What happened on 3rd December 2014?

By | December 10, 2014

Let’s talk about what happened on 3rd December 2014, the exciting time when I was threatened with a legal notice by a reputed English motorcycle brand. Some of you may know that I wrote a satirical article critical of Triumph that made fun of their manhandling of the detuning fiasco. What many of you may not know is that I’ve written satire in the past, some of which you can read here, here and here. You may also notice that I’ve used all real names in the above linked articles, something that seemed obvious at Fakingnews. 

Why did I write that article?

I’m a big fan of the Street Triple, and had decided to upgrade to it in 2015. I spent hours reading about it, watching videos about it, thinking about it. It would have been the perfect match for me, it was my dream machine. I had somehow completely missed the detuning news until Sachin Nair brought it to my attention. Went through the entire Team-BHP thread, and was shocked to say the least! I was also quite happy at NOT being a Triumph owner at that time.

Triumph’s silence on the issue, then that arrogant official Facebook statement, and the apparent deletion of comments on that statement angered me further. The idea for that article hit me on 2nd December, about 3.30 AM, and I literally laughed loudly, almost waking up my roommate in the process. Got up early next day, and finished that article in 2 hours.

Published it at around 2:30 PM on 3rd December, and all hell broke loose in about an hour. Here’s the timeline of how the events panned out:

3:42 PM

Got a completely unexpected call from some guy, who identified himself as working with Triumph PR department. He sounded VERY angry, like an out of control Bulldog ready to break away from his leash any moment! Someone behind him sounded even more furious. I was in office, having lunch at the canteen, completely oblivious of how much some people wanted to kill me that instant. Here’s how our conversation went:

Some guy: Hi, is this Akhil Kalsh?

Me: Yes

Some guy: This is some guy from Triumph PR department

Me: Oh!

Some guy: Yes, this is regarding the latest article on your website. I think you find that very funny?

Me: Yes?

Some guy: If you don’t take down that article immediately, we’ll send you a legal notice.

Me: Okay?

Some guy: Where are you from?

Me: Mumbai.

Some guy: OK. We’ve already sent you an email, and if you don’t take down that article we’ll send you a legal notice.

Me: Okay.

I had just finished a call with Ritesh from Zeus riding gear, and was happily eating a sandwich. Did not expect that super angry call at all! I’m not easily intimidated, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. My heart was racing, but when has fear ever helped someone?

3:44 PM

Checked my Email to find this little fella hanging in there:

From: “Some Lady” <somelady@pragency.in>:

Dear Akhil,

With regards to the following blog link: http://riderzone.in/triumph-motorcycles-india-ceo-quits/ and the brand defamation that you have caused.

Request you to please take this off immediately and put out an unconditional apology, we will be sending you a legal notice shortly if the same is not addressed.

Thanks & Regards,
Some Lady
Associate Account Manager | PRagency! India

Okay then! What shall we do? I had no prior experience of such stuff, so the obvious place to get some help seemed to be Facebook!

3:46 PM

Posted the following status on Facebook:

Just got a call from Some Guy from Triumph PR department threatening me with legal action if I don’t take down my latest article immediately.

This is my first time getting into legal trouble :-P. Can Anybody guide me what should I do?

BAM! A tsunami of Facebook comments, Facebook messages, calls, WhatsApp messages and what not. Many guys were supportive, many helped the best they could, some like Glinfy did their best to make a bad situation worse! The LOST WhatApp group had detailed discussions about the issue as well, but just like at Facebook, no clear decision could be made. Half said I should remove it, half said I should continue.

A few people suggested I should change all the original names, add a disclaimer at the top, and I will be good. I did all of that, but the indecision still persisted. Many people felt even this wouldn’t be enough. I decided to buy some more time, and ask on Team-BHP forum for more expert help.

4:13 PM

I replied to their Email.

From: “Rider Zone” <riderzone.in@gmail.com>:

Hey Some Lady, what’s up.

I saw your comment on my article just now. And I’m sad you find the article “distasteful and sadistic”. I personally found it hilarious!

