When Akshai Varde rides his custom designed motorcycle through the streets of Mumbai, heads are sure to turn. The thumping sound complimented by the low saddle height and the extended stretch in the chassis in the all-matte black chopper is absolutely stunning. One could easily mistake it to be from the stable of an Italian designer, but it’s actually a Vardenchi Dark Knight, custom-designed by Varde himself.
Vardenchi Motorcycles was born in 2005 when Varde used to play around with modifying Royal Enfields. Originally called The Mumbai Motor Cycle Company, within a year of starting up, he wanted a name closer to home and rechristened the brand to ‘Vardenchi’, which in Marathi means ‘by a Varde’. While he was extremely passionate about custom building motorcycles, he knew a sustainable business had to be built to continue pursuing this passion. The first bike he built was called the ‘Miracle’ where he modified several aspects of a Royal Enfield. “Thinking about the early stages makes me very nostalgic. I used to be a flight attendant and spent my spare time customising motorcycles. I worked with several mechanics, and learnt each and every aspect of modifying bikes,” says Varde about the early days.
The Vardenchi offering
Today, Vardenchi is a full-service provider in the custom-designed motorcycles space. They offer everything from basic accessories to a full-custom designed bike. They modify a brand new Royal Enfield based on customer’s choice. Their 15-member team is spread across different production specialties including sheet metal fabrication, structural fabrication, paint delivery, quality control and a creative design team. Says Varde, “We strive to ensure the end product is exactly what the individual wants. A lot of it is trial and error, but our production team has expertise across the breath of motorcycle customisation.”
While a brand-new Bullet from the Royal Enfield stable costs anywhere between Rs 65,000 to Rs 80,000, after all the value addition and customisation done by Vardenchi it’s sold at more than double the price. For instance, an entry-level custom-build costs around Rs 1.75 lakh, while the higher-end customs start at Rs 2.8 lakh. Vardenchi also sells the ‘complete transformation kit’, an easy-to-fit kit that can be assembled by any mechanic with Vardenchi’s instruction manual.
Vardenchi’s sales strategy has been fairly straightforward. They have relied on word-of-mouth marketing in addition to online advertising. The space they are in attracts a lot of media attention, and motorcycle enthusiasts look out for such information online.
Though, for now, Varde is laser focused on building top-quality custom designs, the long-term strategy at Vardenchi is very ambitious. He soon wants to launch his own brand of motorcycles. “Today, what we offer is more of a service. Our starting point is the Royal Enfield. We’re now doing the ground work to build our own motorcycle brand,” says an excited Varde.
He believes that one problem in the custom-builds space is it cannot be scaled up at rapid pace. “As a business man, I’d like to see scale. On the other hand as a passionate custom-design service provider, I’d like to build the best products. I strongly believe that in order to make the business scalable, we need our own brand of motorcycles,” says Varde.
Varde completely understands that the task at hand is very challenging. He’s looking at completing as much of the groundwork as possible, before going after funding. “The goal is to continue catering to a niche space. Once we’re ready to launch our own brand of motorcycles, our customers will definitely remember where we came from,” sums up Varde.