“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed, everything else is public relations.” ― George Orwell
It goes without saying that this article, like most on this website, is about a problem that isn’t really a problem. If somehow we were able to solve this problem, it wouldn’t save any lives, it wouldn’t make any difference to world peace, it wouldn’t give food to starving babies.
It is also important to understand that the only reason I call this problem “evil” is for aesthetics. An article titled “The minor inconveniences in the world of motorcycles” is unlikely to go viral.
In short, this is not journalism. I used that quote to start this article because I liked it.
This article may be considered as an extension of this one, and this one, and this one, although the emotions behind all 4 of these posts are shared by this entire website. That’s just a complicated way of saying that I bitch a lot.
The problem of evil in the world of motorcycles can be stated as follows:
In spite of all the emphasis on acquiring skills with a motorcycle, against the popular ideology of using motorcycles in a safe and responsible way in public, and despite the general belief that motorcycles are a tool for good, the world of motorcycles is full of people who do not deserve the motorcycles they ride, do not deserve the status they enjoy in certain circles, and do not deserve the wider fame they gain on social media.
There are so many popular social media riding personalities who are utterly useless with a motorcycle. There are so many automotive websites which show an exceptional lack of skills with two-wheeled automobiles. There are so many superbike owners whose ownership of a superbike is nothing less than a tragedy for the society in general, and that superbike in particular.
And yet there they are, posting, growing, breathing.
The aim of this article
The aim of this article is to identify the reasons behind the evolution of the global motorcycling scene in general, and the Indian motorcycling scene in particular, in light of individuals, brands, PR agencies, and news websites, and why it is the way it is.
I would like to explore the reasons behind the popularity of certain individuals, the moral critique of certain news websites, and the system by which motorcycle manufacturers have gained immense control over the people who are supposed to judge their creations, while also getting fooled themselves into flushing money down a toilet.
The overall tone of this article is negative, since I feel that things are not the way they should be. I believe that by a combination of circumstance and lack of principles, brands have created an ecosystem centered around them that attempts to influence a consumer’s choice in an unethical fashion, and fails spectacularly. I would try to explain how this ecosystem warps the way people look at bikes, and how people look at other people.
As much as I’d like to be just an observer, to be objective in my decisions, be unbiased in my words, we all know that’s not going to happen. Hence I’d like to shed all pretense of my honesty, and make it very clear that the ideas that appear in this article are my opinions, unfiltered ones, most of which stem out of my jealousy at not being a celebrity who gets stuff for free. I don’t get called to bike launches, I don’t get sponsored trips, I don’t get review toys, and if I can’t have these things I can at least be an educated, honorable gentleman, and shit on someone else’s party.
As always, the attempt here is to organize my thoughts in such a way that they can be easily understood, and more importantly, argued against.
The current hierarchy of the motorcycling world
Let’s begin with an overview of how this ecosystem is organised, what the food chain look like. Here are the components of this system, in decreasing order of power.
These are the top dogs, the masters who pump money into the system, with a hope to convert those marketing expenses into sales profits. The marketing budgets for brands depend a lot on the type of products they are trying to sell. Honda can’t even be bothered to lift a finger, because they know their products have inherent value. Royal Enfield makes TV ads, organizes giant events, and spends money to maintain this whole bullshit of brotherhood, because they know they are selling typewriters at the price of iPhones.
The PR agencies
Most brands do not handle their marketing activities themselves, they hire “expert” PR agencies whose core competency is repackaging the shit they get from brands to make it smell better. PR agencies achieve this goal by the following methods:
- Creating fancy marketing material that’s impossible to consume without vomiting
- Organizing events, usually in Goa, where innocent motorcycles get molested for no good reason
- Paying “influencers” to reach their vast followers, who usually happen to be horny college kids with one hand on their phones, and the other down their pants
The news websites
These are your Rushlanes and Motorbeams and Autocars, websites that get their hands on new and exciting toys every single day, and have an entirely unique talent to convert those experiences into cringeworthy, unimaginative, dickless content that makes you want to go on a killing spree. These “journalists” are experts at asking all the wrong questions, spawning an army of clickbaits, and predicting the upcoming bike launches based on how much of their forearm they can squeeze inside their ass on any given morning, all SEO optimized.
