacturing contributes less to India’s economic output than it did a decade ago. The government has struggled to build an ecosystem for manufacturers, including infrastructure and industrial parks. Small suppliers who might help a big manufacturer flesh out a supply chain have a hard time getting credit.
Harley-Davidson LiveWire is company’s first electric motorcycle. (Photo: Harley-Davidson)