Siddhartha Lal Curated

Managing Director of Eicher Motors Ltd.

CURATED BY :  

This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Siddhartha Lal have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Siddhartha Lal's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming entrepreneurs. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • Who were the like-minded people who stuck around with you to bring the brand to where it is today?

    It was honestly when Ravichandran (R.L. Ravichandran, former head of marketing at Bajaj Auto Ltd, who joined Royal Enfield as its chief executive) came in in 2005; and his understanding of the product market was stupendous; we were all novices in the business, but he brought in a level of expertise and insights. He was not a sales guy, he was a thought leader. Then, we had Sachin (Chawan, a former automotive journalist and the brain behind Royal Enfield’s ride-related events), who was just passionate about motorcycles. That’s the kind of people we brought in. We started the Himalayan Odyssey in 2003. We started Ridermania to build the idea of leisure motorcycle through actual motorcycling and not through advertisements, etc. We hated these ad agencies. Ten of them used to come and the first thing that they used to do was to show ads that they wanted to do for us. I used to say: “That looks terrible." And then they would come up with another set of ads. Then I met these two independent guys. I think we were their first account. They came only with strategy and they said: “We have been to your stores and they look like shit." And that’s your moment of truth. Right? So, they said, “Let us make sure that at least the store experience is nice." Whatever we do, it looks authentic and real. It was much more about strategy of differentiation and making the brand cool once again. Even in those days, it was seen as your chacha’s (uncle’s) bike. So, the idea was to make it relevant to the youth of the cities. It took me two years to realize what I don’t want is a traditional agency. So, this agency became Wieden+Kennedy and we have been working them for more than 10 years. We have many other such relationships formed over time, which nurtured the brand.

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  • But, they were on the verge of closing down the brand.

    That was the contemplation. It was going way downhill. It was in huge losses. There was not even a potential buyer at that time. So, the option that was available then was to shut it down, which was not a nice option either. In 2000, we also had some other issues. The tractor segment of the business was not doing particularly well. Therefore, the management said we have two businesses which are not doing well. One is core—that was tractors and—one is not (core); that was Royal Enfield. So, they were like: “We will have to cut off a limb to fund the other." That was the general idea.

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  • Tell us about that famous boardroom talk when you put your foot down when the management wanted to shut Royal Enfield operations.

    It was not really putting my foot down. It was building up over time. I started riding in 1991 on this one red Bullet, which I had. In 1994, I spent time with our UK distributor in his premises. I spent three months with our Swiss distributor. So, I got quite involved in motorcycles. In 1996-97, I spent over a year in Chennai, working in different roles. So, I was not disassociated with Royal Enfield. That’s what interested me in studying engineering; before that, I studied economics at St. Stephen’s. Then I got really interested in engineering. After my under-graduation, I did a couple of years of degrees in the UK and, eventually, I got my M.Sc degree in engineering. When I came back to India, I did not even know if I wanted to join business at that point of time. But, in the back of my mind, if there is ever one thing that I would do in the group, then it would be Royal Enfield, because I was interested in bikes. So, when I was told by my dad... We had a long discussion about future and career. That’s when it sort of popped out and I said: you know, may be I would like to give it a shot. Perhaps, he was waiting for me to say that. I am a very difficult guy if somebody tells me to do something, I will never do it. On the other hand, if it comes from (within me) I will put my heart and soul behind (it). My parents are much smarter than I am. It came from me, but it was something which my father built up. He talked to the management and the board and they said: “Why not, we have nothing to lose!"

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  • Where is Royal Enfield headed?

    In the larger scheme of things, we have been working on what’s really happening with Royal Enfield for decades. In the last five-to-six years, we have really been able to realize that. We have grown phenomenally, but that’s on the back of 15 years of hard work. It is an India story—single product, single market story. For us, it is an amazing story. We are now on a virtuous cycle in India. So, there is more visibility of our motorcycles, more demand, more interest. The distribution is working really well. At the retailer level, they are making very good money. So, we are going to pull that for the next six-to-seven years, but we are not going to have 50% growth in India forever. While we are pulling the current growth path by expanding our scale and distribution, we are now working towards big next. So, what’s big next? When I look at it personally, I have spent 15 years in the first phase and, I say, I have a maximum of 15 years left now for phase II. So, phase II is a longer-term idea of making Royal Enfield a global brand. That’s what we want to do. So, to become a global firm, we need to go there and really imbibe their characteristics. Moving base is challenging... Oh yeah, it is. For me, when I was young, I always moved around. So, that’s intrinsic. In a worst-case scenario, I will come back. This is not going anywhere.

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  • To put it simply, is the brand open to diverging from what you are in terms of identity?

    I think we want to extend our identity. I'll tell you how we've already done that. When I first joined Royal Enfield, nobody knew the brand, but everyone knew Bullet. We decided then that the Bullet (brand) is really strong. It's gorgeous and we love it, but we had to break the equation that Bullet was equal to Enfield was equal to Bullet. We said Bullet must retain all its character, but Enfield must go beyond Bullet. And that's the strategy we took. We introduced the Thunderbird, the Electra, and other motorcycles because we wanted Royal Enfield to be a broader spectrum. We always wanted to push Royal Enfield to a slightly broader plain and the Himalayan helped us do that. This was not a heritage-driven product for the first time in the history of Royal Enfield. So yes, I think it will evolve, but it will still stay within a certain realm of, let's say, a type of motorcycle which is still not extreme, one which is accessible and great for daily riding. We have two, three new platforms under development, but some of them will replace existing ones, for instance, when stricter emission norms come in.

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  • Royal Enfields have a certain flavour and have stuck to their heritage for over a century now. Is that identity enough on the world stage or do you have to reinvent yourself?

    I'm not sure I know the answer to that right now. Obviously, we have to keep evolving ourselves, but we have to keep some things constant as well. Again, the fact that we're restricting ourselves to middle-weights is self-imposed. This is the absolute belief right now, but it doesn't mean that it won't change. Of course, we will evolve, learn and understand the market. There are seismic shifts which are going to happen. Cities are bursting, mobility is changing, connectivity of vehicles and internet of things is happening, and electrification is on the anvil. We would be fools to just put our heads in the sand and say, "Look this is all that Royal Enfield is about". Royal Enfield, therefore, has to evolve what it's about – what we now call ‘keeping riding pure’. If that means an electric vehicle, we will, when the time comes. But for now, and the foreseeable future, for this brand and this style of vehicle, we do believe that it is this simple, pared-back, heritage-driven, accessible motorcycling that's missing in the world. This is the path that we're on right now. You are not going to see the likes of a supersport from us for the next five to seven years.

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  • Speaking of learnings, what are the lessons from your last project – the Himalayan adventure motorcycle?

    The first learning is to anticipate markets better. We developed the Himalayan for India, but markets like the UK, USA, and Europe all asked for it. We said it's a bit underpowered for you, but they still wanted it. Then we started to make Euro specs, which took time and effort. Therefore, on the new 650 twins, we've got the product in the highest spec that's required anywhere in the world and the same spec will be available in all markets. The other huge learning is in the product introduction and new product development processes. With the Himalayan, we were fine-tuning parts much later in the programme, but this time, the freeze on parts is much earlier in the process. The next learning is about the availability of products in the market, which is now going to take us a lot more time because we will do it in small steps. My job now as CEO is to make sure we do the right thing. Thus, even after production we still don't have to start delivery. This means if we produce 10,000 motorcycles but, for some reason, I'm not satisfied with them, I will make sure I will not deliver motorcycles until the problems are sorted out. Twenty years out, nobody is going to say, “Look, they delayed the 650 twins from April to May, or April to July, or even April to December.”

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  • How will the Tech Centre impact the existing model line-up and how long will it take?

    Now that we're working with the best in the world, we understand that every new product from every company in the world starts off at a much higher level of fault frequency than a stable product. At present, our most stable product – the Classic 350 – has very low fault frequencies. Faults like warranty failures, for example, are extremely low and are predominantly minor in nature. Our stable products, which constitute 95 percent of our portfolio, are doing well and we are seeing a drastic improvement in numbers. It's always the new products in any organisation that cause the bubbles and upheavals. Even there, we learned how to dramatically limit the extent of faults and their duration. That's the learning and a lot of it is from the early testing of fully tooled-up motorcycles. That's on the design side, and our testing protocol has gone up immensely as well.

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  • There's a tech centre coming up in India too. How do you strike the balance between the UK and home?

    What we're doing in India is building physical infrastructure and bringing together all our engineers who were housed in various buildings around Chennai. The balance between the UK and India already exists. The core team was always based out of India and all the products we've developed have come from India. Then, we hired a UK team and have been building it. As it happens, the global product heads sit in the UK but they all have teams back in India and are working seamlessly with them. The UK team can't do much independently because they rely tremendously on India for design, detail design, validation and all the long hours on the dynos that happen in India. There's a lot of back and forth, so we travel a lot between the two countries.

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  • How vital is the UK Technology Centre to Royal Enfield?

    It is very important with regard to getting what we want from the brand. The centre was not set up to create a halo around the brand. If it does, that's brilliant and we'd be delighted, but that's not the purpose. The purpose is that we make awesome motorcycles through this facility. We needed the competencies t we weren't getting in India. We do have superb capabilities in India but we don't have it all. There are very few people who understand the design and development of, let's say, a higher-powered (not high-powered, but higher-powered) motorcycle. That's not just in terms of the engine but things like chassis dynamics, design and sophistication and, to some extent, maybe even industrial design. So, it's really important.

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  • Where would you go ride? Which of these bikes would you take?

    laughs Which of these bikes? That's a question for day after tomorrow [The Milan show unveil]. Where would I go. It would have to laughs I have been very, very curious about Latin America since I visited Colombia. And I fell in love with that country and that would be one of my primary motivations. It will be work trip laughs.

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  • Direction for the company from here? Especially India

    The way we look at how the company has to evolve is that there are many areas where have to just to meet basic requirements that our consumer is looking for. And we believe we are either there or nearly there in most of those areas. On top of that we have to create areas of absolute excellence so, some viewpoints: Our distribution network today, I believe in India, is perhaps the best premium motorcycle distribution network in the country. Other networks, there are some which are much bigger than ours but they are you could say not very premium in nature so we have created a network which looks premium and now is more and more behaving premium. It's the type of training, the type of work, the type of HR culture that we are building amongst our dealer employees, the type of parts availability, the type of service culture... we are putting a lot of energy behind our retail environment. We have now 15 different regions in India and we are not very centrally controlled. We have a lot of freedom for our regional team members. This is not just a sales and service guy - there are rides community managers, there are people in marketing down there, there are activation people, there's HR, finance they can take decisions on warranty, service, on rides, on events, on local level activity... so they are building and forming communities. Till now our view of India, or at least mine, is that we are very city centric. But where Royal Enfield has gone down to is D-towns and E-towns. And in those places when people are aspiring to buy a Royal Enfield we have a community there. We have people there who understand them very well and that's very different from just an old-school sales and service network.

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  • You've become the world's most profitable company and many competitors are now gunning for you

    Success has it upsides - we have a strong balance sheet, we do a lot of things we couldn't do earlier. It also has its pitfalls which is largely that you don't want to rock the boat too much. You don't want to lose what you have already got. And many years ago we had nothing to lose so we could play exactly as we wanted. Now we have something to protect but I believe that the way we are playing it that we have nothing to lose. That is how we are going for it. We are not looking at building more and more protection around this. We are building new ideas, going to new places and we have our own products which cannibalise our own and people get terrified of that and we don't get terrified of that. Of course, there is some protection that's necessary but that isn't product related. The way we are doing it is, I'd say, we are creating a wider network, of an ecosystem around our motorcycles. If you have a riding culture which our customers are getting accustomed to. If they build bonds together, their are tours, rentals, customisers who use our products to make other interesting stuff that creates and ecosystem. That's the way we are protecting all of this, not by holding tight and doing that.

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  • How does UKTC and Chennai work together?

    The UKTC physical infrastructure has been around for less than a year, but the people have now been around for three years. So the head of product strategy globally for RE sits here, the head of engine design, the head of chassis design, the head of program management of product strategy and industrial design... This is their home. They have teams here and back in India. But their boss, the CEO sits in Chennai as well. So he helps coordinate the entire Chennai efforts. So we basically see this facility as a... for twins - now we can say twins laughs finally. We see this more as a lead design and development center for twins and bigger motorcycles and the team here is taking the absolute lead in those and Chennai playing more of a support role. But think of Chennai as the lead for singles for examples. And some of the expertise and support is coming from here for that. There is a huge amount of interaction which happens. We allow people to really work in the way they want within our new product introduction process. But we insist that people travel a lot. So you'll see people from Chennai here all the time. You will see people from the UK Tech Centre in Chennai all the time, so there's a lot of collaboration. All our gate meetings - there are a hell lot of gate meetings. We have in the normal process eight gate meetings, but launch gates are separate which are another 4-5 gates. So everybody converges and huddles for gate meetings. Very rarely we do it on big video conferences, most often it's physical so you get to meet, go have a beer and we get to have a chat, get to ride and a lot of them are around motorcycles examples - prototypes or mules or other things and we get to ride those. We get to go here [Bruntingthorpe], we go in Spain, we get to go to the test track in Chennai. And that's always bonding when you ride together.

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  • What's next after the 650 Twins?

    As you can see the cues from the engine, it's pretty damn classic and old school, and that is the direction and cues coming along for the next five years. We do have a firm five year road map. Firm means there are still some changes that happen every now and then you know some new norms come in. There's a tentative plan beyond that as well. And they're all - I can tell you right now - middleweights - between 250-750. They're all relatively, I wouldn't say necessarily old-school but they're certainly not super-modern vehicles. Modern is the wrong word again. They're not extreme vehicles, let''s put it that way. They're all in the realm of what we are doing and just extending what Royal Enfield is one step at a time.

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  • India on the first wave of markets, then?

    Likely not. Because you know we want to serve markets which have a greater summer season. Markets like here in Europe and all that. So we will likely come to markets where there is a much more seasonal effect and serve those markets [first]. And India in any case there's no way of serving India till we ramp up our production to very high levels.

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  • India roll-out plan?

    We expect India to be the largest potential market for these motorcycles, even though there isn't any market for motorcycle such as these in India right now. But we expect to start delivering motorcycles after April. But that's still expectation and lot of things still have to go right [first]. And its only after that we will really be able to start servicing the Indian market. Because the requirements there are much more. Markets outside we can still deliver smaller numbers and that's okay but India you know we can't. We had the [Royal Enfield] dealers here [at the UK Tech Centre] a few days ago and they've said don't give only five dealers motorcycles. When you give these motorcycles, we want it nationwide otherwise people from our town are going to run to the big towns and buy motorcycles and it's going to create havoc everywhere. When we are ready, and totally ready, with a ramped up capability, when we can service the market... We don't want to enter and then slow down and then starve the market. So when we are ready which will be after April, then we will service India.

