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ZEN AND MOTORCYCLES | THE STORY OF IRON MONK

THE STORY OF IRON MONK“Not everyone understands what a completely rational process this is, this maintenance of a motorcycle. They think it’s some kind of “knack” or some kind of “affinity for machines” in operation. They are right, but the knack is almost purely a process of reason, and most of the troubles are caused by what old time radio men called a “short between the earphones,” failures to use the head properly. A motorcycle functions entirely in accordance with the laws of reason, and a study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself.”
– Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

Apart from riding the magnificent machines known as motorcycles, the art of working on one and maintaining it has its one sense of fascination. For some, it might just look like normal mechanical aspects that keep the motor running and for others it’s a passion to work with motorcycles to maintain them perfectly. Mr. Ashish Sinha and Mr. Kalash Tuladhar are two individuals who have found this passion and are among a few who are driven with a vision to change how motorcycle maintenance is looked upon. Just recently, they have established a work station of their own, called Iron Monk Works and are looking to set benchmarks in terms how they service a motorcycle. We had the chance to chat with them about their brainchild, Iron Monk, and their philosophy behind the brand. Let’s find out what they have say and we hope that maybe you will start looking at motorcycle servicing from a different perspective.

COULD YOU GIVE OUR READERS A BRIEF INSIGHT ABOUT IRON MONK?

Ashish: Iron Monk is a motorcycle workshop where we claim to be specialists in superbikes and exotic vehicles along with vintage vehicles but we are open to everyone from a Honda Dio, all the way up to CBR 1000. Iron Monk started with Kalash being the brains behind it and me the small muscle behind it. We have been friends for a long time and we’ve been talking about this for 10-15 years now; not the name itself but the concept behind it. All the work that we have done so far has led us to establishing the brand.

IRON MONK WORKS SOUNDS PRETTY INTERESTING. HOW DID YOU GUYS COME UP WITH THE NAME AND WHAT’S THE MAIN SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND THE NAME AND THE LOGO?

Ashish: Kalash and me both studied in the US and worked there. I used to work for a company named Iron Pony and basically the significance behind the name Iron Pony was steel horse which was another name for motorcycles. I worked with them for quite some time and they gave me pretty good foot in the door in the industry. And later, unknowingly, when we decided to move here open the shop and we were deciding what we wanted to do and what resembles the passion, so we took the Iron from the steel horse and then Monk came from the Zen of our region and culture. Basically, it was one of those names that was just thrown out there but it just resonated to us and we stuck with Iron Monk. The logo was designed by one of our good friends at 108 Wears and it was one of the first designs that he came up with. There’s a lot of minute details on it; we got our traditional prayer wheel, then there’s the Namaste hands up top, there’s a chain going down, there’s a spark plug and the prayer wheel is actually a motorcycle tire. So, it’s basically like the world of motorcycles and the religious Zen aspect is mashed up together.

THE STORY OF IRON MONKWHAT IS THE MAIN MOTIVE BEHIND CREATING THE BRAND? WHAT IS THE MAIN GOAL OR VISION THAT YOU ARE PLANNING TO ACHIEVE WITH IRON MONK WORKS?

Kalash: After working in the US and gaining experience about how your vehicles are taken care of and how there’s a system for everything, you get a sense of realization that you are actually getting what you are paying for. So there if you go to a quality workshop, you get quality service and if you go to a shady place then you get shady service. Whereas in Nepal, if you go to any kind of place and if you’re not there while the bike is getting serviced then some one will actually take advantage of that. That’s one part where we wanted to establish ourselves as a brand that actually provides quality service and make sure that you are getting what you pay for. Another aspect is that as the motorcycles are progressing and becoming more technically sophisticated, there aren’t as many private workshops that can work on your vehicles apart from the dealers. Also, the dealers are always busy and they have to take care of a lot of bikes. And because of that time constraint, they won’t be able to take care of your bike as much as it should have been taken care of. So, our main objective is that, when a bike comes in to our workshop, we will do a complete inspection of the bike, tell the customer what needs to be done and if it’s a critical problem we try to fix it right away. Our main motive is to provide the best possible service to the customers.