Mumbiker Nikhil, Bikewithgirl, and Dhinchak Pooja are a few influencers who have contributed immensely to the Indian motorcycling scene. Social media personalities like them have a unique and rare combination of the following qualities:
- Complete lack of knowledge of the field they are supposedly in
- Complete confidence in their lack of knowledge of the field they are supposedly in
- An ability to give teenagers raging erections
With these potent weapons in their arsenal they are able to deliver exactly what the PR agencies expect from them, high-quality, engaging, viral content that doesn’t make any fucking sense.
You are here, and so am I. We consume this deluxe, select, gourmet, prestige, premium, processed bullshit, and then wonder why we’ve been feeling constipated since 1993. We have the power to change this system, we are the ones who pay the brands in the end, but we are too happy to suck our balls, lick our assholes, and eat whatever breadcrumbs are thrown at us. We like chasing the ball that hasn’t been thrown, we enjoy being told to sit and rollover, and we love eating someone else’s vomit.
For those of you who may have found the above explanation a bit too verbose, below is a simple diagram that explains the whole story above in one little picture.
The dependence of websites on brands
One of the most beautiful aspects of our current biking ecosystem is just how much control the brands have over the people who are supposed to critique their products. When one of Kawasaki’s Mumbai dealers defrauded a large number of customers, none of the major publications published a single negative word about the Japanese giant, even when they threatened legal action against the customers. Their lack of a spine explains why we so frequently find them with their heads buried inside their asses.
A website’s main source of income is advertisement. Advertisement can be direct, like a banner within an article, or it can be native, like an article that looks like an article but is in reality an advertisement. Money can also be made through affiliate marketing, but that also requires content to begin with. Google ads are another source, but they mostly make peanuts when compared to other forms of ads.
If you’ve ever wondered why there’s never a single negative review about a single motorcycle, the above setup should give you an idea. It’s almost painful to watch these people review absolutely horrible motorcycles and try to make them look like Cinderella’s buttcrack. It’s painful because you can see they are disappointed, they know they can do better, but their balls are in a tight grip, growing purple with every negative word that gets typed.
The bullshit of “influencers”
The whole idea of social media influencers is a fraud, a ponzi scheme, a way for PR agencies to make more money by doing less work. Read Vir Sanghvi’s article to understand why this is so, I do not have the talent or the experience to explain it better than him.
What I can do though is take names and give examples, something that most people seem afraid of for some unknown reason. I would like to compare Mumbiker Nikhil with Powerdrift, more specifically their Youtube channels.
I realize this is not a fair comparison, Powerdrift is automotive artistry, Mumbiker Nikhil is a lifestyle vlogger, whatever the fuck that is. Powerdrift has a very specific niche, Mumbiker Nikhil is like the common cold. Powerdrift is a bunch of expert, talented, experienced dudes working together professionally, Mumbiker Nikhil is just one guy with some minions.
I also realize that talking about him is counter-productive, any publicity is good publicity in today’s time, and me wasting my words to dissect him and his channel gives him the oxygen of credibility that he needs.
However, this needs to be done, not because it’s going to change anything, but simply because it’s fun. I don’t know why people don’t talk about these things publicly, why all such conversations are done behind someone’s back, hiding in Whatsapp groups, moaning in Facebook chats. If someone claims to be a “public figure”, they also have to deal with the public humiliation that comes along with it, we have the right to laugh at their expense, and they have the right to ignore us. It does make them more popular, but there’s little we can do about that anyway.
It is important to note that I am no way making him look like an idiot, it takes balls, planning, and talent to be as popular as he is. As someone who’s never been disciplined enough to post content regularly, I have no right to complain why he has more followers than me. To do a subscriber meetup, you need to get out of bed, which is more than what I am willing to do. To post 3 videos a week requires tonnes of time spent watching yourself on a computer, which is tough if you look like me. Mumbiker Nikhil is a handsome dude, works hard and gives his followers what they want, it’s an entirely separate issue that his followers are fucking dickheads who can’t tell the difference between reality and reality TV.
Here’s a troubling statistic for you:
- Powerdrift – 1033 videos – 754,040 subscribers
- Mumbiker Nikhil – 521 videos – 891,427 subscribers
How is this possible? I wish I could tell you. It can’t be about the quality of content, it can’t be about the quantity of content, that much I can tell, but beyond that it’s all a mystery. It’s quite obvious that Mumbiker Nikhil, like Justin Bieber, has a special place in the hearts of pre-pubescent kids, 38% of his followers are between the ages of 13 and 24. Unlike Bieber though, 99% of Nikhil’s followers are males. That’s one hell of a sausage fest.