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  • Your first global motorcycle, global R&D... what learnings have gone back home? And to your older products?

    I would say that a lot of it has gone back to the older product line because this is the same team doing this product and the older products. The most stable product - not just at Royal Enfield, but of any company - is the running product. That, today is the 350 UCE. The type of fault frequency we get is absoutlely world class. The kind of failures we get are very minuscule and minor and the warranty issues we have... are nothing, no issues really. So we have taken back a lot of things. What we've been able to achieve with this engine, really, was to go from our singles which was largely I would say low-end performance to what this engine is, which is low- and mid-end performance. It's [the 650 twin] not still very high-end. You don't go beyond 7,500 revs and all that but it does give you very good performance up to around 7,000rpm. I think what we are going to take back is maybe - at the cost of a bit of character - is a bit more refinement on the engine. We still love our singles but we have learnt that a bit of balancing does help in long distance riding. For city riding, it's absolutely fine but if you're going for hours and hours, it could get tiring for some people. There is a lot more. I mean we've gone to four valves, to overhead cams - we've done that before as well but - interesting learnings for sure.

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  • Is there anything those hard decisions made you leave out of the new engine?

    No! We wanted it air-cooled, it's air-cooled. It was a tough sell because everyone figured that at this displacement, specially to meet Euro V and BS-VI, it must be water-cooled. But we believed it must not be water-cooled. And that we can achieve what we want to with an old-school air-cooled engine. I wouldn't say there are any of those level of compromises. Perhaps it's not the lightest engine. But we wanted it to look pretty as well takes a long look at the engine and we have done that. So maybe on the weight, its perhaps a couple of kilos more than I would have personally liked but nothing to regret really.

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  • You could literally create any motorcycle you want, versus us who can buy motorcycles we like. How does that feel?

    Thinks quietly for moment before answering. It's the same. It's exhilarating! But it's also a lot of pressure because you have to do it right. You have to do it right for the customers. You have to do it right for everybody, to make sure that no stone is unturned and its taken us a lot to get to that stage. I believe where we can say that we have really done what it takes and its painstaking. And then you get to the business side of that and that always pulls you down a bit you know. The motorcycle side is gorgeous and fun and then you have to take decisions. Cost decisions, conflicting requirements from different places and all those things come in but its still always exhilarating.

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  • What did you feel when you ride the first near-final prototype

    Laughs I don't look like a very emotional fellow but when I do ride bikes like this for the first time, it does touch me quite a bit. I just said to myself that I don't want to think about this too much. It's really nice and it's still three years away. It sounds too far away because we have started doing these very early in the process. So the 90 per cent tooled-up motorcycle was available nearly two years before now. That's so far. But now, you know, we have really taken a much more calculated, restricted and developmental approach to all of these things that are. Our development cycle is absolutely world class. Our validation cycle is absolutely world class. And a lot of standards have now been set up not just 10-20 per cent but some of them are three times more than what some of the other people are doing. We have really taken a different approach to developing this. And its taken time.

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  • What's the top speed on the new bike, then?

    Laughs Oooh, its above a ton. I don't even have the top speed on me but I know that on the track they've done well over 100 miles an hour

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  • Really? Did you consider a larger displacement as well?

    No. It just went up from 600 to 650. Its the only step we have taken.

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  • How did the 650cc twin-cylinder project begin?

    My understanding is that the first sketches and designs were made in January 2014. Obviously that means we had started thinking about it before that. But in fact, it started life as a 600cc twin. smiles But we weren't confident of meeting the ton. That's 160kmph or 100mph. So we eventually upgraded it to 650 and now it certainly crosses the ton.

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  • How do you see demand for your products now?

    We are still a discretionary product and our buyers are an upgrading audience. I know Royal Enfield is expensive and may be higher on maintenance. But, it is a step-up. Our intention is not to be a niche player, but we want to be a leader in our category. Our bottom line is perhaps the best in the world at around 24%. So, any new products we plan for the future cannot be of sub-scale size.

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  • Do you feel you were lucky as your turnaround came at a time when the Indian economy started looking up and people didn't mind spending more on aspirational bikes. Did you benefit due to entry of brands like Harley Davidson and Triumph as you could provide a cheaper option to their products?

    I would say it was 50% luck and the rest half was due to our planning. Luck does not come on its own. You have to be prepared. We worked on distribution, our brand, product quality, new models and the after-market. Had we not done this, we would have been neglected just like some of the other automotive brands in India. So, we were working towards this and most of it came together in 2010, by when we had also brought in highly-efficient Unit Construction Engine against the cast-iron ones, which were like a 50s technology.

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  • What sparked the turnaround?

    I realised that if it is not working, we have to change fundamentals. We made many changes and management overhauls. I decided to shed most of non-core businesses of group. We were in 15 different businesses, including footwear and garments. I decided to retain Royal Enfield and trucks. Instead of running 15 mediocre businesses, I decided to stick to one core business

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  • Was there any time when you thought about quitting the motorcycle business and moving on?

    There was a time when others were growing, and we were stagnant. It was the period between the 80s to somewhere around 2005. Our group had too many businesses, and many of them were troublesome. Royal Enfield was not seen as the core, and was rather suffering tremendously as we had over-invested in production capacity, which remained unutilized. We tried everything, but it was still not growing. But, we didn't give up.

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  • Royal Enfield has been riding high at a time when the broader motorcycle market is going through a sobering mode. How do you see this year?

    It has been a year of real high growth for us and we expect to close 2014 on sales of 3 lakh units. This is quite a step-up, considering we were only doing about 50,000 units in 2010.

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  • How much time have you spent on the bike?

    I have riden for it for few thousand kilometres. I have spent at least 15-20 days in the last two years riding this motorcycle at various places. I rode it from Delhi to Leh-Ladakh and just last month, I rode the Himalayan from Goa to Humpy.

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  • How much time have you spent on the bike?

    I have riden for it for few thousand kilometres. I have spent at least 15-20 days in the last two years riding this motorcycle at various places. I rode it from Delhi to Leh-Ladakh and just last month, I rode the Himalayan from Goa to Humpy.

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  • How much time have you spent on the bike?

    I have riden for it for few thousand kilometres. I have spent at least 15-20 days in the last two years riding this motorcycle at various places. I rode it from Delhi to Leh-Ladakh and just last month, I rode the Himalayan from Goa to Humpy.

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  • How much time have you spent on the bike?

    I have riden for it for few thousand kilometres. I have spent at least 15-20 days in the last two years riding this motorcycle at various places. I rode it from Delhi to Leh-Ladakh and just last month, I rode the Himalayan from Goa to Humpy.

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  • What potential does this project have?

    It is a clean sheet, grounds up vehicle, we have not done it half heartedly. There are no compromises on any front including the design brief. While it has to be purpose built to go off-road, it is not extreme, it should not be intimidating vehicle, it has been engineered to have good on-road ride. In the same way, SUV has become main stream, it is designed to be a good off roader, but also have a good on road manner. Similarly the Himalayan has really good on-road manners. We have ensured that there is a wide band of torque, which is easily accessible, so that it should be fun to ride at everyday speeds, yet it should be non-extreme.

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  • Were there any specific feedback from your end?

    Oh, there were constant feedbacks through the lifecycle of project. The Big one was – at some point in project – to change the first gear ratio, to give a better pick up. Interestingly the second one was from my wife who gave a feedback while we were riding in Himalayas, that the pillion seat was a degree backward, leaning backward, so we changed the geometry of rear seats pretty late in the project.

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  • How much time have you spent on the bike?

    I have riden for it for few thousand kilometres. I have spent at least 15-20 days in the last two years riding this motorcycle at various places. I rode it from Delhi to Leh-Ladakh and just last month, I rode the Himalayan from Goa to Humpy.

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  • Why the name Himalayan?

    Himalaya has become an Enfield’s spiritual home. We never even thought of any other name. That’s the legend, the most demanding aspect in India or anyone in sub-continent is to ride to Himalayas. It is the ultimate journey for motorcycle rider. The terrain is devastating and inhospitable, for all our lives and for Royal Enfield in India that has been our ultimate journey to offer an appropriate touring option. For 12-15 years, this has been brewing in the back of the mind, motorcycle for Himalayas. The way we started, we wanted to distinguish Himalayan from other heavy adventure tourers. We want to break away from the notion that adventurer tourer are very intimidating. Himalayas are so grand, big and dominating in their own right, you cannot have something that dominates Himalayas. You can use the energy and flows of Himalayas with a purposeful bike. Therefore Himalayan bike is all about the balance and harmony.

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  • Would you take this to overseas markets?

    Focus is very much in India, this year we will focus on developing the Indian market. We may send a few motorcyles and check. International markets are evolved, what and how we launch this remains to be seen. Looking at the early signs of conversation, we are excited about this project for some emerging markets.

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  • How important is Himalayan to Royal Enfield?

    I can’t say it is not important. It has been 25 years ago when Eicher took over the brand, it is terribly important for us, because it is a creation of new category of adventure tourer – it will take time to mature. This is the first fully grounds up bike for Royal Enfield since Eicher came in. A lot of people both in India and UK have worked on this project. It is a grounds up engine, chassis, a new platform creating a new category. We have not been involved to this extent in our earlier projects. There are people who want such kind of bikes, but the rest of the people don’t know that they wanted an adventurer tourer, like people didn’t know that they wanted a classic. While we want it to be an instant success, we are very cognisant of the fact, it may take some time to mature. Over the next couple of years, we will keep growing the idea of adventure touring in India, it is at a a very nascent stage. It is important, but it is not urgent. It is absolutely core to what we are all about. It is the right time to launch it, we have the momentum and we will continue to build the market. From a consumer point of view, it is already happening, people are going to Himalayas, we are giving a purpose-built motorcycle for them. The behaviour is already there, bike is getting there. We are very confident that whether they adopt it in gigantic proportion or no, it is a relevant concept.

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  • Story behind Himalayan?

    Himalayan has been on the top of mind for many years. While the project has been in our minds, as a very broad lose idea for may be 15 years, as pre-study to making a decision, we started 5 years ago. After studying alternatives, business ideas, we pushed the ‘go button’ about three-and-half-years ago.

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  • Is growth sustainable?

    The growth is tapering off. We were used to growth of 60% which has come down to 25%. Anyone would be happy with that number.

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  • Is growth sustainable?

    The growth is tapering off. We were used to growth of 60% which has come down to 25%. Anyone would be happy with that number.

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  • Production plans

    For now we have not agreed to Vallam Phase 2 (expansion). We have three new modules right now, which will get us to 75-80k (production) a month. We are good for now. What we are now going through is our planning for 2019-2020. If we want to start something, we have to decide in the next three months. Good news is that phase 1takes longer, but the phase 2 is much quicker. We may do it in 12 months.

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  • Over-dependence on one product, the Classic?

    There are challenges and that is business. It is not something that we can’t handle. Classic dependence does not worry me. For us it is about nurturing products and brands.

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  • Quality is still being questioned…

    We are 100% focused on improving quality. Of course, we had early issues and failures on the Himalayan. Every single problem is being directly addressed with the customers. The new BS-IV product is absolutely fine, there are zero issues now. These have all been learning curves. I can say with confidence that we are on the improvement path.

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  • Why is it a new phase?

    We have come a very long way. What was a very small knit organisation to still a very cohesive and tight organisation, but with a lot more capability and processes. From selling 2,000 units a month, you can’t have the same approach to 70,000 units. Everything has changed, yet some fundamental beliefs and what we are working on together still remains intact. It is an absolutely new phase, now we have the capital, we are investing in the technical centre, we obviously have a new manufacturing (plant). What you see is some numbers around manufacturing; the depth of machinery, it is world class. We are now confident, that we can design, we can make good stuff, we can service them, we can do all of that.

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  • On the importance of big bikes

    These are really flashy milestones on what is a boring long-term strategy. We have been working on the idea of twin-cylinder bikes for the last five years. When we know it is a right thing to do in a 15-year horizon, we work on it, but of course, occasions like these galvanise the entire organisation. It shows that Royal Enfield is progressing. These bikes will offer an upgrade option to over 2.5 million customers we have added in the last five years in India and, for the global market, it brings us into the mainstream of the consideration set for the buyers in the evolved markets. Our ambition is to be global and we are making serious strides to move in that direction.

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  • How will you position your brand in the competitive environment?

    We are the leaders in the mid-size motorcycle i.e above 250cc-750cc. We have over 95 percent share in the segment. We have created this market and we have strong plans lot for next five years to expand this market segment.

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  • How will you position your brand in the competitive environment?

    We are the leaders in the mid-size motorcycle i.e above 250cc-750cc. We have over 95 percent share in the segment. We have created this market and we have strong plans lot for next five years to expand this market segment.

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  • How will you position your brand in a competitive environment?

    We are the leaders in the mid-size motorcycle i.e above 250cc-750cc. We have over 95 percent share in the segment. We have created this market and we have strong plans lot for next five years to expand this market segment.

    View Source:

  • How will you position your brand in a competitive environment?

    We are the leaders in the mid-size motorcycle i.e above 250cc-750cc. We have over 95 percent share in the segment. We have created this market and we have strong plans lot for next five years to expand this market segment.

    View Source:

  • How will you position your brand in a competitive environment?

    We are the leaders in the mid-size motorcycle i.e above 250cc-750cc. We have over 95 per cent share in the segment. We have created this market and we have strong plans lot for next five years to expand this market segment.

    View Source:

  • How will you position your brand in the competitive environment?

    We are the leaders in the mid-size motorcycle i.e above 250cc-750cc. We have over 95 percent share in the segment. We have created this market and we have strong plans lot for next five years to expand this market segment.

    View Source:

  • How will you position your brand in the competitive environment?

    We are the leaders in the mid-size motorcycle i.e above 250cc-750cc. We have over 95 percent share in the segment. We have created this market and we have strong plans lot for next five years to expand this market segment.

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  • Peers are establishing themselves and will offer the products at competitive range. How will you position your brand in the competitive environment?

    We are the leaders in the mid-size motorcycle i.e above 250cc-750cc. We have over 95 percent share in the segment. We have created this market and we have strong plans lot for next five years to expand this market segment.

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  • What would be your communication plan to market your brand?

    As our products are for niche audience. We work very closely on rides and events. This year we have conducted over 1500 organized rides. There were events like Rider Mania and many other events across the country. Then off course, we have do little bit of print ads, and on digital platform. The idea is to get people on the bike and experience the ride.

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  • Are there any plans to expand your dealership network?

    We have been adding 5-6 dealers every single month and we continue to do so. In 2014 we would add many more dealers. By end of the year, we would have around 300 dealers across the country. We will expand in tremendously in next few years. We are expanding into smaller towns too as demand is also coming from there.

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  • In the last 3-4 years, what type of sales-growth pattern you have experienced?

    We have very fast growth rate. We sold 53000 in 2010 then in 2011 we sold 75000, 113,000 in 2012. This is year we would be able to sell 170,000 units.

