Enfield Cycle Company was established in England by two partners R.W. Smith and Albert Eadie, in early 1890s to manufacture bicycles and subsequently motorcycles in 1901 under the brand Royal Enfield.
During the first world war, the company supplied motorcycles to the British army, including a model with a side car fitted with a Vickers machine gun. In the second world war, the company produced bikes for the British forces, including the legendary bike called the “flying flea” for paratroopers. Post war the company introduced the 350cc and 500 cc Royal Enfield Bullet bikes in 1948.
In the year 1955, Enfield of India Company based in Madras bought the license for manufacturing the motorcycle in the country, primarily supplying to the Indian Armed Forces. The original company shut shop at England in 1970, post entry of Japanese bikes, the bullet continues its run in Madras, making it the longest running production motorcycle in the world. In India too, the brand was on the verge of shut down in the year 2000, until Mr. Siddharth Lal a 26 year old took over as the CEO and scripted an incredible turn around.
My blog is to look at this iconic brand and understand the resurgence of these bikes both in India and abroad.
Iacobucci defines brand is a portfolio of qualities associated with the name. The Royal Enfield Bullet, is perceived as a brand which commands a stature of authority and as a strong man’s motorcycle, a throwback to its military heritage. The looks of the bike, unchanged since 1948, features high handlebars, low slung seats, unique fuel tank shape and most importantly the unique thump- thump sound of its large single cylinder engine. You would know that a bullet is on its way from quite a distance due to its signature roar. The Royal Enfield bullet is regarded in India, as an aspirational, macho, time tested brand with its characteristic presence and sound. In the European markets it is seen as an original and authentic British bike. This being the last surviving British brand in the biking world, there is a lot of nostalgia and pride in owning a Royal Enfield bullet among many there.
In the year 2000, the board of directors of Eicher Motors ltd, who owned the Royal Enfield Brand, met to either shut down or sell off the bike business due to poor sales. However, Mr. Sidhharth Lal the third generation promoter of Eicher motors, requested for one chance to save the Royal Enfield. Lal felt that the bike with its unsurpassed history, cult following, an instantly recognisable build, and aspirational value could be bought back, provided, the mechanical drawbacks due to the 75 year old design is addressed.
To understand the revival of the business, an understanding of the brand identity of the Royal Enfield Bullet would help. Brand identity is the total proposal or promise that an organization makes to consumers. The concept of brand identity was mentioned for the first time by J N Kapferer, who developed the Brand Identity Prism model. In this model J N Kapferer describes six facets of brand identity 1) Physique 2) Personality 3) Values 4)Self image 5) Reflection 6) Relationship. In a study done by Anupam Chaplo, based on the model, the factors which defined the Brand Royal Enfield Bullet were
The team under Lal decided that, mechanical changes made to modernize the bike shouldn’t dilute the Brand identity. The individuality, the rugged looks, the build, the head lamps, the petrol tank and the thump of the bike were to be retained at all costs. A modern Aluminium engine built, initially failed to replicate the signature vibrations and thump of the old engine. The team consulted international experts and about 1000 hrs of sound mapping was done to finally arrive at a thump which was 70% of the original. Production processes was revamped to improve quality and slowly the tide turned. “It is a remarkable story of how a physical product was modernised without the brand losing any of its characteristics that gave it the iconic status,” says Professor Abraham Koshy, professor of marketing, Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad), who also co-authored Marketing Management—A South Asian Perspective along with Philip Kotler.
Royal Enfield also began conducting marquee rides to promote leisure biking. “Such steps removed the fears about our products’ reliability some customers may have had,” says Venki Padmanabhan the current CEO. The company advertises selectively in men’s magazines, adventure sites, organises rides regularly, conducts the annual Himalayan Odyssey all in line with the Brand identity. The company also offers its signature line of accessories and riding gears, similar to that of Harley Davidson.
Every year, leading brand valuation and strategy consultancy, Brand Finance, puts thousands of the world’s top brands to the test. According to the 2016 survey, Royal Enfield is India’s fastest growing brand in the table this year, rising a hugely impressive 91% in brand value to US$519 million, over last year. In last three years, Royal Enfield has nearly quadrupled its sales. Royal Enfield sales in 2015 were nine times its sales in 2008. In the year 2015-16, Royal Enfield sold 498,791 units, registering a strong growth of 53 per cent over its previous year sales. The company plans to expand capacity of the bikes to 900,000 units per year by 2018. That is impressive by any account, for a 75 year old bike.
History of Royal Enfield . retrieved on 19 Aug.2016 http://www.royalenfield.org.uk/enfield_history.php
Iacobucci, D 2013, Marketing Management (MM4), Student Edition, South-Western, Cengage Learning, Mason, Ohio.
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Royal Enfield Bullet enjoys Indian summer. retrieved on 21 Aug.2016 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/india/9222745/Royal-Enfield-Bullet-enjoys-Indian-summer.html
Biting the Bullet. retrieved on 19 Aug. 2016 http://www.businesstoday.in/magazine/case-study/reviving-royal-enfield-bullet/story/19892.html
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