The UK has been hit quite badly by the pandemic, what is the current situation at Hinckley?
Yes, the UK has been hit pretty bad, including the Triumph headquarters at Hinckley. We are following the government guidelines that have been issued. Most of our staff is working from home, and the factory is managed by a skeletal staff. The good part, however, is that most of our production happens in Thailand now, which means that the business has not really been impacted very badly because of the lockdown in the UK. The factory in Thailand is more or less working in line with our plans. Of course, right now everybody is trying to understand the current situation and its future implications. So, once we figure out the right approach to follow post-lockdown and get an idea of our prospects for the next year, we’ll be in a better position to take the right decisions going forward.
You continue to launch products even during the lockdown – the new Street Triple RS is the latest to enter the market. Has your plan to launch products not been impacted by the lockdown?
The best way for a brand to recover post lockdown is to create excitement in the market. And, if you’re able to give customers a reason to come back to your store, it’s a win for your brand. And that’s exactly what we are trying to do right now. We are preparing for the post-lockdown period. We are trying to create as many reasons for the customer to come to us as possible. Luckily, we have two important products lined up for launch. So, we are using them to the fullest. We think that they will create enough buzz, enough excitement in the market and bring people back post-lockdown. And, I feel that this gives us the edge over other manufacturers, and that’s why we are going full out and not holding back our plans for these new products right now. We are also trying to facilitate the buying decision for customers. We have deferred the price increase for our BS6 range of motorcycles, which can be yet another reason for customers to come to our showrooms. We are also creating various financial options for customers wherein we give them step up options, allowing them to start paying their monthly instalments months after their purchase. The idea is to not overburden them. So, we are trying to figure out these things with our product launches. The best part is that if you are a little positive and are creating these opportunities without holding yourself back in these times, to my mind, it gives the brand some opportunity in the post-lockdown period. We are also all set to launch the new Tiger 900 in May.
You’re known to organise a lot of customer engagement activities. Do you think this will be affected after the lockdown?
Riding bikes is what this whole industry is about, so it’s not going to disappear anytime soon. When you are riding solo or riding in small groups, you are also practicing social distancing to an extent. And most of our customers like to travel in small groups and want to go to places with very small human populations. So, even when they are participating in one of our rides, there is already a sense of social distancing. In short, our customer rides will continue. People will simply adapt to the changing scenario. The bigger question, however, is what are we going to do about attracting customers? How will we go about our routine business once this whole pandemic settles down, which will certainly change things. We have to start looking at smarter ways of doing business without any physical contact, and the only way to do it digitally. The recent launch of the RS on the digital platform gave us a lot of confidence because the overall feedback has been very positive. Since, it was our first digital launch, it will influence the way we think about the future. Of course, you can’t replace the touch-and-feel aspect, which is so basic to a motorcycle, with anything else. So, we will have to find a way to do that. But, apart from that, everything else regarding information and routine business management will most likely change.
What is Triumph doing to make sure that it comes out of this economic disaster, shall we say, triumphant?
We, at Triumph, are looking at how to get over this difficult period, and we are doing everything that we think is right for the time. During this difficult period, it’s important to take care of your business partners and your customers. We have taken a few steps in that direction as well. Keeping our customers’ interests in mind, we have extended all expiring warranties until June. We will also take care of missed periodic maintenance post lockdown. As mentioned, we have also decreased the price of our BS6 models. Along with managing our business, we are also trying to look at the overall situation. This is the time to be positive and start looking at what can you do once the lockdown lifts to fuel the recovery of the economy, and that’s exactly what we are doing with these new product launches.
Can you tell us a bit more about your partnership with Bajaj – will the current situation affect it?
All of us are excited about our partnership with Bajaj, and internally we are looking forward to formalising the partnership as soon as possible. The pandemic is likely to take away a few months from us, but to be honest I don’t see that affecting the new product launches by the partnership. They won’t be postponed and will be launched according to the timeline given in our press conference. That’s all I can say about it right now.