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  • Are there any plans to expand your dealership network?

    We have been adding 5-6 dealers every single month and we continue to do so. In 2014 we would add many more dealers. By end of the year, we would have around 300 dealers across the country. We will expand in tremendously in next few years. We are expanding into smaller towns too as demand is also coming from there.

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  • In the last 3-4 years, what type of sales-growth pattern you have experienced?

    We have very fast growth rate. We sold 53000 in 2010 then in 2011 we sold 75000, 113,000 in 2012. This is year we would be able to sell 170,000 units.

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  • What kind of investment plans you have for Royal Enfield?

    In 2012-13, we have invested about Rs.150 Crore for the capacity and new products that’s the investment cycle. We are still in the planning cycle for 2013-14, so there are no projections for investment.

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  • You said that demand in the international market is likely to increase, so do you plan to put up manufacturing unit out of India?

    We don’t have any plans to manufacture anywhere else. Currently, we have two plants in Chennai and trying to expand our footprints there. At our new plant we are adding more and more facilities to expand the capacity. From the capacity point, it would be announced when we opened our new plant in April. Presently we have estimated 275,000 units in the calendar years 2013 and 250,000 unit in calendar year 2014. Over 2014, we would try to build an ecosystem around Continental GT.

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  • The Continental GT has a lot of potential in export markets. What kind of share do you expect from the export?

    We expect Continental GT to re-build the export markets for Royal Enfield. Currently, we are very strong in India but internationally our presence is not that strong. But Continental GT has grabbed all the attention at global launch which was held in the U.K in September and there is good demand position for this bike in international market. However, we would not able to share the numbers.

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  • Do you look at expanding your product portfolio to new segment?

    we are focused and will stick to mid-size motorcycles i.e above 250cc and below 750cc. There is a lot to play in this segment and lot of potential lies here. We have no plans to emter any other segment in two wheeler market.

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  • Are you going to progress in the super sports model?

    In British history, sportier models were café racing type of models and considered it as super sports models. We have no intention to get into super sports models. Our focus is on fun, classic and sporty models which is accessible to young generation in terms of pricing. And, that’s what we are trying to accomplish with Continental GT because it’s a natural extension of the Royal Enfield. It’s a modern bike and very part is new, there is no carry over of parts although it is inspired from 1965 model.

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  • You acquired the Royal Enfield when it was almost bankrupt. How has been the Journey and where do you see it moving?

    In 1994, when Eicher Group took over the two wheeler company, it was almost bankrupt. After the acquisition, it almost took a decade to stabilize the business. After that we tried to focus on the upper-end and premium motorcycle of Indian two wheeler markets. In 2001, we launched “Electra” which was the first striking model thereafter we launched “Thunderbird” in 2002. The next milestone was achieved when we launched “Classic” in 2008-09, “New Thunderbird” in 2012 and now “Continental GT”.

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  • Has production been restored at your Chennai plant after the workers’ strike ended last month?

    We had a strike from a section of employees and therefore there was a slowdown in production during those nearly two months. But yes, it’s all sorted. We’ve been able to get them back. Production takes some time to ramp-up. You don’t just press a button and it gets back to normal. But now it’s absolutely back on track.

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  • Is Royal Enfield ready for BS-VI?

    We are fully prepared. Our new product introduction takes three-and-a-half to four years. We have been working on all our BS-VI products. And we think we have an amazing generation of new products that’s going to come out for BS-VI. In all of our testing, we’re already way below the BS-VI emission requirements. So, from a pure technical perspective, we are meeting all the emission requirements. But now, as always, it’s about testing, validation, supply chain. In this case, supply chain, because it’s not easy to convert our production of 70,000-80,000 motorcycles (a month) from BS-IV to BS-VI. It’s a huge supply chain. So that’s the work that’s going on now. And it’s not just the supply chain, it’s also distribution, our service network — everything needs to change, parts, all of that. But we’ll be absolutely ready before the March 2020 deadline.

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  • So, will you be pushing it further and coming up with even bigger motorcycles?

    It took us a decade from 350-500cc to do this. Going bigger is certainly not ruled out, but we have no plans right now because we think that this (the two new motorcycles) has a lot of leg for us in the 650cc segment in India and markets around the world. We’d rather do less things and do them really well, like the Classic. Some other manufacturers have different strategies, but we don’t need a wide range of products to fulfil our ambitions. We need a couple of really nice products, like what the Classic was and what hopefully the Interceptor will be. That’s enough. Sure, there is a lot of pipeline, there are interesting things coming out. The concept KX which we showcased at EICMA (motorcycle show in Milan) is still a concept. We are gauging customer reaction and if we decide to put it in the market, it will be a bigger motorcycle than this, but we haven’t decided that as yet.

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  • You have had similar big-ticket launches earlier. How would you compare this one with those?

    Our biggest commercial success till now has been the Classic. Back then, we didn’t have this kind of response even though the market was much less evolved at that time. In my 20-odd years at the company, this is the best response we’ve ever had. People have appreciated it from all walks of motorcycling and different parts of the world. It’s not just that the product is nice, but it also fills a gap that honestly no one knew existed. But when people see this motorcycle, they understand that the gap existed in the market. In India, people get that if we can sell a motorcycle of this quality and calibre at the price that we’re selling it at, we can create a market like we did with the Classic when there was no market for above 250cc motorcycles in India. People can see now that it can create a market for bigger bikes in India.

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  • How has the response been to your new twin-cylinder motorcycles?

    It has been absolutely exceptional. Better than what we hoped for, but not what we expected — let’s put it that way. From global media, Indian media, consumers, very few people don’t have amazing things to say, even if they are not into this style of motorcycles. They appreciate what we are doing, and they appreciate the finesse. Because, perhaps for all people, the term finesse is not what they use very closely with Royal Enfield. Fair enough. We are a bit old school. But, yes, this is the new Royal Enfield. We have been working hard to do things differently. In the future, it is going to only get better because we are going to keep learning and improving.

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  • Has production been restored at your Chennai plant after the workers’ strike ended last month?

    We had a strike from a section of employees and therefore there was a slowdown in production during those nearly two months. But yes, it’s all sorted. We’ve been able to get them back. Production takes some time to ramp-up. You don’t just press a button and it gets back to normal. But now it’s absolutely back on track.

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  • Is Royal Enfield ready for BS-VI?

    We are fully prepared. Our new product introduction takes three-and-a-half to four years. We have been working on all our BS-VI products. And we think we have an amazing generation of new products that’s going to come out for BS-VI. In all of our testing, we’re already way below the BS-VI emission requirements. So, from a pure technical perspective, we are meeting all the emission requirements. But now, as always, it’s about testing, validation, supply chain. In this case, supply chain, because it’s not easy to convert our production of 70,000-80,000 motorcycles (a month) from BS-IV to BS-VI. It’s a huge supply chain. So that’s the work that’s going on now. And it’s not just the supply chain, it’s also distribution, our service network — everything needs to change, parts, all of that. But we’ll be absolutely ready before the March 2020 deadline.

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  • So, will you be pushing it further and coming up with even bigger motorcycles?

    It took us a decade from 350-500cc to do this. Going bigger is certainly not ruled out, but we have no plans right now because we think that this (the two new motorcycles) has a lot of leg for us in the 650cc segment in India and markets around the world. We’d rather do less things and do them really well, like the Classic. Some other manufacturers have different strategies, but we don’t need a wide range of products to fulfil our ambitions. We need a couple of really nice products, like what the Classic was and what hopefully the Interceptor will be. That’s enough. Sure, there is a lot of pipeline, there are interesting things coming out. The concept KX which we showcased at EICMA (motorcycle show in Milan) is still a concept. We are gauging customer reaction and if we decide to put it in the market, it will be a bigger motorcycle than this, but we haven’t decided that as yet.

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  • You have had similar big-ticket launches earlier. How would you compare this one with those?

    Our biggest commercial success till now has been the Classic. Back then, we didn’t have this kind of response even though the market was much less evolved at that time. In my 20-odd years at the company, this is the best response we’ve ever had. People have appreciated it from all walks of motorcycling and different parts of the world. It’s not just that the product is nice, but it also fills a gap that honestly no one knew existed. But when people see this motorcycle, they understand that the gap existed in the market. In India, people get that if we can sell a motorcycle of this quality and calibre at the price that we’re selling it at, we can create a market like we did with the Classic when there was no market for above 250cc motorcycles in India. People can see now that it can create a market for bigger bikes in India.

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  • How has the response been to your new twin-cylinder motorcycles?

    It has been absolutely exceptional. Better than what we hoped for, but not what we expected — let’s put it that way. From global media, Indian media, consumers, very few people don’t have amazing things to say, even if they are not into this style of motorcycles. They appreciate what we are doing, and they appreciate the finesse. Because, perhaps for all people, the term finesse is not what they use very closely with Royal Enfield. Fair enough. We are a bit old school. But, yes, this is the new Royal Enfield. We have been working hard to do things differently. In the future, it is going to only get better because we are going to keep learning and improving.

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  • One of the cousins of Royal Enfield of last few decades has come back in the form of Jawa Motorcycles but I have seen some of the international companies put their products near Himalayan also. How are you analysing the competitive landscape in particular with these two?

    We take competition very seriously. We study, understand, ride, I have ridden pretty much every motorcycle out there, not in the very big motorcycle category but basically everything which is either a source of growth for us, which are smaller motorcycles or direct competitors. We understand the motorcycle, we understand the product, we understand the idea, their distribution, the business model, all of that. So we put a lot of attention there but our strategy is not determined by other people. Over the last 10 years, we have had an outstanding growth. We are the most profitable from a percentage perspective motorcycle, perhaps even automobile brand in the world. There will be competition and there will be guys saying I want a piece of that pie.

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  • Talk to us about how GT and Interceptor potentially could be international offerings for you. Outside India, people are used to bigger bikes. Biking means big bikes and do you think some of the international markets which you have already stepped into you, can do a India over the next five, eight years and give you the next leg of growth?

    That is absolutely the plan. We have been scouring the markets. We have been participating in international markets for a long time now, a bit more under the radar. I would break the global markets into two parts, just for our convenience; one is developed countries US, UK, Europe, Japan, Australia where there is culture of big motorcycles. But the market is small. The overall motorcycle market is not in millions per year, it is in the tens and hundreds or thousands per year And that is where we already have a decent distribution, a brand recall and all that. What is happening is that these motorcycles fit in perfectly. The reviews in markets around the world in developed countries have been absolutely fantastic because we have just hit the spot in the right manner at the right time with these modern Classic motorcycles. We expect really good growth there but developed countries are not going to be the next India. I do not mind if they are but I do not think they will be the next India. The next India is going to come from markets like Southeast Asia, Latin America, and we have put up a store in some of these markets with the product available at the right price, the price which would be there if it were selling it at CKD. In southeast Asia, we have now zeroed in on Thailand as our nodal market because that is where we expect that the upgraders will come from because there also the middle, big bike market is vastly underserved.

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  • Your Classic 350 still gets more than 50% of your overall volumes. You seem to have rejigged that?

    In markets like Kerala, the Interceptor, the GT and the Himalayan play a much larger role than they maybe in UP. For example, we have a huge population of people over the last eight, 10 years. We have got 3.5 million people riding Royal Enfield motorcycles in India and if you take Kerala, that has got a disproportionate share. These guys who have been riding Royal Enfield for so long, have been asking us for more. They want to upgrade. So the same way that we were able to tap the 100-150-200cc market over the last decade, we are now going to tap our guys who want an upgrade and there is a lot of them out there in Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. There are a lot these guys who have been riding Royal Enfield.

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  • Kerala is a highly penetrated market. How are trends over there? Even Maharashtra and Karnataka were highly penetrated. But you are still scratching the surface in large markets like UP. How are you analysing your big, maturing markets? Which are the ones showing opportunity in terms of breakthrough?

    Mature markets are exemplified by Kerala where we are the biggest motorcycle brand -- ahead of all the Indo-Japanese style motorcycles -- with around 30 plus percent share. There, every third motorcycle which is sold is a Royal Enfield. It is like your Apple phone. People aspire to it. People are able to access it. The income levels are higher there. The distribution is cracking there. The residual value, the resale price of a Royal Enfield is extremely good. So, it is a very liquid asset when you are buying Royal Enfield in Kerala. It is a positive sign. In a market like Kerala, it is not about brand recognition. When I say Kerala, I mean I am now extrapolating about south or maybe the more of developed markets including even Punjab and a few other southern markets and a few cities like Delhi, Bombay etc, all of which are very mature markets for us. In these markets what is very important now is the work that we are doing on the development front of rides and community. That that is what people are really interested in and engaging in and the other is new products. A classic 350 has now nearly become the new normal.

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  • There was talk of inventory build up at select dealerships which has never been the case before. Folklore has it that Enfield always have had 8-9 months of waiting period. But that seem to have come down.

    Of course 8-9 months is gone long ago and it has come down to 3-4 months now. In some models, the waiting period is 15-20 days. Some models are available off the shelf. Inventory is at extremely normal levels and in fact much less than any other two-wheelers. But we do have inventory now. So there is no pile-up of inventory. But we have some inventory which is also good. Earlier, everyone used to shout and scream shadi season is coming! People want bikes immediately. We used to miss out on those opportunities. Now we should be able to catch some of those but there are other issues which come under focus.

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  • Let us analyse the factors which have come together and been responsible for this -- the tech upgrades, the ABS related issues, the Chennai plant strike, the insurance cost which has ownership pattern and of course maturing of some of the markets along with the Kerala floods. How have all these factors impacted? Clubbed together, they appear big.

    It is not in our nature to justify and make excuses because that is not the point of all of this. Sure there have been lot of individual things but they have always been there. Earlier, what happened was that we had a huge order book which could buffer any individual problem. Five years ago, there was a problem like Kerala floods. But, then we had an order book in other markets which could take care of that. Sure there have been individual areas like certain markets have matured. But honestly, for me the real thing which has happened has taken some time and it will some more time for the market to react to the new normal which includes increased price of motorcycles, increased costs because of insurance and other factors like the anti-lock breaking system (ABS) etc. What has happened is that normally 3% to 5% cost increase every year can be easily passed on. Customers really do not mind. It is part of inflation which happens with everything. But it is tough to pass on 15% increase. We have also learnt from that process that maybe we should have broken it up in more steps, but now we are here. So really it was a bit of that which is a bit more abnormal because otherwise individual market issues will always happen. In UP something happens, here something happens, election plus/minus who knows! But those are things that normally we just weather. But it is only the price issue that has affected us a bit. But now we are getting back on track. In December, we had flushed as many 2018 bikes as possible. Of course, there are a few left in the market but the idea was to lower inventory so that we could flush out bikes and people wanted 2019 motorcycles.

