Royal Enfield Bullet making waves across the globe

Monday 06 January 2014, 12:40 PM by

The legacy created by Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle, for many years now, is undeniable. In fact, many people consider it to be the oldest manufactured bike in the world, thereby depicting the sort of longevity it stands for. Be it engine, appearance or performance, there is nothing that this bike falls short on. A report in New York Times has traced the roots of the formation of this legacy. Bullet, a muscular bike, is the Indian version of a bike made by an old British company. After floundering for a while, the demand for this model risen swiftly, according to statistics, as Royal Enfield Motors recorded sales of around 175000 units (Bullet and three other brands) in 2013.

The latest model from its portfolio, called Continental GT, made its way to the Indian market in November, generating tremendous interest from bike aficionados across the country. Siddhartha Lal, often given the credit for revamping operations of Royal Enfield, said, “It's the first bike that we've developed keeping the world market in mind.”

Royal Enfield Bullet making waves across the globe |
Royal Enfield Bullet making waves across the globe

40-year old Siddhartha Lal is not the usual corporate hotshot as he keeps sideburns and puts on jeans for a meeting. Much before Eicher took control of Royal Enfield in the year 1993, Lal was a big fan of this bike. According to him, the price at which they got control of this company was quite low. Going back a bit in history, Royal Enfield, a British entity, was the first producer of Bullet. However, the company was force-closed after a while and following some agreements, its Indian manufacturing unit acquired the right to continue production of Bullet. Despite this, 1970s and 1980s saw a chain of bad decisions that led to incredible debt. As per Lal, Bullet was the main motive behind Eicher's acquiring of Royal Enfield.

"The motorcycle was still resilient, though. It was probably selling 1,500 or 2,000 pieces a month. Eicher bought Royal Enfield because at its core was the Bullet. That was the appeal," said Lal. Determined to alter things, he sought control of the firm at the turn of the millennium. The improvement in quality has been communicated by many individuals, which include people who own dealerships of Royal Enfield. One such example is Dan Holmes, who believes that the performance and quality of motorcycles has improved drastically in the transitory period from 1990s to 2000s. According to reports, a lot of money was invested by Eicher in its bikes to improve the quality. Improvement of fuel injection, electric start and transmission has contributed heavily in restructuring the interest of buyers.

In the modern day scenario, many famous celebrities are owners of a Royal Enfield motorcycle, such as Jay Leno and Billy Joel. The best part about Royal Enfield, according to some, is the fact that one adds a number of personal touches as the basic profile has remained the same over the years. Not many would believe but Royal Enfield has several dealerships in United States of America, one of which is owned by Dan Holmes. As per reports and figures, Holmes sell these motorcycles for around $4000. Although the market is limited, Holmes did manage to sell 35 Royal Enfield bikes in 2003. Strangely, for Royal Enfield, United States of America is its biggest export market, which is quite remarkable. In 2013, 3500 bikes were shipped in total and around 600 were sent to Untied States of America.

The love for Royal Enfield bikes has been slowly and steadily growing in India. Many experts believe that the market is divided into two categories – people who just want to commute and others who want to get a thrilling ride on a top motorcycle. Kumar Kandaswami, Senior Director at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India, said, "Even at a rough estimate, there are easily half a million buyers out there who want to use motorcycles for leisure. There are active motorcycle communities now. Our highways have improved. People have more money to spend."

Rise in demand for this motorcycle has further propelled international brands to make strong advancements in India. Firms like Harley-Davidson and Triumph are planning to increase their stronghold in the country by launching more products and adopting an aggressive strategy. Anoop Prakash, Managing Director at Harley-Davidson India, thinks that the Indian market has a wide scope.

"Before we came, if there was any passion among motorcyclists at all, it was among Royal Enfield owners. People underestimated the market, thinking that, at our level, sales would be fewer than 800 bikes a year across the country. It's the first new platform that Harley-Davidson has developed from the ground up in 14 years. It's a result of how urban our market is becoming. These are the bikes that will fit an urban lifestyle," he was quoted as saying.

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