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Royal Enfield, interview with CEO Siddhartha Lal: “Forward with the small displacements”

Head of Indian motorcycle brand Siddhartha Lal focuses on “reliability, product care and low fuel consumption”. Meanwhile, the house is developing the electric according to the “Pure Motorcycle” concept.
Gianluca Piperno – bangkok (thailand)
Royal Enfield, the historic Anglo-Indian brand, is celebrating its 120-year history this year. A brand that alone accounts for around 6% of the world two-wheeler market. The renewed success also passes through its CEO, Siddhartha Lal, who took over the helm of the factory at just 26 years old, in 2000, when the company was in great difficulty and the only motorcycle produced, the historic Bullett 350, was on the list since 1971. Lal has managed to reverse the negative trend, investing in the product and eliminating losses, making the brand jump from 32,000 units produced in 2007 to over 800,000 in recent years. Impressive growth numbers for a brand that also in Italy is experiencing a very important percentage increase, with 1,168 motorcycles sold in the first quarter of 2022. An approach to the market that provides for scale strategies for models, which have the same components for all markets in the world, and which always govern the regulations of the most restrictive countries in terms of homologations and polluting emissions, so as to ensure homogeneity of workflows and construction of motorcycles, to the point that the same model produced for the Indian market or for the Italian one, it differs only in the parable of the headlights, different due to the right-hand drive. On the occasion of the worldwide launch of the new Royal Enfield Hunter 350, which took place in Thailand, which in Europe will be called Hntr 350, Siddhartha Lal spoke about the newcomer, the brand and the motorcycle market.
Why did you choose Thailand and Bangkok for the launch of a motorcycle with which you openly aim to “invade” European cities?
“Because we love Bangkok, the traffic here is very intense just like in some European cities, and because we would like to expand the Asian market also to Thailand, as well as to India where we are currently present. The New Hunter 350, we could also identify it as a“ city motorcycle “, it is agile, fun. Innovative compared to the other bikes produced so far such as the Meteor and the Classic, as much as I love them all. It has a particular look and is designed for a very wide audience and to make them reach markets for us very important such as Italy, France, Germany. We think that this bike can also please a demanding and mature public from a design point of view, such as the European one. The problem is to satisfy the millions and millions of potential customers, who are looking for a suitable bike to move better in the city traffic, perhaps chaotic, of a large metropolis, and therefore we have thought of a more compact model, which is also well suited to urban contexts. After all, Indian traffic is among the most chaotic in the world and this motorcycle (Siddartha Lal is a passionate motorcyclist, ed) is perfect for a congested environment and is well suited because it is more compact and easier to drive for the less experienced. We initially thought about launching in London (where Royal Enfield has roots and a state-of-the-art R&D center, ed) but then we identified Bangkok as the ideal location “.
As the Asian metropolis said, it offers the ideal city environment to test a motorcycle destined to extricate itself even in traffic, and Thailand is a bit of a bridge between the Asian continent and the European one. Can we define the Hunter 350 as the first bike of the new course? What are your plans for the future?
“The Hunter 350 was designed to have good handling and roadholding, and is also accessible for people of short stature. At the same time, we wanted a bike that had a strong personality. We like to offer something new with the our products, we want to give a different energy and new emotions to those who will ride them. In designing this bike, we started with a blank sheet, it was designed from scratch and is not linked to the others in any way. What we would like to pursue in the future it is the “pure” motorcycle, that is the very essence of the two wheels, what we define: “Pure Motorcycle.” Our plans for the future go in this direction, each time to create something completely new, accessible, but always exciting . We are already working on other projects that we cannot yet reveal but which we will present shortly. Today the market is in constant turmoil, first we thought that the bigger the bike the better it would be, then we we realized that a big and heavy bike also implies some disadvantages; for example to raise it after an accidental fall, or to what extent the mass affects its maneuverability in certain contexts. This has led us to focus on better manageable weights and dimensions, and the next projects will adapt to these standards, so that the motorcyclist can truly have complete control of the ride “.
Do you use a lot of Chinese components?
“No, at the moment India is self-sufficient for the production of all the components necessary for the construction. Many European and Japanese manufacturers also buy components in India, because they have very advantageous prices. The chips and electronic components instead we buy them from Malaysia and especially from Taiwan “.
Don’t you think that in Europe, a medium-sized twin-cylinder would be more appreciated by the market than a single-cylinder 350 cc? Why did you choose this path also on our markets?
“In this regard we have many plans for the future, but at the same time our ideas have changed a lot from the point of view of the approach to the product. We have thought of a single cylinder to reduce problems and limit weight. Each of our models is the result of accurate studies and designs, we do not want to take shortcuts or present a product that is not well refined, simply using something we already have in production. When you see each of our future bikes, it will mean that it will be the perfect synthesis of the work done by our engineers ” .