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  • You have had an extraordinary growth run of high double digit last few years. But over last few months, the growth in volumes have been sharply lower. Are the market concerns on growth justified? The stock has seen erosion last few months on the back of that. What would you like to tell your shareholders?

    The stock market has been extremely kind to us or supported us a lot over the last decade and this is what happens. When there is one negative, then you extrapolate 10 years to the negative. When there were a few positive signals, then you extrapolated 10 years to the positive. That is generally the trend. But I take all of this with a pinch of salt. We keep things very real. It would have been very easy. Everyone is reacting terribly to our December numbers where we are down 13%. Fair enough! I can understand why but it would have gone totally unnoticed if we just pushed 5,000-6,000 more motorcycles into the market. I think that is what all other companies do but we do not do that. That is not what we want to do. We want to keep it real. We want to make sure that inventories are right. They are not there to satisfy a couple of investors or media. But that is not how we operate because we are looking at this from extremely long-term perspective and a few blips here and there will only weed out people who are not perhaps very long-term investors. That is okay with me. I am a long-term investor and I hope all the others there are similar and they believe our story and our story is still intact. We are on the premiumisation trend. We are doing gorgeous things in India and in the world market. We have 850 plus stores. There is nothing like this in India.

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  • Now you can take more shots…

    Yes, on one hand, and on the other hand we keep bringing in ideas and thoughts from outside to just to revitalise this because maybe some of what I am doing or what we are doing in our company is very strong and maybe it is a bit staid, a bit old fashioned. So, we bring in a lot of new energy but yes I are at that point where Royal Enfield has had its big growth phase. We have put in all the pieces and we had the luxury of time in the first round. We had 10 years where we were under the radar, no one cared about Royal Enfield from 2000 to 2010 and then we started growing. What I want to do is make sure that we do not get too taken in by our daily pressures and Royal Enfield continues as an efficiency machinery for value creation. But that will mean new product, new markets, new ideas, new ways of working with consumers and new way of forming the communities. We put in a lot of energy into those and that is how we want to take things further.

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  • If you hit a jackpot in some of the developed markets which may turn half of what India has turned for you, that will be the big delta perhaps.

    Yes absolutely and I have been running this company for 18 years and now I finally feel like I totally get it because it takes time to get things and now I really feel that you are able to see when you are in the flow, when things are going on, how to manage certain things.

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  • If you hit a jackpot in some of the developed markets which may turn half of what India has turned for you, that will be the big delta perhaps.

    Yes absolutely and I have been running this company for 18 years and now I finally feel like I totally get it because it takes time to get things and now I really feel that you are able to see when you are in the flow, when things are going on, how to manage certain things.

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  • You had done about 40% plus in last 10 years. Now the base is bigger and a strategy is also evolving with new products. Last decade, you were only a domestic company. Now you are evolving into an international company. Do you think the runway of growth is open or would there be a meaningful downgrade before the next big leg of growth comes in?

    Honestly, if you were having this discussion in 2010 and you asked me about my future prospects, I am 100% sure I would not have said that over the next 10 years we will grow at 40% compounded. That was absolutely not expected. It is impossible for me or anyone to predict what will happen. I can only tell you what we are working up towards and these are the areas which will give us that delta. As far as we look at it, we have had this outstanding period of growth of 40% over the last eight-ten years and that certainly has started slowing down over the last few years because of various factors including maturity of markets. But still, the Royal Enfield is on the right end of the curve. We are on the premiumisation trend in India which is not going to abate. People who are riding cheap-end commuter motorcycles will want to go up to bigger and better motorcycles and that market is bound to grow. We believe that if we can pull off our story of the premiumisation trend through products, distribution, community and all the work that we are doing, we should certainly be growing at and targeting double the rate of growth of the Indian motorcycle industry. Now that may not happen every single year and that might be a bit more patchy or choppy than earlier, but if the industry is growing at 7%, we should grow at 14%. Because we are driving premiumisation, that is the kind of thing we would like to do over the next five-seven years. Growing at double the industry over a sustained period is no mean feat and the compounding rate will be absolutely fantastic because our base is very large now. The delta on top of that will be our international business which is still at early stages but we are seeing signs now because we have started working on distribution.

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  • And that is why perhaps BMW is trying to bring…

    But we come out on top. We come out on top of them. We come out on top of everybody from a context of lower mid-sized adventure tourers because the Himalayan has really hit the spot. And now we are seeing traction again. Again Himalayan was a shot in the dark for us in terms of the fact that there was no market for adventure tourers when we come in. But now, we are seeing a good traction for Himalayan.

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  • What is your broad vision for the next five-seven years? What is on the anvil? The UCE platform? What kind of upgrades or big message would you like to give to the shareholder community?

    Of course. On the one hand, from that perspective, the first thing which comes to everyone’s mind because we are a motorcycle company is motorcycles. I will answer that first. But we are not only about motorcycles. Royal Enfield extends way, way beyond just the sum of the motorcycles that we have. But from a motorcycling perspective let us just play it out. One is that we have these new platforms the Twins and in the Twins, we have the Interceptor, we have the GT. We will certainly have variance of these. We will certainly have other motorcycles on these platforms over the years like we do in our singles. This is just the start of them. Interceptor is a Roadster style motorcycle. This is one that is going to sell the most and this is going to sell in volumes. When you sit on it, you have the right stance, all of that. So this is the main offering from the Twins right now. It will evolve over the next many years. This will get into a BS-VI format. This is really a global motorcycle. We expect it to do excellently around the world but also do the extreme heavy lifting in India for upgraders, especially in more matured markets and that is the role for the Twins. After a rocky start, the BS-IV Himalayan is doing really well. You read the reviews. We had a review from one of the top magazines just a few days ago. The Himalayan was compared to a German one and a Japanese one. Himalayan comes out on top in a shootout of adventure tourers.

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  • What is your broad vision for the next five-seven years? What is on the anvil? The UCE platform? What kind of upgrades or big message would you like to give to the shareholder community?

    Of course. On the one hand, from that perspective, the first thing which comes to everyone’s mind because we are a motorcycle company is motorcycles. I will answer that first. But we are not only about motorcycles. Royal Enfield extends way, way beyond just the sum of the motorcycles that we have. But from a motorcycling perspective let us just play it out. One is that we have these new platforms the Twins and in the Twins, we have the Interceptor, we have the GT. We will certainly have variance of these. We will certainly have other motorcycles on these platforms over the years like we do in our singles. This is just the start of them.

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  • It will take decades for them to build all of that.

    So one is that. The other point is people just expect to come in and do something interesting but it takes perseverance and that is what we are there for. We have a single-minded focus. Other companies that you talk about always hedge their bets. They have 10 different things that they try and do. Hopefully, one will stick. But that is not our approach. Our approach is we do one thing. We do it superbly and we move people in and that has also been a testament to what the new generation of products of Royal Enfield are about. It is about things like the Interceptor and that is a totally different generation of product.

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  • Let us talk about the competitive landscape then because there is a company which has come up with another vintage kind of an offering. One of the cousins of Royal Enfield of last few decades has come back in the form of Jawa Motorcycles but I have seen some of the international companies put their products near Himalayan also. How are you analysing the competitive landscape in particular with these two?

    We take competition very seriously. We study, understand, ride, I have ridden pretty much every motorcycle out there, not in the very big motorcycle category but basically everything which is either a source of growth for us, which are smaller motorcycles or direct competitors. We understand the motorcycle, we understand the product, we understand the idea, their distribution, the business model, all of that. So we put a lot of attention there but our strategy is not determined by other people. Over the last 10 years, we have had an outstanding growth. We are the most profitable from a percentage perspective motorcycle, perhaps even automobile brand in the world. There will be competition and there will be guys saying I want a piece of that pie and that is what is happening and we have had competitors come in from all sides. We have competitors coming from the Indians, the Japanese, the Indo-Japanese, the Americans, Europeans, all of that. So there is competitors all over and we are competing with some of the biggest companies in the world. And, of course, everyone comes in with a different angle. So there are some who try and copy you or ape you...more copycat type of chaps. Then there are some who try and take the market to a different space. That is what competition tries to do. As far as we are concerned, we have some strengths which are on a totally different level. Our distribution, our brand, our residual value, our understanding of consumer, our community all of those things are at a totally different level. Our aftermarket, all of that.

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  • Talk to us about how GT and Interceptor potentially could be international offerings for you. Outside India, people are used to bigger bikes. Biking means big bikes and do you think some of the international markets which you have already stepped into you, can do a India over the next five, eight years and give you the next leg of growth?

    That is absolutely the plan. We have been scouring the markets. We have been participating in international markets for a long time now, a bit more under the radar. I would break the global markets into two parts, just for our convenience; one is developed countries US, UK, Europe, Japan, Australia where there is culture of big motorcycles. But the market is small. The overall motorcycle market is not in millions per year, it is in the tens and hundreds or thousands per year And that is where we already have a decent distribution, a brand recall and all that. What is happening is that these motorcycles fit in perfectly. The reviews in markets around the world in developed countries have been absolutely fantastic because we have just hit the spot in the right manner at the right time with these modern Classic motorcycles. We expect really good growth there but developed countries are not going to be the next India. I do not mind if they are but I do not think they will be the next India. The next India is going to come from markets like Southeast Asia, Latin America, and we have put up a store in some of these markets with the product available at the right price, the price which would be there if it were selling it at CKD. In southeast Asia, we have now zeroed in on Thailand as our nodal market because that is where we expect that the upgraders will come from because there also the middle, big bike market is vastly underserved.

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  • Your Classic 350 still gets more than 50% of your overall volumes. You seem to have rejigged that?

    In markets like Kerala, the Interceptor, the GT and the Himalayan play a much larger role than they maybe in UP. For example, we have a huge population of people over the last eight, 10 years. We have got 3.5 million people riding Royal Enfield motorcycles in India and if you take Kerala, that has got a disproportionate share. These guys who have been riding Royal Enfield for so long, have been asking us for more. They want to upgrade. So the same way that we were able to tap the 100-150-200cc market over the last decade, we are now going to tap our guys who want an upgrade and there is a lot of them out there in Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. There are a lot these guys who have been riding Royal Enfield.

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  • Your Classic 350 still gets more than 50% of your overall volumes. You seem to have rejigged that?

    In markets like Kerala, the Interceptor, the GT and the Himalayan play a much larger role than they maybe in UP. For example, we have a huge population of people over the last eight, 10 years. We have got 3.5 million people riding Royal Enfield motorcycles in India and if you take Kerala, that has got a disproportionate share. These guys who have been riding Royal Enfield for so long, have been asking us for more. They want to upgrade. So the same way that we were able to tap the 100-150-200cc market over the last decade, we are now going to tap our guys who want an upgrade and there is a lot of them out there in Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. There are a lot these guys who have been riding Royal Enfield.

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  • Let us talk about breakdown of India market. Kerala is a highly penetrated market. How are trends over there? Even Maharashtra and Karnataka were highly penetrated. But you are still scratching the surface in large markets like UP. How are you analysing your big, maturing markets? Which are the ones showing opportunity in terms of breakthrough?

    Mature markets are exemplified by Kerala where we are the biggest motorcycle brand -- ahead of all the Indo-Japanese style motorcycles -- with around 30 plus percent share. There, every third motorcycle which is sold is a Royal Enfield. It is like your Apple phone. People aspire to it. People are able to access it. The income levels are higher there. The distribution is cracking there. The residual value, the resale price of a Royal Enfield is extremely good. So, it is a very liquid asset when you are buying Royal Enfield in Kerala. It is a positive sign. In a market like Kerala, it is not about brand recognition. When I say Kerala, I mean I am now extrapolating about south or maybe the more of developed markets including even Punjab and a few other southern markets and a few cities like Delhi, Bombay etc, all of which are very mature markets for us. In these markets what is very important now is the work that we are doing on the development front of rides and community. That that is what people are really interested in and engaging in and the other is new products. A classic 350 has now nearly become the new normal.

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  • There was talk of inventory build up at select dealerships which has never been the case before. Folklore has it that Enfield always have had 8-9 months of waiting period. But that seem to have come down.

    Of course 8-9 months is gone long ago and it has come down to 3-4 months now. In some models, the waiting period is 15-20 days. Some models are available off the shelf. Inventory is at extremely normal levels and in fact much less than any other two-wheelers. But we do have inventory now. So there is no pile-up of inventory. But we have some inventory which is also good. Earlier, everyone used to shout and scream shadi season is coming! People want bikes immediately. We used to miss out on those opportunities. Now we should be able to catch some of those but there are other issues which come under focus.

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  • Let us analyse the factors which have come together and been responsible for this -- the tech upgrades, the ABS related issues, the Chennai plant strike, the insurance cost which has ownership pattern and of course maturing of some of the markets along with the Kerala floods. How have all these factors impacted? Clubbed together, they appear big.

    It is not in our nature to justify and make excuses because that is not the point of all of this. Sure there have been lot of individual things but they have always been there. Earlier, what happened was that we had a huge order book which could buffer any individual problem. Five years ago, there was a problem like Kerala floods. But, then we had an order book in other markets which could take care of that. Sure there have been individual areas like certain markets have matured. But honestly, for me the real thing which has happened has taken some time and it will some more time for the market to react to the new normal which includes increased price of motorcycles, increased costs because of insurance and other factors like the anti-lock breaking system (ABS) etc. What has happened is that normally 3% to 5% cost increase every year can be easily passed on. Customers really do not mind. It is part of inflation which happens with everything. But it is tough to pass on 15% increase. We have also learnt from that process that maybe we should have broken it up in more steps, but now we are here. So really it was a bit of that which is a bit more abnormal because otherwise, individual market issues will always happen. In UP something happens, here something happens, election plus/minus who knows! But those are things that normally we just weather. But it is only the price issue that has affected us a bit. But now we are getting back on track. In December, we had flushed as many 2018 bikes as possible. Of course, there are a few left in the market but the idea was to lower inventory so that we could flush out bikes and people wanted 2019 motorcycles.

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  • You are right. And sometimes I would say that the stock market becomes a little harsh towards a company. The question is whether you are still on a growth trajectory with a growing base or not. How would you like to say that the trajectory is intact?

    The stock markets have been extremely kind to us or supported us a lot over the last decade and this is what happens. When there is one negative, then you extrapolate 10 years to the negative. When there were a few positive signals, then you extrapolated 10 years to the positive. That is generally the trend. But I take all of this with a pinch of salt. We keep things very real. It would have been very easy. Everyone is reacting terribly to our December numbers where we are down 13%. Fair enough! I can understand why but it would have gone totally unnoticed if we just pushed 5,000-6,000 more motorcycles into the market. I think that is what all other companies do but we do not do that. That is not what we want to do. We want to keep it real. We want to make sure that inventories are right. They are not there to satisfy a couple of investors or media. But that is not how we operate because we are looking at this from extremely long-term perspective and a few blips here and there will only weed out people who are not perhaps very long-term investors. That is okay with me. I am a long-term investor and I hope all the others there are similar and they believe our story and our story is still intact. We are on the premiumisation trend. We are doing gorgeous things in India and in the world market. We have 850 plus stores. There is nothing like this in India.