Having said that, I’m ready to take down the article if I think I did something wrong, confirmation of which I should get within the next hour, from someone NOT working with Triumph.

I would request you to wait for an hour before sending away the notice. Or you can do it right now and then be crucified even more by Triumph India owners for stifling our right to speech.

Oh, and yes, I’ll attempt to “get a life”, as soon as I’m through with this legal stuff.

Akhil Kalsh.

By this time I was more or less sure Triumph couldn’t do much, since I had modified all the real names, removed photos and put disclaimers. Suraj Dutta, a lawyer friend, confirmed that I was now “Treading the revered grounds of freedom of expression“.  However, there’s always that side of you that says “What if?“. I didn’t even know what happens if you get a legal notice! What does a legal notice look like? Is it colorful and easy to read, or is it bland and a grammatical mightmare? On top of that, the mosh-pit of comments and messages continued on Facebook and WhatsApp, almost all as confused as me. Team-BHP didn’t help at all, so a choice had to be made.

5:01 PM

I deleted the article.

The LOST group’s WhatsApp discussion was the most sane one out there, and it’s their advice that I followed in the end. By this moment, I had lost complete track of time, the last hour or so had just been a blur or shallow breathing and insanity. My office work was piling up like crazy, and it was time to get back on the job. I hate uncertainty, and this situation was as uncertain as it gets, at least in my mind! Sent this Email back to them:

From: “Rider Zone” <riderzone.in@gmail.com>:

I’ve removed the article. Because I don’t like this kind of tension or attention.

See you.

Akhil Kalsh.

Felt much better! Thanked the people who helped me get through this, went and had a coffee. Got another Email from them asking me to take down the Facebook post, and replied the best way I could:

From: “Some Lady” <somelady@pragency.in>:

Could you please take out the post on your Facebook page, as it mentions one of our employees.

Thanks & Regards,

Some Lady
Associate Account Manager | PRagency! India

********************

From: “Rider Zone” <riderzone.in@gmail.com>:

No.

Akhil Kalsh.

There were a lot of mistakes I did that day.

  1. I write articles for myself, I don’t really care what others think about them. I write to remember, and to laugh when I won’t be able to remember. In this case however, I completely underestimated the connection other people felt with that post! I absolutely did not expect it to go this viral.
  2. I totally misjudged how hard-hitting that article was from Triumph’s perspective. If I was working with Triumph, I would be pretty unhappy too! It was a direct attack on their CEO, using their own robotic statements, and at the worst possible time.
  3. I was also taken completely by surprise at the speed of Triumph’s response. The same company that waited 3 weeks to release an official statement over a fiasco of biblical proportions, reacted so sharply and with such mad urgency in about 1 hour against 1 guy’s stupid little article!
  4. Just like I used real names in the above linked Fakingnews articles, I used real names here. The point that I missed was that I’m nothing in front of Fakingnews, I’m just 1 guy fighting an MNC!

I was completely unprepared for the storm. I thought a few people will read that article, have a good laugh, and then move on with their life. I was angry I had to take down the article, but I knew I had to do it to get my peace of mind back. I’m actually quite proud of myself over how much in control I was throughout the battering! I will try to be more clever with my satire in the future, at least till the time I’m big enough to threaten others instead.

I don’t blame Triumph for what they did, although I would definitely blame them for hiring a PR agency of epic incompetence. They have done nothing but exacerbate the problem since the beginning. Triumph’s own renegade dealers didn’t help much, but if tomorrow Triumph packs up its tent from India, I would point my finger squarely at their media blunders.

Triumph’s marketing department seems very interested in stopping others from creating social media disasters against them, just to make sure they can keep creating social media disasters for themselves! Just look at Triumph India’s Facebook feed, what a sad little reminder of how big brands can be destroyed by little minds. On top of that, they have disabled posting to the page, ostensibly to save themselves from the back bashing they would have received due to their gross ineptitude. And what’s with that company name too!? Is that supposed to be some kind of tongue-in-cheek self-reference?

6:57 PM – Insult to Injury

I was pretty shaken by the events of the day, and then I got this call. I picked it up thinking Triumph called me again to get something else removed, but the conversation shocked me totally!

