Rajputana Customs: A Passionate Culture of Building Bikes
A Passion for Building Bikes
Vijay Singh did not start Rajputana Customs (R.C.M.) with a venture in mind. The story of R.C.M. begins with the first bike that Vijay built out of passion for bikes. He put pictures of his finished bike online. A friend asked him to build a bike for him after seeing the pictures. A year later, Vijay cleared out his grandmother’s storehouse at their home in Jaipur. The Rajputana Customs workshop continues to exist in the basement that she no longer uses to store family heirlooms and things from all over the world.
A lot of fun and learning is how Vijay describes the process of building a bike from scratch. So when he built his fourth bike, and the orders were still coming in, Vijay organically thought of setting up his studio. “There was never a big plan that this is what I would do with my life”, he says.
Vijay was a Journalism and Communications student in Canada for four years. He came back to India in 2009 seeking a sports journalism career. He got selected in Bombay for a sports channel and was biding his time at home waiting to go join work when he built his first bike. Six months down the line, he decided he wanted to build bikes for a career. Even then, he was working part-time with his mother in the family business. He helped computerise her garment business and for two years, spent time till lunch at his mother’s office. Then he came back home to build bikes till late evening or night. When the family asked him to make up his mind, he decided he would launch full-time into building bikes, more than two years after he had built his first one.
The Beginning of a Career in Passion
Vijay came out of the darkness to start his career in bike building. Harley Davidson had come two-three months after he had set up shop, Triumph had also stepped into the Indian market only after. So even if around thirty-odd people made enquiries in a month, Vijay would consider that month a successful one. “I would hope to sell at least a handle-bar or a gas tank to one guy out of the thirty people, and I would be happy”, he says. Things changed with time as people grew more attuned to what R.C.M. was doing. The orders, know-how and understanding of custom bikes have increased simultaneously and gradually over the years.
Vijay has no plans for R.C.M. in the future. 8 years old now, he says R.C.M. is just looking to learn a lot more, get into electric bike building, and take on more challenging and exciting projects. He sees his work evolving one day at a time. He built a flat-track two and a half years ago and has officially started flat-track racing this year, but apart from that, there are no business models to build or targets to achieve in the coming years. Only being associated with everything related to bikes is his goal.
Vijay’s passion for bikes is visible when he speaks about the craziest bike he has built so far. R.C.M. built a full-scale Harley Davidson called Jordar from scratch about three and half years ago. They took an engine, put the frame on it and even changed a lot of the engine parts. Jordar has been their most extensive and expensive work done till now. It cost around 24 lakhs to complete the bike.
He fondly remembers the kind of detailing that went into building Jordar and how much he learnt while completing the project. He is still in the habit of picking up details from interns, the elders in the industry, bike-lovers and anyone with knowledge to share about bikes. Unknowingly, he carries a legacy of motorcycle love forward through his workshop as well.
Vijay’s father and uncle started the first motorcycle club in the country way back in 1975. He grew up watching his father, aunts and uncles riding bikes. Every Sunday, his father would take him and his friends out to teach them how to ride a motorcycle. The passion for bikes is three generations old in his family. With R.C.M., Vijay is doing what feels right. Money has never been a propeller, though this year, R.C.M. is looking at selling kits in order to provide for a living for his team and himself. Vijay understands that all the learning and experimenting on the job has to pay dividends so that R.C.M. can sustain itself. He feels it is time to give back to his family, who have supported and encouraged him all along the way.
Vijay aspires to be like his father, who has a stable mind and a strong will. Trying to follow his father has made Vijay learn a lot about character. And character is what defines the work ethic, processes and culture at R.C.M. Since Vijay is the oldest person at R.C.M., he feels responsible for what his team and young boys passionate about bikes learn from him. How they translate that into work is the credit that they get for having participated in the culture of R.C.M.