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  • We have seen a period of extraordinary growth for Eicher Motors and over two decades, from one big bulky looking bike, Royal Enfield has transformed into sophisticated machines with tech upgrades and sleek designs. But the company seems to have hit rough weather now and the market is concerned whether this period of extraordinary growth is coming to an end. How would you like to explain to your shareholders about the growth trajectory and the recent bit of slowdown in numbers?

    We have had a tremendous run, something which one could not have imagined 10 years ago. Compounded over the last eight-nine years, we have had 40% growth and that creates a strain as well. That is not easy to manage. It is very nice problem to have but it is still a problem to manage. It is like riding a tiger… It is, but it has been exceptional for us. At different points of time, we had to focus on different aspects of the business. The first part came in 2010, when we had done a lot of ground work on the product and distribution because that got us here. From 2010 onwards, when real growth started, we had to focus on our manufacturing and supplier base and by 2015 that was totally transformed. It was at a totally different level. In that time, we put up a very strong distribution base and a very strong foundation for Royal Enfield and made the jump from 50,000 to 800,000 plus. In every journey like this, there are always a few ups and downs. After eight years of stupendous and nearly exponential growth, sure we have had a bit of let us say clouds and hiccups, but that is normal. A month here, three months there. Now we are becoming a normal company again. Earlier, we used to be quite abnormal in the sense the market was up, market was down, it did not affect us, we kept going up. So, really this is a point where perhaps you could say when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

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  • How do you see the Indian economy, and what are your views on the economic growth?

    I am totally unfazed, and we feel that the Indian economy is only going to go up from here. There will surely be ups and downs, but in the long term, we are only going to see the Indian economy getting stronger.

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  • Do you think that while new players such as Volvo-Eicher and Daimler’s BharatBenz have been quick to modernise the heavy trucks space, the older players have been slow?

    We have placed our bets in modernising the CV industry and are trying to move the market up in sophistication, technology and safety. But the incumbents are trying to keep the market down. For example, they want to continue the wooden cabins, which don’t meet crash norms. They are resisting efforts at rapid modernisation. They don’t want the market to move where we guys have an upper hand.

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  • But Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland are the leaders in heavy-vehicles category, with not much of a challenge because of their long-standing in the segment?

    As we tackle this category, we are very much guided by the manner of our success in motorcycles. We have the right technology, competitive products, and we are in no rush. We also feel that due to duopoly in the heavy vehicles space, service levels are weak and there is huge complacency amongst the incumbents. Their customers are running after the dealers for service, and the customers feel trapped. Their customers want better options, and technologically-sophisticated products with far-more efficient services. There is surely space for innovations.

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  • While motorcycles have been a strong pillar in your business, how are your commercial vehicles operations shaping up?

    We have enjoyed a fantastic partnership with Volvo, and have been able to grow our market share in lightand medium-duty trucks from 23% to 32% over the past decade. In buses, we have grown from 6% to 17%. It’s only in heavy-duty trucks where we have managed to grow our share by only 2-3% and currently have 5%. But it has been a learning curve for us here, and we are now at the cusp of something big as BS6 comes in and vehicles get more sophisticated and technologydriven.

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  • Will the workers’ strike at Royal Enfield plant in Tamil Nadu impact financials?

    It has certainly impacted production. The strike is not fully sorted out, but the good news is that production has begun but it’s not at full tilt.

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  • How do you ensure that the domestic momentum continues even as you look at overseas markets?

    We are very quick to react to the market. The India opportunity is still huge. The premium segment has been growing faster than the basic segment and it will grow faster. It will grow for a long time to come. You’ve seen that in the car segment, we’ve seen that in pretty much all consumer segments. So, we’re on top of that premiumisation trend. There are markets where we have a 33% market share, like Kerala, and there are markets where we have a 3-4% market share. In UP, you can see in bigger cities we have a 6-8% market share and that premiumisation does happen everywhere. I don’t know why everybody gets fazed about two months or three months here or there. So, our ambition is always to continue as we’ve done for the last eight years plus to continue to grow well ahead of the market. We are still around 6% of the motorcycle market. We’ve grown in the last eight years, we will continue to grow for at least another decade.

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  • Any regrets that you have not gone for brands such as the Yezdi, Jawa and Triumph which were up for grabs and now have new owners?

    Absolutely not, because I think it’s a testament to how well we’re doing that people are now suddenly sort of trying to revive old heritage brands. All the best for whoever is doing all that. But for us, it’s not a lost opportunity. Because we are a focused company… Our ambition is not to make five brands to cover our flanks. Our plan is to make this one brand as a global brand and it’s not easy. This is the plan for the next decade to make a global brand. There is no global consumer brand out of India that I know of and this is the one that can be it.

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  • Is the segment where Royal Enfield had a field run for a decade slowing down?

    Yes. There is a lot on the plate. We saw a nearly flawless run for eight years and there’s bound to be some things that catch up. Some way I look at it is that we have some slight short-term clouds but really, absolutely nothing that fazes me in the medium and long term. We saw demand for certain products. In Kerala, where we enjoy a 33% market share, in the last few months, (Royal Enfield) has performed way below its potential. Whenever we had a problem in the past, other markets used to make up for it. It always evens itself out. We have faced these issues during the last eight years — when one market is down, then another market will perform. It would never show up in the monthly numbers because we always had more demand. Now it starts showing up a little bit because of certain issues or mismatches. It’s normal for a business to have some ups and downs. We always look at it from a long-term perspective. We keep making improvements. Of course, there are some, let’s say small clouds, which we are tackling. But, nothing that is insurmountable. US President Donald Trump has been championingthe cause of Harley-Davidson and putting pressure on the Indian government to lower import tariffs. Harley is also planning to make smaller bikes, which will compete with Royal Enfield… Those are complex scenarios which are trade situations. I can’t even get to the head or tail of it. It’s never one product for the other product, it’s typically the whole WTO system, depending on the home markets and depending on other markets. It is difficult to comment but at Royal Enfield, we are extremely well prepared for any competition and for any eventuality from a tariff perspective. It doesn’t faze us at all.

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  • Will the workers’ strike at Royal Enfield plant in Tamil Nadu impact financials?

    It has certainly impacted production. The strike is not fully sorted out, but the good news is that production has begun but it’s not at full tilt.

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  • How do you ensure that the domestic momentum continues even as you look at overseas markets?

    We are very quick to react to the market. The India opportunity is still huge. The premium segment has been growing faster than the basic segment and it will grow faster. It will grow for a long time to come. You’ve seen that in the car segment, we’ve seen that in pretty much all consumer segments. So, we’re on top of that premiumisation trend. There are markets where we have a 33% market share, like Kerala, and there are markets where we have a 3-4% market share. In UP, you can see in bigger cities we have a 6-8% market share and that premiumisation does happen everywhere. I don’t know why everybody gets fazed about two months or three months here or there. So, our ambition is always to continue as we’ve done for the last eight years plus to continue to grow well ahead of the market. We are still around 6% of the motorcycle market. We’ve grown in the last eight years, we will continue to grow for at least another decade.

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  • Any regrets that you have not gone for brands such as the Yezdi, Jawa and Triumph which were up for grabs and now have new owners?

    Absolutely not, because I think it’s a testament to how well we’re doing that people are now suddenly sort of trying to revive old heritage brands. All the best for whoever is doing all that. But for us, it’s not a lost opportunity. Because we are a focused company… Our ambition is not to make five brands to cover our flanks. Our plan is to make this one brand as a global brand and it’s not easy. This is the plan for the next decade to make a global brand. There is no global consumer brand out of India that I know of and this is the one that can be it.

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  • Is the segment where Royal Enfield had a field run for a decade slowing down?

    Yes. There is a lot on the plate. We saw a nearly flawless run for eight years and there’s bound to be some things that catch up. Some way I look at it is that we have some slight short-term clouds but really, absolutely nothing that fazes me in the medium and long term. We saw demand for certain products. In Kerala, where we enjoy a 33% market share, in the last few months, (Royal Enfield) has performed way below its potential. Whenever we had a problem in the past, other markets used to make up for it. It always evens itself out. We have faced these issues during the last eight years — when one market is down, then another market will perform. It would never show up in the monthly numbers because we always had more demand. Now it starts showing up a little bit because of certain issues or mismatches. It’s normal for a business to have some ups and downs. We always look at it from a long-term perspective. We keep making improvements. Of course, there are some, let’s say small clouds, which we are tackling. But, nothing that is insurmountable.US President Donald Trump has been championing the cause of Harley-Davidson and putting pressure on the Indian government to lower import tariffs. Harley is also planning to make smaller bikes, which will compete with Royal Enfield… Those are complex scenarios which are trade situations. I can’t even get to the head or tail of it. It’s never one product for the other product, it’s typically the whole WTO system, depending on the home markets and depending on other markets. It is difficult to comment but at Royal Enfield, we are extremely well prepared for any competition and for any eventuality from a tariff perspective. It doesn’t faze us at all.

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  • How do you see demand for your products now?

    We are still a discretionary product and our buyers are an upgrading audience. I know Royal Enfield is expensive and may be higher on maintenance. But, it is a step-up. Our intention is not to be a niche player, but we want to be a leader in our category. Our bottomline is perhaps the best in the world at around 24%. So, any new products we plan for the future cannot be of sub-scale size. Download

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  • Do you feel you were lucky as your turnaround came at a time when the Indian economy started looking up and people didn't mind spending more on aspirational bikes. Did you benefit due to entry of brands like Harley Davidson and Triumph as you could provide a cheaper option to their products?

    I would say it was 50% luck and the rest half was due to our planning. Luck does not come on its own. You have to be prepared. We worked on distribution, our brand, product quality, new models and the after-market. Had we not done this, we would have been neglected just like some of the other automotive brands in India. So, we were working towards this and most of it came together in 2010, by when we had also brought in highly-efficient Unit Construction Engine against the cast-iron ones, which were like a 50s technology.

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  • What sparked the turnaround?

    I realised that if it is not working, we have to change fundamentals. We made many changes and management overhauls. I decided to shed most of non-core businesses of group. We were in 15 different businesses, including footwear and garments. I decided to retain Royal Enfield and trucks. Instead of running 15 mediocre businesses, I decided to stick to one core business

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  • Was there any time when you thought about quitting the motorcycle business and moving on?

    There was a time when others were growing, and we were stagnant. It was the period between the 80s to somewhere around 2005. Our group had too many businesses, and many of them were troublesome. Royal Enfield was not seen as the core, and was rather suffering tremendously as we had over-invested in production capacity, which remained unutilized. We tried everything, but it was still not growing. But, we didn't give up.

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  • Royal Enfield has been riding high at a time when the broader motorcycle market is going through a sobering mode. How do you see this year?

    It has been a year of real high growth for us and we expect to close 2014 on sales of 3 lakh units. This is quite a step-up, considering we were only doing about 50,000 units in 2010.

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  • What would success for Royal Enfield look like?

    This! Success is a journey, and we are already more successful than I could have ever dreamed. However, now that we are here, we have opened many doors and ideas. The next 10 to 20 years is about making Royal Enfield a truly global brand, available and loved around the world. The brand that revived middleweight motorcycles and brings joy to people who enjoy timeless classic machines and experiences in the modern context.

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  • Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, Enfield was a competitive brand in several race series. Do you ever see Royal Enfield entering competition again?

    I could see a same-make series for the new Continental GT 650 Twin, but I can’t see MotoGP.

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  • How have family ties played a role in your leadership of Enfield?

    My father purchased Royal Enfield for Eicher Motors and had the vision for what Royal Enfield should become. He also put into place an amazing people-based culture at the company, which is the backbone of everything that we do. My mum runs her own business, and I learned from her how to follow your instinct and to think 50 years out.

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  • Did you ever think the brand couldn’t be salvaged?

    I was young and naive, and fortunately, I didn’t question my abilities. I always believed that the brand had enormous potential, and we took the evolution of the brand a step at a time.

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  • Tell us about reviving Royal Enfield?

    When I took over as CEO in 2001, some of the most valuable things that I had at RE were a strong employee culture at the company, a small but loyal customer base, money from the parent company, and most importantly, time. Building on that, we took 10 years to put together a strong foundation at RE—getting riding and the customer’s voice to guide the company, improving or changing suppliers, investing in better training and equipment at our factory, and nurturing our dealer network, since that is the face of the brand to all our customers. Simple stuff, done well, with no time pressure.

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  • Global aspirations of the company?

    We have been working on our global strategy for three to four years. We are putting ourselves in a position of understanding our capability so that we can truly in the next decade or so become the first global consumer brand or premium consumer brand to come out of India. Global to me does not mean a few markets. It means looking at developed as well as developing countries.

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  • How the company is dealing with downturns

    People say the market has shrunk, so we should reduce capacity. I am like, why is that? Because R&D and capacity expansion are for three years, five years from now. Downturns will be there, but there will be an upturn again later, so why would you stop doing R&D? I never understood that. But now I understand why people do it because they need to conserve cash in the short term. But that is like shooting yourself in the foot. You can conserve cash now, but you can’t see the negative effect of less R&D today. You will see it years from now.

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  • Will we see a Himalayan 650 as well?

    I’d love one, but, no, not right now – not in the near future.

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  • There are a lot of new players coming into the Indian market to challenge you. What next from Royal Enfield?

    What next is to demonstrate the absolute strength that we have in our product development. Our engineering is absolutely superlative, at par with anyone in the world. So, what you’re going to see is bikes like this – the Interceptor. This was our first motorcycle with our all new product development process, and it’s taken us a long time. It takes four years to make a ground-up new product. Over time, at best, it’ll become 3.5 years – but it does take that long. And we’re not going to cut short that process. We’re going to do the millions of kilometres that we need to do in testing and validation to get the product to be absolutely perfect, and all our new models are going to follow the same path. And, in fact, we’ll continue to improve the process. So, it’s a totally new world of motorcycles that you’re going to see from Royal Enfield.

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  • Over the past few years, you’ve got a new production facility on stream, a technology centre in UK, and the rollout of these models worldwide. How challenging has all that been?

    If you look at the past, at every point in the last fifteen years, there’s been a different bottleneck. For example, in 2010, we hit a ramp, and then the bottleneck was manufacturing – we weren’t able to make enough. So, for the next five years, we worked on our supply chain and we opened up our first modern plant in Oragadam. And now we really know how to make motorcycles. It’s taken us time and effort, but we’ve got it underway. Then, and I’m talking about 6-8 years ago, when we foresaw that the gap was going to be in our new product line-up, we opened up our technology centre. Today, we have a UK technology centre with 150 engineers, and our Chennai tech centre has just opened up, and it’s absolutely fabulous – and these are the kinds of products that are coming out of there. So, now we believe that we really know how to make new products. It’s exciting, that’s what we live for and that’s what we enjoy – all the different aspects of a motorcycle company.