Okay, but why do you focus on small displacements?
“We need to understand the story we come from: in India, 350 cc are already considered an important displacement, in our country reliability is important. In India there are many young people who approach the world of motorcycles, boys and girls, even if still we see mainly men driving, the girls are approaching the motorbike, if we think about the salary of a young person or a worker, we must reflect on the fact that in our country the cost of fuel compared to the salary, affects six or ten times more than in Europe. In the old continent you spend 2 or 3% of your average salary on fuel, while in India it accounts for 10/15%, so for us it is a priority that a motorcycle is efficient from an energy point of view. that you consume little. Our ideal maximum efficiency speed for an engine is 2,500 rpm. This is something that may seem secondary to you, but which is very important to us. ”
So for you the main focus is on expanding markets? India, Asia…?
“Not only that. These motorcycles, which in India are considered relatively large, we believe can also have space in the urban context of large European cities, such as in Italy or France. There the streets are full of scooters or small displacements, we hope that our 350 can compete and replace the scooter in the final choice of the user, who can have something as reliable, manageable, and economical as a scooter, but as exciting in driving as only a motorcycle can be. We know we are perhaps a little bit in late in this, but… better late than never “.
How is the motorcycle market in India comparing to the rest of the world?
“We are now starting to open our dealerships in all continents. However, compared to last year we have doubled sales on the international market, and in the next 4 or 5 years, we plan to grow exponentially on all external markets, which currently apply to the 15/20% of the Indian domestic market. Think that in 2010 we sold 50,000 motorcycles in India, in 2018 we also reached 800,000 units in India. Currently we are achieving the same exponential growth curve in external markets. these results are due to the fact that our bikes are different from what the market offers above all because at the same cost, the level of detail and quality is very high. quality in this category of motorcycles, which is usually perceived as an economic segment. Our main objective, the markets on which we aim we are more, they are Asia, Thailand and Brazil because there are millions and millions of people who already ride small displacement motorcycles and which for us are worth as potential customers. From a European point of view, for the first six months of this year, our sales in the old continent are already at + 62%. To make a comparison, we have sold more bikes in the first six months of this year than in the whole of 2021. The expansion objective for the other markets starts from a simple example. If a Latin American goes to Los Angeles and sees an American riding one of our bikes, or an Indian goes to Paris or Milan, and there are many Royal Enfields there too, he will certainly find the brand and our bikes cooler. He will be able to perceive the added value, overcoming the idea that small displacement means little appeal, little content. We can certainly acquire value if we manage to make ourselves appreciated by a more mature and shrewd public, we could say accustomed to beauty, and consequently, be even more attractive to an audience that until now had not taken this aspect into maximum consideration. As a result, our team is also expanding, we have Italian and Japanese members and we are increasingly internationalizing “.
Are you thinking about the electric? Do you already have any plans in this regard?
“We are not just thinking about it, we have been working on it, and for some years already. We have also built some prototypes and started a production cycle. We are perfectly aware that we are still a few years behind development, but we do not want to be in a hurry, especially on a delicate subject like electric. Some manufacturers are rushing, we want to take all the time necessary to make an accurate product. We went to Europe for tests, there were many electric bikes, and we also tested some prototypes of different manufacturers, giving us an idea of ​​what the market offers today. Surely electric motorcycles are excellent for an urban context, but I think that the concept of a 360 ° electric motorbike still cannot work, because the weight, the dimensions and the cost of the batteries, still make it undesirable to the general public. Obtaining the same performance as a traditional motorcycle, with an electric motor, would carry more weight and radd it would oppose the purchase price, so I don’t think it will be attractive to our customers yet. Perhaps in the next 5 or 7 years we will close this gap, but currently for us, the value for money is not optimal. Of course we remain very focused on the issue, but it is not yet time for electric motorcycles. When it is, we will be ready to attack the market “.
It will not be difficult then, to remain consistent with the philosophy of “Pure Motorciclyng” if we add the electric?
“No, on the contrary, I think that the electric motorcycle knows how to be fun in its own way, like a traditional motorcycle. So, I answer the question by asking myself: what does“ Pure Motorcicling ”mean? It means to print a smile, authentic on the face of those who ride. Many wonder if the Royal Enfield’s signature sound will be lost, well we will never pretend there is a traditional engine. Rather, we will keep the electric “sound” pure exactly as it is. We don’t want to make it sound like something it isn’t. , we want to make sure that it is equally desirable and exciting. “




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