Some guy: Hi, can I speak to Akhil Kalsh?

Me: Speaking

Some guy: My name is some guy and I’m calling from Harley Davidson motorcycles. Have you heard about us?

Me: Of course!

Some guy: Akhil we wanted to let you know that your article about Triumph motorcycles today created a positive wave for us. We got 40 new bookings in today only.

Me: Oh. That’s quite unexpected, but awesome!

Some guy: Akhil we are organising a ride in February, which will be a media only event. Would you like to join it?

Me: Of course!

Some guy: Akhil to give you more info about this event, I will have to ask you to not divulge these details to anyone else, and this call will be recorded. Are you OK with that?

Me: Yeah.

Some guy: I need you to say yes.

Me: Yes.

Some guy: OK then! This ride will be a media only display event of the new Harley 600 Cafe Racer. We’ll provide you with a bike and the total ride distance would be around 350 kms. You will need to send me a scan of your license if you are interested in joining. Please Email it to someguy@harleydavidson.com

Me: Sure, I’ll do that right away. 

Some guy: Thanks, waiting for your Email!

What the hell just happened? 

I thought I had finally done it, hit the jackpot! With my kind of writing style, sponsorships and requests for test rides are an impossibility, but this call made me feel proud of staying original! I started dreaming about quitting my job and becoming a full time motorcycle traveller. At the same time, I couldn’t share this happiness with anyone, for the fear of losing the prize! My brain was about to explode, when reality exploded in my face.

It was a prank call by Glinfy. 

My happiness was very short-lived, about 20 minutes only. Glinfy couldn’t control himself, and blurted out on WhatsApp about how he made an ass out of me! I just wanted to get my fingers around his neck, or to pull his tongue out his throat, or to gouge his eyes away. It actually took me an hour more to realise the quitting-job-and-becoming-motorcycle-traveller will have to wait. In hindsight, the laughter helped me get my mind off the legal trouble, although I would have definitely preferred a more not-pranky way.

So yeah, 3rd December 2014 turned out to be an insanely unpredictable day! I wrote my first satire article on motorcycles, almost got sued, had to take the article down, and then was the butt of a practical joke. I should really stop saying that I don’t like controversies, because all evidence suggests otherwise. I seem to have an obsessive incapability of staying out of trouble. All I can hope is that I don’t hit anything big in the future!

The original article and some more are now published here on Fake Biker, which is a new website I’ve started with the sole purpose of giving nightmares to insolent motorcycle bigwigs. 

  • Rakesh

    Sire. You have an awesome writing style. Love the satire and brutal honesty as opposed to glossy words that are useless as potential buyers (on other sites). Thanks..

    Would you up to sharing some opinions on a purchase decision I am thinking of? Would love to get your take.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Tell me.

      • Rakesh

        I am wondering about the buy between the HD 750 street 2017 and the Kawasaki 650. I know they are two very different bikes but I like them both. I would’ve preferred the Honda but I feel its unreasonable high in terms of pricing. Your thoughts?

        While I am more inclined towards the HD due to a combination of factors, want to ensure it is good to live with in terms of maintenance, driving in Bangalore stop-go traffic etc.

        • Akhil Kalsh

          It depends on what kind of riding you like. Ninja 650 is a tourer on which you can do some track days too. 750 is a cruiser that’s good only on the highways.

          Neither of them is fun in traffic, both are too big and heat up like shit.

          Have you test ridden both? That’s the easiest way to solve this dilemma. Ride the cbr650f too, is pricey for sure, but quite beautiful.

          Both Harley and Kawasaki maintenance costs are quite high, Honda is slightly more reasonable. Ninja has the best fuel economy among them all.

          If I had the money, I’d buy the Honda. If not, then Ninja. Even with the rumours of ABS being standard on the HD and it being the cheapest of them all, I don’t see any value in that bike. The basic reason it exists is so that people can buy it and then upgrade to a bigger Harley. I’ve heard funny stories of Harley group members despising anybody who shows up on the “cheap” Harley. Like the Bullet one, Harley culture is also quite weird, and that’s not something that appeals to me at all.