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  • What people love about this bike is that it goes to the heart of pure motorcycling. Was that the intent?

    We really tried to be extremely focussed with this motorcycle – so, excel at the essentials and cut out everything else! Just make sure that what we do, we do really well – that’s also part of the reason why the rolling chassis of the Continental GT and the Interceptor are exactly the same, because every single change means a lot more time, attention and energy. So, everything is the same – the tyres are the same, and so is the suspension. The end result is that we’ve been able to make something tremendous, but also something quite accessible. So, yes, that was the idea.

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  • In India as well, but also in mature markets like the UK, you’re getting rave reviews. Did you expect that going in?

    It’s all to a plan. This new platform was made with an idea that it’ll be Royal Enfield’s first proper big global motorcycle. The specifications, if you look at it, are at the higher end of Indian specifications, but also at the threshold level of European specifications. It’s extremely highway worthy. You can go 80 miles an hour at part throttle, and you’ve still got a lot more to spare. In the UK already, we’re the number two naked bike in the mid-weight category, which is brilliant, and we’ve got awards there and people are loving it. We’ve already crossed some very big models of other European or American brands. So, we’re doing well.

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  • But, are you surprised at the response you’ve got?

    I’m absolutely delighted, but I can’t say I’m surprised because the Interceptor is truly a very special bike. We’ve put our heart, soul and energies for half-a-decade behind this, and it’s come out exactly as we wanted it. So, we’re delighted about it, for sure.

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  • Sid, you must be fed up of receiving awards for the Interceptor?

    Never, never (laughs). That can never happen!

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  • What is the next idea that you're looking at?

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  • What are your thoughts on taking on the big players in the US market?

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  • Who inspired you to develop the marketing and brand differentiation strategy for Royal Enfield?

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  • What are you passionate about other than bike ridding?

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  • How did you get the idea of The Himalayan from?

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  • Which has been the most adventurous bike ride so far?

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  • How did your journey at Royal Enfield start?

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  • What is Eicher's resolution for the new year?

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  • What are your plans for South-East Asia expansion plans?

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  • Will Eicher make a bid again for Ducati?

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  • Can you tell us about the Royal Enfield's 1,000 - points checklist?

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  • What will be Royal Enfield's newer offerings?

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  • What are your thoughts on 'modern' in classic?

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  • What are your thoughts on replacing classic 350

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  • Do you worry about the share price during auto industry slowdown?

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  • What are you doing to catalyse the market after the slowdown in auto sales?

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  • Do you see petrol, diesel going out and electric vehicles being the vogue anytime soon?

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  • Where will Royal Enfield be 10 years from now?

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  • Do you believe that the sales going down in the auto sector a temporary phenomenon?

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  • What is the key feature you focus on in The 650 Twins?

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  • How has the response been for Royal Enfield globally?

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  • If you were to choose between the Inceptor and Continental, which one would you choose?

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  • How important are The 650 Twins going to be for Royal Enfield?

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  • What is the difference between the Continental and Inceptor?

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  • Did you create a new market by launching The 650 Twins?

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  • What's the USP of Inceptor 650?

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  • What is your broad vision for the next 5-7 years?

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  • What would you say about Jawa threat?

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  • How good can GT and Interceptor both do good in terms of international offerings?

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  • Which markets in India are showing opportunity or breakthrough for Eicher?

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  • What do you have to say about the waiting period going down for Royal Enfield?

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  • What is Eicher's gameplan for the markets that are maturing in India?

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  • What would be Eicher's message to shareholders?

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  • Tell us about your growth trajectory?

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  • What are you're planning on the commercial vehicle side?

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  • What are your expectation for 2020 in terms of revenue growth and margin?

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  • What is the plan for Royal Enfield as far as BS VI is concerned?

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  • What is the plan on electric mobility for Royal Enfield?

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  • Are you looking forward to any acquisition?

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  • Are you expecting roaring sales in FY20?

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  • Do you believe you're going to play in 500cc above category?

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  • Do you believe you may have gone too far with 650cc while other global players are looking at 350cc and 450cc in terms?

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  • Where are your next million customers going to come from a market like India?

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  • Is there going to be a product-led strategy or geographic distribution for India and the rest of the world?

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  • Are you going to ignore the domestic market to create a global presence for Royal Enfield?

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  • What is the aspiration realistically pertaining to your exports?

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  • What is the future for Royal Enfield?

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  • What's next for Royal Enfield as new folks are trying to tap this market?

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  • What do you think about India as a market for motor-cycles?

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  • How challenging have the last few years been for you?

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  • The interceptor 650 goes to the heart of pure motor-cycling, was that the intent?

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  • Did you expect to get great reviews from the UK for Interceptor 650?

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  • Were you surprised to receive award for Interceptor 650?

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  • What would success for Royal Enfield look like?

    This! Success is a journey, and we are already more successful than I could have ever dreamed. However, now that we are here, we have opened many doors and ideas. The next 10 to 20 years is about making Royal Enfield a truly global brand, available and loved around the world. The brand that revived middleweight motorcycles and brings joy to people who enjoy timeless classic machines and experiences in the modern context.

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  • Do you ever see Royal Enfield entering competition again?

    I could see a same-make series for the new Continental GT 650 Twin, but I can’t see MotoGP.

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  • How have family ties played a role in your leadership of Enfield?

    My father purchased Royal Enfield for Eicher Motors and had the vision for what Royal Enfield should become. He also put into place an amazing people-based culture at the company, which is the backbone of everything that we do. My mum runs her own business, and I learned from her how to follow your instinct and to think 50 years out.

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  • Did you ever think the brand Royal Enfield couldn’t be salvaged?

    I was young and naive, and fortunately, I didn’t question my abilities. I always believed that the brand had enormous potential, and we took the evolution of the brand a step at a time.

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  • Tell us about reviving Royal Enfield?

    When I took over as CEO in 2001, some of the most valuable things that I had at RE were a strong employee culture at the company, a small but loyal customer base, money from the parent company, and most importantly, time. Building on that, we took 10 years to put together a strong foundation at RE—getting riding and the customer’s voice to guide the company, improving or changing suppliers, investing in better training and equipment at our factory, and nurturing our dealer network, since that is the face of the brand to all our customers. Simple stuff, done well, with no time pressure.

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  • How do you ensure that the domestic momentum continues even as you look at overseas markets?

    We are very quick to react to the market. The India opportunity is still huge. The premium segment has been growing faster than the basic segment and it will grow faster. It will grow for a long time to come. You’ve seen that in the car segment, we’ve seen that in pretty much all consumer segments. So, we’re on top of that premiumisation trend. There are markets where we have a 33% market share, like Kerala, and there are markets where we have a 3-4% market share. In UP, you can see in bigger cities we have a 6-8% market share and that premiumisation does happen everywhere. I don’t know why everybody gets fazed about two months or three months here or there. So, our ambition is always to continue as we’ve done for the last eight years plus to continue to grow well ahead of the market. We are still around 6% of the motorcycle market. We’ve grown in the last eight years, we will continue to grow for at least another decade.

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  • ny regrets that you have not gone for brands such as the Yezdi, Jawa and Triumph which were up for grabs and now have new owners?

    Absolutely not, because I think it’s a testament to how well we’re doing that people are now suddenly sort of trying to revive old heritage brands. All the best for whoever is doing all that. But for us, it’s not a lost opportunity. Because we are a focused company… Our ambition is not to make five brands to cover our flanks. Our plan is to make this one brand as a global brand and it’s not easy. This is the plan for the next decade to make a global brand. There is no global consumer brand out of India that I know of and this is the one that can be it.

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  • Is the segment where Royal Enfield had a field run for a decade slowing down?

    Yes. There is a lot on the plate. We saw a nearly flawless run for eight years and there’s bound to be some things that catch up. Some way I look at it is that we have some slight short-term clouds but really, absolutely nothing that fazes me in the medium and long term. We saw demand for certain products. In Kerala, where we enjoy a 33% market share, in the last few months, (Royal Enfield) has performed way below its potential. Whenever we had a problem in the past, other markets used to make up for it. It always evens itself out. We have faced these issues during the last eight years — when one market is down, then another market will perform. It would never show up in the monthly numbers because we always had more demand. Now it starts showing up a little bit because of certain issues or mismatches. It’s normal for a business to have some ups and downs. We always look at it from a long-term perspective. We keep making improvements. Of course, there are some, let’s say small clouds, which we are tackling. But, nothing that is insurmountable.US President Donald Trump has been championing the cause of Harley-Davidson and putting pressure on the Indian government to lower import tariffs. Harley is also planning to make smaller bikes, which will compete with Royal Enfield… Those are complex scenarios which are trade situations. I can’t even get to the head or tail of it. It’s never one product for the other product, it’s typically the whole WTO system, depending on the home markets and depending on other markets. It is difficult to comment but at Royal Enfield, we are extremely well prepared for any competition and for any eventuality from a tariff perspective. It doesn’t faze us at all.

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  • What's the direction for the company from here for India?

    The way we look at how the company has to evolve is that there are many areas where have to just to meet basic requirements that our consumer is looking for. And we believe we are either there or nearly there in most of those areas. On top of that we have to create areas of absolute excellence so, some viewpoints: Our distribution network today, I believe in India, is perhaps the best premium motorcycle distribution network in the country. Other networks, there are some which are much bigger than ours but they are you could say not very premium in nature so we have created a network which looks premium and now is more and more behaving premium. It's the type of training, the type of work, the type of HR culture that we are building amongst our dealer employees, the type of parts availability, the type of service culture... we are putting a lot of energy behind our retail environment. We have now 15 different regions in India and we are not very centrally controlled. We have a lot of freedom for our regional team members. This is not just a sales and service guy - there are rides community managers, there are people in marketing down there, there are activation people, there's HR, finance they can take decisions on warranty, service, on rides, on events, on local level activity... so they are building and forming communities. Till now our view of India, or at least mine, is that we are very city centric. But where Royal Enfield has gone down to is D-towns and E-towns. And in those places when people are aspiring to buy a Royal Enfield we have a community there. We have people there who understand them very well and that's very different from just an old-school sales and service network.

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  • Is Royal Enfield ready for BS-VI?

    We are fully prepared. Our new product introduction takes three-and-a-half to four years. We have been working on all our BS-VI products. And we think we have an amazing generation of new products that’s going to come out for BS-VI. In all of our testing, we’re already way below the BS-VI emission requirements. So, from a pure technical perspective, we are meeting all the emission requirements. But now, as always, it’s about testing, validation, supply chain. In this case, supply chain, because it’s not easy to convert our production of 70,000-80,000 motorcycles (a month) from BS-IV to BS-VI. It’s a huge supply chain. So that’s the work that’s going on now. And it’s not just the supply chain, it’s also distribution, our service network — everything needs to change, parts, all of that. But we’ll be absolutely ready before the March 2020 deadline.

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  • Would you be coming up with even bigger motorcycles?

    It took us a decade from 350-500cc to do this. Going bigger is certainly not ruled out, but we have no plans right now because we think that this (the two new motorcycles) has a lot of leg for us in the 650cc segment in India and markets around the world. We’d rather do less things and do them really well, like the Classic. Some other manufacturers have different strategies, but we don’t need a wide range of products to fulfil our ambitions. We need a couple of really nice products, like what the Classic was and what hopefully the Interceptor will be. That’s enough. Sure, there is a lot of pipeline, there are interesting things coming out. The concept KX which we showcased at EICMA (motorcycle show in Milan) is still a concept. We are gauging customer reaction and if we decide to put it in the market, it will be a bigger motorcycle than this, but we haven’t decided that as yet.

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  • Which launch is your biggest commercial success till now?

    Our biggest commercial success till now has been the Classic. Back then, we didn’t have this kind of response even though the market was much less evolved at that time. In my 20-odd years at the company, this is the best response we’ve ever had. People have appreciated it from all walks of motorcycling and different parts of the world. It’s not just that the product is nice, but it also fills a gap that honestly no one knew existed. they understand that the gap existed in the market. In India, people get that if we can sell a motorcycle of this quality and calibre at the price that we’re selling it at, we can create a market like we did with the Classic when there was no market for above 250cc motorcycles in India. People can see now that it can create a market for bigger bikes in India.

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  • How has the response been to your new twin-cylinder motorcycles?

    It has been absolutely exceptional. Better than what we hoped for, but not what we expected — let’s put it that way. From global media, Indian media, consumers, very few people don’t have amazing things to say, even if they are not into this style of motorcycles. They appreciate what we are doing, and they appreciate the finesse. Because, perhaps for all people, the term finesse is not what they use very closely with Royal Enfield. Fair enough. We are a bit old school. But, yes, this is the new Royal Enfield. We have been working hard to do things differently. In the future, it is going to only get better because we are going to keep learning and improving.

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  • Who were the like-minded people who stuck around with you to bring the brand to where it is today?

    It was honestly when Ravichandran (R.L. Ravichandran, former head of marketing at Bajaj Auto Ltd, who joined Royal Enfield as its chief executive) came in in 2005; and his understanding of the product market was stupendous; we were all novices in the business, but he brought in a level of expertise and insights. He was not a sales guy, he was a thought leader. Then, we had Sachin (Chawan, a former automotive journalist and the brain behind Royal Enfield’s ride-related events), who was just passionate about motorcycles. That’s the kind of people we brought in. We started the Himalayan Odyssey in 2003. We started Ridermania to build the idea of leisure motorcycle through actual motorcycling and not through advertisements, etc. We hated these ad agencies. Ten of them used to come and the first thing that they used to do was to show ads that they wanted to do for us. I used to say: “That looks terrible." And then they would come up with another set of ads. Then I met these two independent guys. I think we were their first account. They came only with strategy and they said: “We have been to your stores and they look like shit." And that’s your moment of truth. Right? So, they said, “Let us make sure that at least the store experience is nice." Whatever we do, it looks authentic and real. It was much more about strategy of differentiation and making the brand cool once again. Even in those days, it was seen as your chacha’s (uncle’s) bike. So, the idea was to make it relevant to the youth of the cities. It took me two years to realize what I don’t want is a traditional agency. So, this agency became Wieden+Kennedy and we have been working them for more than 10 years. We have many other such relationships formed over time, which nurtured the brand.

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  • Tell us about that famous boardroom talk when you put your foot down when the management wanted to shut Royal Enfield operations?

