Harley-Davidson Does India - OZY | A Modern Media Company

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Because, dude — it’s Harley-Davidson.

Yash Dhillon is a Los Angeles-based photographer. 

Bikes are everywhere in India — not as a matter of adventure and exhilaration but of necessity. Cheaper and more nimble than cars, scooters and midweight motorcycles are the mode of transport for the masses. In India, the sound of motorcycles becomes ambient noise, like the constant chirping of crickets at night.

But a Harley-Davidson sounds different. Its deep growl cuts through that background noise like butter and demands your attention. You can feel a Harley coming.

Now Harley-Davidson is trying to come to India, writ large. With more than a billion people, the country presents a giant opportunity for the maker. In recent years, it has bet big on international markets, with some success: In 2014, international retail sales grew more than 5 percent and accounted for more than a third of total retail sales, the company says. Harley-Davidson has even begun to manufacture entire bikes in India. 

In January 2014, photographer Yash Dhillon traveled to the tourist redoubt of Goa, India, to cover Harley-Davidson for the second annual India Bike Week. The Harleys were unmistakable, with 1,200 of them parading slowly through the humid heat, Dhillon says. The procession was led by the town’s female police chief, Harley-Davidson’s managing director and the lead bike designer, who’d flown in from Milwaukee. Then followed leather-clad bikers, who rumbled past locals waving and cheering. Dhillon saw the first bike crew from Rajasthan roar into frame — some rocking grandiose mustaches, some covering their mouths with skull-faced bandannas — and was hooked.

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