          • Rakesh

            Thanks.

            Test Riding is the next on the to do. To be honest though, I am not too big on being a part of the HOG (if it is Harley). It doesn’t appeal to me. Nor do I think, I’ll forgo my car on tours. Just that the idea and the sound of the bike appeals to me. I hate people who show off the badges.

            The CBR 650F is the best package IMHO but for the price.

            But will reserve judgement till I ride them and experience.

          • Akhil Kalsh

            If it appeals to you, go for it by all means. But research about what it means to live with it. Go to Team-bhp, there are threads of 750 ownership experiences, read them.

            It’s easy to buy a bike, not easy to live with one. Understand that part and your ownership experience will be much sweeter.

          • Ayush Rana

            @akhil kalsh brother , after viewing your research im confused to buy himalayan or not to buy. Im from Nepal , right now i’ve honda xr 150l and i was thinking of selling honda and buy himalayan . will it be a good decision ?

          • Akhil Kalsh

            Since you have an XR, I assume you like off-roading. I’ve never been to Nepal, so I don’t know what roads are like over there. Himalayan is great for dirt, but not much fun on the highway. Also, it’s a Royal Enfield, so don’t expect the same level of refinement or reliability as the Honda.

            How much does it cost over there?

          • Ayush Rana

            Yes brother I like off-roading , Nepal has rough roads high hills and flats . Honda costs me Nepalese currency 480000 which is 300000 Indian currency . Himalayan will cost me 346875 Indian currency . The reason I wanna sell Honda is it looks a bit small for me .

          • Akhil Kalsh

            The Himalayan doesn’t have fuel injection, so you’ll need to play around with the carb for high altitudes.

            That price isn’t bad. How many RE service centers do you have in Nepal?

          • Ayush Rana

            In capital city , Kathmandu we have like Four to five RE service centers . Main RESC is near to my home .

          • Akhil Kalsh

            Go for it then.

          • Ayush Rana

            Options are here brother , it’s just that over here we don’t have Harley and triumphs . Apparently, many international bikes are showing interest in Nepalese auto market . 90% of the bikes here are Indian manufactured . People buy them because of it’s low maintainence. RE will be my first RE owned . Anyways I have ordered and will take a month to arrive .

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  • GaribNawab

    Triumph is a British company, and the brits are known to have a good sense of humor. Triumph India, it seems, are butt hurt and arrogant people.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Sure are!

  • Swadhin

    @Triumph PR, have you ever read anything by Jeremy Clarkson ? If yes then why dual standard between Akhil Kalsh and Jeremy Clarkson for similar style of writing ?!?!?! Now you guys made more -ve PR than +ve. You guys should learn from “John Oliver” & “Pom Wonderful”.

    • Their PR strategy is the kind of stuff you can do a thesis on Swadhin 🙂 It has already hit them hard, and will keep on getting worse unless they change!

  • This glinfy fellow sounds like a dick… but i can see why he would do something so horrid and i honestly think you should totally gift him something nice… 😀

  • Hey Akhil, that articular was awesome man i like it… i like all your articular and writing style its great keep it up…
    my current favorite is : 6 reasons why I would never buy a Royal Enfield!☺

  • Akhil‚ you have an incredible sense of humor coupled with a refreshing way of how you express yourself. I am sure‚ you shall establish a brand for yourself soon (on a much-much higher scale then you presently are); guys having less talent have achieved much 🙂
    On another note‚ you MUST plan to hit something bigger in the future to live that dream of being a full-time motorcycle traveler (which the rest of us had dreamt too but not practically viable).
    Law has the knack of knocking you sideways when you first encounter it. But it is no rocket science and had been made by guys like you and me. So no need of getting scared‚ know your rights and most importantly know the rights of others so that you don’t violate those and become an aggressor in the eyes of law. Also‚ a basic understanding of law goes a long way while building a brand! So best of luck and keep up the good work; godspeed.

    • I sure hope the Akhil brand hits the market soon and big!

      Yeah, thanks to you I had some solace through all the madness! I’m sure the future will be fun 🙂