    It was not really putting my foot down. It was building up over time. I started riding in 1991 on this one red Bullet, which I had. In 1994, I spent time with our UK distributor in his premises. I spent three months with our Swiss distributor. So, I got quite involved in motorcycles. In 1996-97, I spent over a year in Chennai, working in different roles. So, I was not disassociated with Royal Enfield. That’s what interested me in studying engineering; before that, I studied economics at St. Stephen’s. Then I got really interested in engineering. After my under-graduation, I did a couple of years of degrees in the UK and, eventually, I got my M.Sc degree in engineering. When I came back to India, I did not even know if I wanted to join business at that point of time. But, in the back of my mind, if there is ever one thing that I would do in the group, then it would be Royal Enfield, because I was interested in bikes. So, when I was told by my dad... We had a long discussion about future and career. That’s when it sort of popped out and I said: you know, may be I would like to give it a shot. Perhaps, he was waiting for me to say that. I am a very difficult guy if somebody tells me to do something, I will never do it. On the other hand, if it comes from (within me) I will put my heart and soul behind (it). My parents are much smarter than I am. It came from me, but it was something which my father built up. He talked to the management and the board and they said: “Why not, we have nothing to lose!"

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  • How long will the CV growth story continue in India?

    The current growth in CV business in India is on cyclic recovery. We expect this to continue till next year and after BS-VI there will can be a dip.

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  • Which segment is going to drive business for you?

    In the long-term, we have always been and will always be strong in light and medium duty. If you look 5-20 years from now the heavy duty market is where the biggest action going to be. That’s where growth is coming, revenue share is high, profit share is high and the significant of the truck player is going to be heavy duty. The entire philosophy of the company is dedicated to the cause of getting a break through and getting success in heavy duty. Heavy duty is where we will be in future.

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  • How do you see the profitability for Eicher Motors going forward?

    Margins, I am not worried, because of two things, as Eicher is growing, our proportion of heavy duty is growing faster than light and medium duty. We make a lot more money on light and medium duty than that we make on heavy duty, therefore as a net outcome our margin is coming down but our margins on heavy duty is also improving. But the mix is as such that at the gross level our margin is under a bit pressure.

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  • How do you see your commercial vehicle business moving ahead?

    We are growing. We had only slight dip in our market share in light and medium duty. I think we had peak 34 per cent market share, we might be 32 per cent now but there are no fundamental issue. In heavy duty, we have around 4- 5 per cent market share. In India there has been, I would say, nearly a war in market share and that’s not been debated for a very long time. I feel, the main incumbents have been very threatened in terms of losing position in the market and they are throwing money to keep their share and we are playing a patient game. Our objective is not to match rupee for rupee in terms of discount because that’s only a downward spiral game. We are focused very hard on value selling, and convincing the customer why initial price is not that important as that is only around 25% of the total lifecycle cost. It’s a tough sell in a market where the discounting is very high. We are happy to take a bit of hit in market share because we don’t only look at market share but profitability is also very important.

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  • What would be your rightful place in Indian motorcycle space?

    Well, We never have that kind of ambition, so we are not chasing volume. I would say, number one in mid-size is our always ambition. Our current market share is about 6 per cent and our average realization per motorcycle is double than that of the market. So, our revenue share in India will about 12 per cent of industry. Now, our profit margins are also at least 1.5 times better than the industry or even more in motorcycles. Our profit share in the Indian market would around 18-20 per cent of the total. So, one out of Rs 5 profit earned in motorcycles space is Royal Enfield.

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  • Which are new international markets that you have under radar for immediate expansion?

    Traditionally, in the 1980s when we first started exporting Royal Enfield, we were exporting to Europe, UK and then US. We expect that our real big growth will come from the markets like Thailand, Indonesia, Colombia and Brazil. Where, there is a huge base of commuters and their per capita income is higher than India and their propensity to ride mid-size motorcycle is higher and roads are better. There are some market where to become big player we will have to do some type of local assembly. Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand are some markets where we will have to put up assembly plants. But not necessarily, we will put up our own plant, we can also do contract manufacturing. There are some people in Brazil who do contract manufacturing, we can tie-up with them. We are studying the possibility of local assembly in these markets.

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  • What is the dream ratio in terms of domestic and international market ?

    What I dream is in terms of relevance in a market, like if we enter Colombia, we must become leader in mid-size in Colombia and an important player in full motorcycle market, same with USA, Europe. So, over the year this 95 per cent from India will come sharply down.

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  • In terms of volume, how the future ratio between global and Indian market looks like for Royal Enfield?

    This will take a long time to change because India market is also growing. Currently, only 5 per cent of the revenue comes from outside India. But in the last two years international market has started growing faster than India. So, the mix of 95 will become 94 but it’s not going to 80 and 20 very soon.

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  • Are you trying to keep accessible pricing at the centre of your global strategy as we see the product that you announced for Europe is extremely competitive compared to other brands there ?

    Price is certainly not main aspect on which we expect to battle on for the future growth of Royal Enfield. Price is only a sub-text in the entire picture. But of course you need the right price to do what you aim to do but for us creating the right brand, product, experience and distribution that’s most important. The access is also very important, so if you want to become truly global brand we need to grow the market and market for mid-size segment globally is not so big. So, in order to grow the market, Royal Enfield mid-size motorcycles should be priced like mid-size and not heavy motorcycles. So, there is a step up from the commuter but there are also huge step down from the heavy weight motorcycles, this is where we have to position ourselves. Globally, heavy motorcycles cost around $10000 but our offering starts at $6000.

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  • How do you see, Eicher Motors growth story amidst increasing competition in both two-wheeler and commercial vehicle segments?

    When it comes to motorcycles, we are really at the second phase of our journey. The first phase was about many things and especially triggered by Classic 350 launch and then network expansion, product design and development. The last three- four years our objective was to become global brand with global product portfolio. So, we have been putting a lot of investment in markets, investing in people around the world, hiring people in US, Brazil etc. We have also set up a full development centre in the UK. We thought to become global motorcycle maker, so we need global talent too. Of course we have our base in India but we also have a very strong global team based out of UK and the next 10-15 years for Royal Enfield is to become a global brand with global footprint. Our root to getting there is by mid-size market and grow this market segment globally.

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  • Is the brand open to diverging from what you are in terms of identity?

    I think we want to extend our identity. I'll tell you how we've already done that. When I first joined Royal Enfield, nobody knew the brand, but everyone knew Bullet. We decided then that the Bullet (brand) is really strong. It's gorgeous and we love it, but we had to break the equation that Bullet was equal to Enfield was equal to Bullet. We said Bullet must retain all its character, but Enfield must go beyond Bullet. And that's the strategy we took. We introduced the Thunderbird, the Electra, and other motorcycles because we wanted Royal Enfield to be a broader spectrum. We always wanted to push Royal Enfield to a slightly broader plain and the Himalayan helped us do that. This was not a heritage-driven product for the first time in the history of Royal Enfield. So yes, I think it will evolve, but it will still stay within a certain realm of, let's say, a type of motorcycle which is still not extreme, one which is accessible and great for daily riding. We have two, three new platforms under development, but some of them will replace existing ones, for instance, when stricter emission norms come in.

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  • Royal Enfields have a certain flavour and have stuck to their heritage for over a century now. Is that identity enough on the world stage or do you have to reinvent yourself?

    I'm not sure I know the answer to that right now. Obviously, we have to keep evolving ourselves, but we have to keep some things constant as well. Again, the fact that we're restricting ourselves to middle-weights is self-imposed. This is the absolute belief right now, but it doesn't mean that it won't change. Of course, we will evolve, learn and understand the market. There are seismic shifts which are going to happen. Cities are bursting, mobility is changing, connectivity of vehicles and internet of things is happening, and electrification is on the anvil. We would be fools to just put our heads in the sand and say, "Look this is all that Royal Enfield is about". Royal Enfield, therefore, has to evolve what it's about – what we now call ‘keeping riding pure’. If that means an electric vehicle, we will, when the time comes. But for now, and the foreseeable future, for this brand and this style of vehicle, we do believe that it is this simple, pared-back, heritage-driven, accessible motorcycling that's missing in the world. This is the path that we're on right now. You are not going to see the likes of a supersport from us for the next five to seven years.

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  • What are the lessons from the project – the Himalayan adventure motorcycle?

    The first learning is to anticipate markets better. We developed the Himalayan for India, but markets like the UK, USA, and Europe all asked for it. We said it's a bit underpowered for you, but they still wanted it. Then we started to make Euro specs, which took time and effort. Therefore, on the new 650 twins, we've got the product in the highest spec that's required anywhere in the world and the same spec will be available in all markets. The other huge learning is in the product introduction and new product development processes. With the Himalayan, we were fine-tuning parts much later in the programme, but this time, the freeze on parts is much earlier in the process. The next learning is about the availability of products in the market, which is now going to take us a lot more time because we will do it in small steps. My job now as CEO is to make sure we do the right thing. Thus, even after production we still don't have to start delivery. This means if we produce 10,000 motorcycles but, for some reason, I'm not satisfied with them, I will make sure I will not deliver motorcycles until the problems are sorted out. Twenty years out, nobody is going to say, “Look, they delayed the 650 twins from April to May, or April to July, or even April to December.”

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  • How will the Tech Centre impact the existing model line-up and how long will it take?

    Now that we're working with the best in the world, we understand that every new product from every company in the world starts off at a much higher level of fault frequency than a stable product. At present, our most stable product – the Classic 350 – has very low fault frequencies. Faults like warranty failures, for example, are extremely low and are predominantly minor in nature. Our stable products, which constitute 95 percent of our portfolio, are doing well and we are seeing a drastic improvement in numbers. It's always the new products in any organisation that cause the bubbles and upheavals. Even there, we learned how to dramatically limit the extent of faults and their duration. That's the learning and a lot of it is from the early testing of fully tooled-up motorcycles. That's on the design side, and our testing protocol has gone up immensely as well.

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  • How do you strike the balance between the UK and home?

    What we're doing in India is building physical infrastructure and bringing together all our engineers who were housed in various buildings around Chennai. The balance between the UK and India already exists. The core team was always based out of India and all the products we've developed have come from India. Then, we hired a UK team and have been building it. As it happens, the global product heads sit in the UK but they all have teams back in India and are working seamlessly with them. The UK team can't do much independently because they rely tremendously on India for design, detail design, validation and all the long hours on the dynos that happen in India. There's a lot of back and forth, so we travel a lot between the two countries.

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  • How vital is the UK Technology Centre to Royal Enfield?

    It is very important with regard to getting what we want from the brand. The centre was not set up to create a halo around the brand. If it does, that's brilliant and we'd be delighted, but that's not the purpose. The purpose is that we make awesome motorcycles through this facility. We needed the competencies t we weren't getting in India. We do have superb capabilities in India but we don't have it all. There are very few people who understand the design and development of, let's say, a higher-powered (not high-powered, but higher-powered) motorcycle. That's not just in terms of the engine but things like chassis dynamics, design and sophistication and, to some extent, maybe even industrial design. So, it's really important.

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  • Where would you go to ride your bike?

    I have been very, very curious about Latin America since I visited Colombia. And I fell in love with that country and that would be one of my primary motivations. It will be a work trip.

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  • How does it feel to have become the world's most profitable company and many competitors gunning for you?

    Success has it upsides - we have a strong balance sheet, we do a lot of things we couldn't do earlier. It also has its pitfalls which is largely that you don't want to rock the boat too much. You don't want to lose what you have already got. And many years ago we had nothing to lose so we could play exactly as we wanted. Now we have something to protect but I believe that the way we are playing it that we have nothing to lose. That is how we are going for it. We are not looking at building more and more protection around this. We are building new ideas, going to new places and we have our own products which cannibalise our own and people get terrified of that and we don't get terrified of that. Of course, there is some protection that's necessary but that isn't product related. The way we are doing it is, I'd say, we are creating a wider network, of an ecosystem around our motorcycles. If you have a riding culture which our customers are getting accustomed to. If they build bonds together, their are tours, rentals, customisers who use our products to make other interesting stuff that creates and ecosystem. That's the way we are protecting all of this, not by holding tight and doing that.

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  • How does UKTC and Chennai work together?

    The UKTC physical infrastructure has been around for less than a year, but the people have now been around for three years. So the head of product strategy globally for RE sits here, the head of engine design, the head of chassis design, the head of program management of product strategy and industrial design... This is their home. They have teams here and back in India. But their boss, the CEO sits in Chennai as well. So he helps coordinate the entire Chennai efforts. So we basically see this facility as a... for twins - now we can say twins laughs finally. We see this more as a lead design and development center for twins and bigger motorcycles and the team here is taking the absolute lead in those and Chennai playing more of a support role. But think of Chennai as the lead for singles for examples. And some of the expertise and support is coming from here for that. There is a huge amount of interaction which happens. We allow people to really work in the way they want within our new product introduction process. But we insist that people travel a lot. So you'll see people from Chennai here all the time. You will see people from the UK Tech Centre in Chennai all the time, so there's a lot of collaboration. All our gate meetings - there are a hell lot of gate meetings. We have in the normal process eight gate meetings, but launch gates are separate which are another 4-5 gates. So everybody converges and huddles for gate meetings. Very rarely we do it on big video conferences, most often it's physical so you get to meet, go have a beer and we get to have a chat, get to ride and a lot of them are around motorcycles examples - prototypes or mules or other things and we get to ride those. We get to go here [Bruntingthorpe], we go in Spain, we get to go to the test track in Chennai. And that's always bonding when you ride together.

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  • What's next after the 650 Twins?

    As you can see the cues from the engine, it's pretty damn classic and old school, and that is the direction and cues coming along for the next five years. We do have a firm five year road map. Firm means there are still some changes that happen every now and then you know some new norms come in. There's a tentative plan beyond that as well. And they're all - I can tell you right now - middleweights - between 250-750. They're all relatively, I wouldn't say necessarily old-school but they're certainly not super-modern vehicles. Modern is the wrong word again. They're not extreme vehicles, let''s put it that way. They're all in the realm of what we are doing and just extending what Royal Enfield is one step at a time. So the same way at GT extended us one step out, the same way that Himalayan extended us one step out, the same way that 650 Twins will extend us another step out, so that's a single step outside of, let's say, our core of UCE 350s. And in that same way, you'll see one more step out, another step out now and then. Not some alien product sort of zooming in.

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  • Is India on the first wave of markets?

    Likely not. Because you know we want to serve markets which have a greater summer season. Markets like here in Europe and all that. So we will likely come to markets where there is a much more seasonal effect and serve those markets [first]. And India in any case there's no way of serving India till we ramp up our production to very high levels.

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  • What are your plans for the Indian market?

    We expect India to be the largest potential market for these motorcycles, even though there isn't any market for motorcycle such as these in India right now. But we expect to start delivering motorcycles after April. But that's still expectation and lot of things still have to go right [first]. And its only after that we will really be able to start servicing the Indian market. Because the requirements there are much more. Markets outside we can still deliver smaller numbers and that's okay but India you know we can't. We had the [Royal Enfield] dealers here [at the UK Tech Centre] a few days ago and they've said don't give only five dealers motorcycles. When you give these motorcycles, we want it nationwide otherwise people from our town are going to run to the big towns and buy motorcycles and it's going to create havoc everywhere. When we are ready, and totally ready, with a ramped up capability, when we can service the market... We don't want to enter and then slow down and then starve the market. So when we are ready which will be after April, then we will service India.

