Kolkata:In a sultry summer afternoon, she turned up at an upscale south Kolkata mall riding the 2018 Fat Bob Harley-Davidson motorbike, her ride a reflection of her age-defying rock star-like personality.

Meet Karen Davidson, great granddaughter of Harley-Davidson Motor Co.’s co-founder William A. Davidson, who is touring India to promote branded apparel sold by the motorbike-maker.

Clad in a Harley tee and a pair of jeans and unapologetically stylish, Davidson, who is the creative director for Harley-Davidson’s general merchandise, says women in India could emerge to be the key growth driver for her business.

Percentage of women among bikers in the US is in double-digits, she says. But in India, the figure is “very small", a little over 200 women Harley-Davidson riders, according to a spokesperson for her company. So, her company is scouting for “Ladies of Harley", or people who could inspire others, she says.

It’s a belief at Harley-Davidson that most of its customers get initiated through merchandise, seen as an “expression of individuality". At the same time, the products are “functional", and hence comfortable, says Davidson, who learnt the ropes at fashion houses.

On her second visit to India, she says she has figured that her firm could use “a lot of smart engineering" to make its merchandise more comfortable. In Kolkata, on Monday, she opened the city’s first Harley Davidson MotorClothes store.

Three other stores have recently been opened in Dimapur, Imphal and Siliguri in the east. The company is eyeing Varanasi and Goa, skipping bigger metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore because getting real estate at the right price is a challenge, according to a spokesperson. All the stores are owned by franchise partners.

The apparel is targeted at people in the age group of 18 to 35 years.

Harley Davidson Motor Co. has partnered New York-based G-III Apparel Group Ltd to design and distribute the brand’s apparel line in Asia-Pacific. G-III is the company that under licence agreements produces apparel under brands such as Gas, CK and Tommy Hilfiger.

Apparel is “a great way to start someone’s journey with our brand, even if they aren’t motorcycle riders just yet", says Davidson, who joined the company in 1989 and was one of the original co-creators of the branded apparel and accessory line.

When asked about her personal favourite, Davidson says she prefers the Road King for off-roading, though she was introduced to biking with the M50 at the age of nine.

There are more than 20,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles on Indian roads. Some 8,000 owners have come together to form 30 Harley owners groups since commencement of sales in India in 2010. The firm claims to have 50% share of the cruiser motorbike market in India.

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