Compare this to Powerdrift, 55% of whose audience is between the ages of 25 and 44. Things get even more fun for Bikewithgirl, 72% of whose followers are between the ages of 13 and 24.
I guess the reason he’s famous is the same reason why the Kardashians are famous, the incomprehensible garbage called reality TV. I don’t get it, but clearly a large majority of the population does. For some reason people want to watch other people’s faces telling them completely stupid things, it’s a very weird fetish, and even a porn-connoisseur like me can’t seem to understand it.
But that’s irrelevant, what matters is this: If Mumbiker Nikhil rides a Triumph, does that increase the sales for Triumph motorcycles? No, it doesn’t. His followers do not have the money to buy a Triumph bra, they can’t possibly contribute to Triumph’s revenue. If that’s so, why does Triumph seem to support him? The answer must be the PR agency.
Eulogy handles the marketing for Triumph in India, and I have personal experience of their incompetence. They are the same dudes who manhandled Triumph’s detuning fiasco, and then sent me a legal notice when I made fun of their CEO. Anyone with such a deep lack of understanding of the concept of humor can be safely assumed to have no knowledge of the concept of marketing.
To give you the absolute perfect example of what kind of followers these influencers have, take a look at this picture uploaded by Bikewithgirl. Notice the guy circled in red, look at him, look into his eyes, he’s the guy Benelli are trying to influence into buying their 502, he’s the guy TVS are trying to reach out to for their 310RR. He owns a Studds helmet, if he didn’t steal it from his roommate. Look at his head full of hair and his shiny smile. He couldn’t buy a packet of Hajmola if it was free.
The next question is simple, why is everyone making the same mistake? If all these influencers can influence are people with no money, what’s the point? I think there are 3 reasons for that:
- Managers like numbers, if they see they have reached out to 160,000 people with 1 picture, it’s easy to ignore the fact that those 160,000 people combined couldn’t buy one of their products if they sold everything they had, including themselves
- If one brand is doing it, it must be a good idea. When one brand works with an influencer, it increases their credibility, and makes it easier for someone else to take the risk
- It’s nearly impossible to find the conversion ratio of your investment on influencers, there’s no way to prove that it doesn’t work. As long as there isn’t a better/easier way to make impressive looking charts, why the fuck not
I often wonder what’s the difference between people like Nikhil and people like Van Gogh. Van Gogh was a genius, and he died in poverty, unknown, unloved, unappreciated. Clearly Nikhil is doing much better. I suppose it’s the difference between businessmen and artists, Nikhil saw an opportunity in the whole vlogging market and exploited it to perfection, Van Gogh became obsessed with painting and cut his damn ear off.
It’s the difference between people who sell themselves, and the people who sell their souls. It’s the difference between people who are remembered for centuries, and people who are forgotten in days.
Is this ever going to change?
Fat chance! Why would it? Nobody cares, and there’s no reason for them to.
I can’t think of a more dedicated enterprise than Powerdrift, a group of people who constantly churn out high-quality content, content that comes from the right people and goes to the right people, and yet they can’t seem to be a match against one wannabe actor. Bikewithgirl gets invitations to attend TVS launches, and Rohit Upadhyay has to vent out his anger on Facebook to get some sort of support from KTM. People who deserve it all seem to have none.
It’s like Plato’s metaphor of the Ship of State. People who are worthy of being the captain of a ship seldom become captain, because they are too busy looking up at the stars, while others scheme under their eyes.
Brands and PR agencies aren’t completely to blame though, they don’t have much options to choose from. They need someone popular, willing to do what’s told, and trustworthy enough to deliver what’s expected. People who actually understand the Indian motorcycle market, are real thought leaders in this field, satisfy none of those requirements.
In the end, you can’t control other people, you have no right to. There are no objective truths, my judgement would be incorrect from someone else’s perspective, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, no disruptive ideas for the future that would change this stalemate, no hope. I try my best to ignore the existence of this tumor, but every once in a while I notice the pus oozing out, the skin pulsating, and I rant my frustrations out.
It hasn’t changed anything in 5 years, it’s not going to, but it’s fun to release a little and slide back inside the foreskin.