Ashish: So, in short, the basic intent was to raise the bar of customer service and quality of service. But unfortunately, what we saw from our experience was that a lot of people open workshops and work on machines that people’s lives rely on, and don’t give utmost priority to their service. What we felt was that we need to create something in the private sector to showcase a cleaner and better image of what a workshop can be.

UP UNTIL NOW HOW HAVE THE CUSTOMERS BEEN RESPONDING TO THE BRAND AND THE SERVICE THAT YOU ARE PROVIDING?

Ashish: Its been much better and different then what we expected it to be.

Kalash: It has just been a month that we have been operating and our customer base is growing and people are showing interest. Even if its just for a vehicle inspection, they come in or even if it’s a new purchase or motorcycles with warranty, people are coming to us for our suggestions.

Ashish: Overall, it’s going in the right direction, slightly offset from what we had initially thought but definitely a much better response that what we expected. We even got an overwhelming response at our opening with some of the finest and exotic motorcycles in the city. Things are going well and we are trying to adapt to the response that we are getting from the market.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WERE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES THAT YOU HAD TO FACE OR ARE FACING STILL TO ESTABLISH THE BRAND?

Ashish: We are both new to business and what we were doing was something completely new in Nepal, and I think that it was difficult for us to actually structure it. So, because of that there were a lot of brainstorming and a lot of months were spent planning how we would be going on about it. That was one of our main challenges initially and an even bigger challenge, I think, was getting the shop built. We were lucky enough that this is a private property but at the same time, we started building January 1st and we’re still building. Sometimes the materials are not here or the labors don’t come and sometimes even if they come, they don’t work properly. So, it was a major challenge to get ethical workers to actually build the shop.

Kalash: Finding the mechanics has also been a challenge for us and we are a really short of staff at the moment. We get a lot of bikes but it takes a lot of time to work on them. But if we had more qualified mechanics, things would’ve been much easier for us.

Ashish: Just to add on to it, with the way our society is structured, our line of work is still frowned upon. Both of us come from middle class families and they are always going on about how we went to the US and got ourselves degrees just to come back to become mechanics. I think its been a struggle for us to translate that to people about our vision. And because of such stereotype, its been difficult for us to find proper technicians and mechanics. IN YOUR

OPINION, HOW HAS THE TWO-WHEELER INDUSTRY BEEN DEVELOPING IN NEPAL? WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE CHANGED IF WE WANT TO SEE THE INDUSTRY TO GROW EVEN MORE?

Ashish: If we step back in time when we started, we have to say that Iron Monk started 15 years back when we were in high school and we were trying to fix a classic 60’s Royal Enfield Standard’s engine. We had no idea what we were doing and just to get a single part for the engine we had to go around for months, talking to all sorts of people. At that time people didn’t have much knowledge about parts diagrams and vendors. So, coming from our experience, trying to fix that vintage back all way to now, the market is absolutely phenomenal right now; there’s part available even for the most exotic motorcycles. Even in the motorcycle industry itself, its quite nice to see the diversity in all different segments.

Kalash: But as the industry is growing, the laws and regulations have been stagnant. So, it needs to be updated and needs to grow with the market. There are a lot of creative people who not only want to ride a motorcycle but customize it. There should be some allowance by the government to properly manage it and make some regulations and not have situations that sound like a kid’s game. So, the government should as well move accordingly with the changing market and see that industry still has a lot to grow.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR IRON MONK AND WHAT MORE CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU GUYS IN TERMS OF GROWTH AND EXPANSION?

Ashish: A little bit of both. The workshop is actually termed as Iron Monk Works which is the phase 1 of our plan. There is a phase 2 and a phase 3 coming up; we can’t disclose it at the moment but we have already started to work on its blueprints. However, with Iron Monk Works, we do have plans for minor expansions with the overwhelming response from the market. We are considering to expand in the valley itself and beyond it as well.

 

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