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  • What learnings have gone back home with after your first global motorcycle, global R&D?

    I would say that a lot of it has gone back to the older product line because this is the same team doing this product and the older products. The most stable product - not just at Royal Enfield, but of any company - is the running product. That, today is the 350 UCE. The type of fault frequency we get is absoutlely world class. The kind of failures we get are very minuscule and minor and the warranty issues we have... are nothing, no issues really. So we have taken back a lot of things. What we've been able to achieve with this engine, really, was to go from our singles which was largely I would say low-end performance to what this engine is, which is low- and mid-end performance. It's [the 650 twin] not still very high-end. You don't go beyond 7,500 revs and all that but it does give you very good performance up to around 7,000rpm. I think what we are going to take back is maybe - at the cost of a bit of character - is a bit more refinement on the engine. We still love our singles but we have learnt that a bit of balancing does help in long distance riding. For city riding, it's absolutely fine but if you're going for hours and hours, it could get tiring for some people. There is a lot more. I mean we've gone to four valves, to overhead cams - we've done that before as well but - interesting learnings for sure.

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  • Is there anything the hard decisions made you leave out of the new engine?

    No! We wanted it air-cooled, it's air-cooled. It was a tough sell because everyone figured that at this displacement, specially to meet Euro V and BS-VI, it must be water-cooled. But we believed it must not be water-cooled. And that we can achieve what we want to with an old-school air-cooled engine. I wouldn't say there are any of those level of compromises. Perhaps it's not the lightest engine. But we wanted it to look pretty as well takes a long look at the engine and we have done that. So maybe on the weight, its perhaps a couple of kilos more than I would have personally liked but nothing to regret really.

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  • You could literally create any motorcycle you want, versus us who can buy motorcycles we like. How does that feel?

    It's the same. It's exhilarating! But it's also a lot of pressure because you have to do it right. You have to do it right for the customers. You have to do it right for everybody, to make sure that no stone is unturned and its taken us a lot to get to that stage. I believe where we can say that we have really done what it takes and its painstaking. And then you get to the business side of that and that always pulls you down a bit you know. The motorcycle side is gorgeous and fun and then you have to take decisions. Cost decisions, conflicting requirements from different places and all those things come in but its still always exhilarating.

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  • What did you feel when you ride the first near-final prototype of 650cc twin-cylinder project?

    Laughs I don't look like a very emotional fellow but when I do ride bikes like this for the first time, it does touch me quite a bit. I just said to myself that I don't want to think about this too much. It's really nice and it's still three years away. It sounds too far away because we have started doing these very early in the process. So the 90 per cent tooled-up motorcycle was available nearly two years before now. That's so far. But now, you know, we have really taken a much more calculated, restricted and developmental approach to all of these things that are. Our development cycle is absolutely world class. Our validation cycle is absolutely world class. And a lot of standards have now been set up not just 10-20 per cent but some of them are three times more than what some of the other people are doing. We have really taken a different approach to developing this. And its taken time.

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  • What's the top speed on the new bike?

    I don't even have the top speed on me but I know that on the track they've done well over 100 miles an hour

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  • How did the 650cc twin-cylinder project begin?

    My understanding is that the first sketches and designs were made in January 2014. Obviously that means we had started thinking about it before that. But in fact, it started life as a 600cc twin. smiles But we weren't confident of meeting the ton. That's 160kmph or 100mph. So we eventually upgraded it to 650 and now it certainly crosses the ton.

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  • What are your production plans?

    For now we have not agreed to Vallam Phase 2 (expansion). We have three new modules right now, which will get us to 75-80k (production) a month. We are good for now. What we are now going through is our planning for 2019-2020. If we want to start something, we have to decide in the next three months. Good news is that phase 1takes longer, but phase 2 is much quicker. We may do it in 12 months.

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  • What are your views on Quality still being questioned?

    We are 100% focused on improving quality. Of course, we had early issues and failures on the Himalayan. Every single problem is being directly addressed with the customers. The new BS-IV product is absolutely fine, there are zero issues now. These have all been learning curves. I can say with confidence that we are on the improvement path.

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  • What are your views on M&A?

    M&A gets a lot of people excited, a lot of people talk about it. Never say never. But right now I think it is really not for us. We now have cash, a bit of standing in the market, investment bankers coming to us every now and then with an interesting opportunity. Honestly, we say no to 99% of the opportunity that comes to us. There will be 1in 100 opportunities to which we will say, ‘let’s have one more level of thinking about it.’ Actually, our hurdle rates are very high, our default answer is no. We don’t need any M&A from a strategic perspective. At best, it is opportunistic.

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  • Why is buying big bikes a new phase?

    We have come a very long way. What was a very small knit organisation to still a very cohesive and tight organisation, but with a lot more capability and processes. From selling 2,000 units a month, you can’t have the same approach to 70,000 units. Everything has changed, yet some fundamental beliefs and what we are working on together still remains intact. It is an absolutely new phase, now we have the capital, we are investing in the technical centre, we obviously have a new manufacturing (plant). What you see is some numbers around manufacturing; the depth of machinery, it is world class. We are now confident, that we can design, we can make good stuff, we can service them, we can do all of that.

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  • What is the importance of big bikes?

    These are really flashy milestones on what is a boring long-term strategy. We have been working on the idea of twin-cylinder bikes for the last five years. When we know it is a right thing to do in a 15-year horizon, we work on it, but of course, occasions like these galvanise the entire organisation. It shows that Royal Enfield is progressing. These bikes will offer an upgrade option to over 2.5 million customers we have added in the last five years in India and, for the global market, it brings us into the mainstream of the consideration set for the buyers in the evolved markets. Our ambition is to be global and we are making serious strides to move in that direction.

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  • Are you working on a passenger vehicle with Polaris Industries Inc. (a company that makes off-road vehicles)?

    Our idea is to create a vehicle in the personal vehicle category. Unfortunately, we are not talking more about it as it is a brand new idea and concept and a new segment that we are trying to create. It’s a small personal vehicle. It will be something very interesting.

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  • Are the service-related complaints are still a sore point with Royal Enfield customers?

    For sure. It’s extremely high priority. There is a tremendous amount of work being done there. With the numbers of bikes growing rapidly, at some point, we hit a bottleneck in terms of service capacity. So you had to actually wait for some weeks to get your bikes serviced. This was around two years ago. But since then we have added a tremendous amount of service capacity. Now I believe that we are well over the hump as far as our service capacity is concerned.

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  • What potential do you see in the Indian market?

    Even the numbers we are doing right now was a pipedream earlier. I think what has happened is the Indian market has evolved tremendously. Earlier, it paid emotionally to be part of the pack. So, if you were a conformist, people looked at you with high regard because you are buying something that everyone else has. Now what has happened is that there is much more individualism. You have owned a 100cc bike and got bored of it and now you want to move up and here is something that is very evocative, very interesting. So, we certainly see another few years of great growth coming with the expansion and distribution that we are doing in India. We are adding 60-80 dealers a year. With new products coming in with new platforms, we expect there is a lot more room in India to grow.

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  • What’s the size of the mid-sized market globally?

    We are estimating 700,000 motorcycles globally. The overall global two-wheeler market is around over 50 million, but the mid- to large-size market is just shy of 2 million. We believe the mid-size motorcycle will be, perhaps, half of that. We are already a reasonable player. We are already 100,000-plus in a 700,000 market.

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  • What is your target?

    We want to be number 1 globally in mid-size motorcycles.

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  • What are your export plans?

    For us, the first most important thing was to become strong in India. We were not making much traction here. We figured out that if we can’t do justice here, then there is no way that we will excel outside. Now, we are on a good upswing and have done justice to the brand and we are on the right trajectory. So, with this trajectory, we can shift our minds to start thinking about international markets, which earlier was more an opportunistic play. We were quite happy with selling 300-500 units. But now we are thinking totally different and we believe there is enormous potential for mid-sized motorcycles globally. So, for developing markets which have a lot of commuter bikes, we believe an India-like effect can certainly happen as people want to upgrade and want something provocative. That’s where Royal Enfield comes in. We are creating business models around the world where we can replicate the success that we have had in India. On the other hand, in developed markets, which are now slow-growth, aging, urbanized markets, we see that from very high-powered motorcycles, people are moving to mid-sized bikes, which are more accessible, affordable and evocative. In emerging and developed markets, we believe that the world is converging towards mid-size motorcycles, and a market only develops when there are outstanding products in that space and we believe we can do that and draw people to that segment.

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  • Have there been changes in production processes over the past few years?

    There has been a world of change. From 15-20 years ago till now, nearly everything— how the bike is made—has changed. We have kept certain things intact. Firstly, earlier everything used to be done in-house, from frames to seats. That has changed tremendously and in multiple ways. On the one hand, we started working with big suppliers globally for certain aggregates and products so that we get the best support from our suppliers and they bring the technology and mass production techniques, which they already know of. On the other hand, what we did was we transformed our manufacturing insights. On the sourcing side, the aluminium parts, which were sourced for the engines, they were earlier gravity die-cast, big bulky pieces. Now they are proper high pressure die-cast pieces, which are really, really accurate. On the machining side, we have absolutely state-of-the-art Japanese CNC (computer numerical control) machines. But, of course, the way we do some of our welding or the way we do our paintings on the tanks, we still preserve some of our handcrafted techniques. It’s the love for manual labour, which is very important in our factories. The handcrafting part is something which is valued very much in the international markets such as the US, the UK, Japan and Australia. I don’t think that the importance of that is going to wane. But I don’t think you can do tacky handcrafting. It must be authentic and beautiful.

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  • How has Eicher changed over the last few years?

    The business portfolio at Eicher has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. We took a call around 2004-05 to have a full portfolio reshuffle. What we narrowed down on were two businesses—commercial vehicle (CV) and motorcycles. In 2009, we signed a joint venture (with Volvo) and the entire CV business went into that and that is doing excellently well. Now in EML alone, the focus has been on Royal Enfield...for a long time. So, for many years we were just focusing on making better motorcycles. We had many different engines. We brought the model down to one platform—that is, unit construction platform. We had the fit, finish and the look of the bike improved. We had the new models such as Thunderbirds, Classics, which helped us in gaining a lot of traction.

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  • What kind of utilisation do you see going ahead by increasing the production?

    Royal Enfield announced that capacity for in 2015 will be close to 450,000 units, which is 50% growth from 300,000 units in 2014. The company has a very strong order book and the capacity will be utilised well, if growth in the first quarter is anything to go by.

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  • How is the growth of your truck business, especially at a time when the industry seems to be slowing down a bit?

    It is progressing very well and is moving in the right direction.

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  • Do you think having the product fine-tuned for India market would have been more useful?

    I would say no to that. The whole concept was to do extensive testing for markets around the world. We found that from power, delivery; we can have one specification. Even from the suspension point of view, where of course India has a lot more bad road conditions. We set up suspension that works extremely well for India. We have a single specification around the world and that is very helpful because then nobody feels that they are getting inferior motorcycles. That is always an issue people have had. The only thing is sometime we have different versions. For example, Euro IV version emission norms in Europe might be different from norms here. Similarly, there might be different lighting norms. We have harmonised everything and have single highest specs for every market in the world. Also, that has helped us in the testing only one type of model. We do not have to do same on 30 different variants, so that helped us a lot.

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  • Can you share something more on major industrial disturbance at your plant in Chennai due to which production of around 28,000 units was impacted?

    It was a tough period for us. The external influence was the main sticky point with the striking employees. They wanted us to recognise a third party person who has no bearing. Our point was that you have absolute liberty to form a union, but it is also our prerogative to talk with you guys (union) and not an external person, who actually has no interest in the well-being of the Royal Enfield or in fact employees. They have their own profit objectives or other things. That was it.

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  • Will all the production of Twin Bikes be in India or are there plans to make it global?

    It is not needed. We can make world-class products, and (for it ) we don't need to go anywhere else. The only reason we may eventually end up doing assembly in Brazil or in Thailand is from the tax perspective. But that will also be minimum completely knocked down (CKD) type. We are studying different options, but the intent is as much as possible to have our production to be in Chennai (India).

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  • Does the Twin broadly remain for global markets?

    The 350cc is basically India-oriented. Twins, from the day one are made of a single specification for the entire world. It's a global bike by its design and vision. However, India obviously is super-critical for us because that is where we are distinguished, that is where we have the understanding and that is where we have customers, 3.5 million of them. And India is from where we can get scale. If we are able to do justice to this product and get huge in India, that will provide us a better cost structure. Already, our cost structure is good in India. We can make cost structure even better because of the scale and that will give us muscle in the end so we can sell these Twins in markets around the world at a true middle weight pricing. Otherwise, middle weight motorcycles end up being close to heavy weight pricing. We want to make this bike accessible for the people to try and have it.

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  • How big is the market for middle-weight category motorcycles globally and in India?

    We do not make forward-looking statements. The market size is relatively small globally. I think we can expand the market over next five years. Above 500cc, the market in India is around 10,000-15,000 motorcycles, whereas, overall the market is 20 million. So 10,000-15,000 units is just 0.1%, which is nothing. The way Royal Enfield has been able to grow in size (in 350cc) in India from virtually zero to now million, we think we can do the same in global markets for the Twin bikes, that is our objective for the next 5-10 years.

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  • What do you have t say about Harley too trying to bring some middle-weight category products in the market?

    That's a good point. It is not that there isn't (middle weight motorcycles). There might be some, but they are not successful. None of them is a breakaway success. Because there is something missing from the overall offering. So I believe we will be able to make it. Also, there is space for everyone to compete and grow in the segment.

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  • How are Twins models placed in your business strategy?

    It gives us the platform that can make us a global company in next 5-10 years. In markets around the world, including in India, there are some modern classics, but they are with much higher capacity and much more expensive. There are no true middle weights (motorcycles). In the true middle weight category, there are no such modern classics. So yes, there is a lot of opportunity for growth in the segment and that is why we are here for.

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  • Why won’t you make low-engine (150-300cc) bikes?

    I am not going to go after that market because we are not that company. So, we are not going to chase every segment just because it exists. We have not done that in the past, we have not done that in 100cc, 150cc, 250cc… we are not going to go chasing after that in the future. It took us 20 years to get where we are. But we managed to pull it off. But in those lower spaces it is hugely competitive. There is huge cost price pressure, and our brand might get diluted. Moreover, the margins are lower. This is where Royal Enfield differs from others. So why go to a space which is crowded? Why not create another space? And that’s why we said, we will go up (650cc) rather than down. On losing market share We want to be the market maker and defend our style of motorcycles. So I am not worried. But if you ask me, today I have over 90 percent market share in 220cc plus. Where the market size is 1 million, we have 90 percent market share. Now will I be worried if it comes down to 75 percent? No. It is bound to happen someday. I cannot keep 90 percent to myself. And it’s okay as long as the size of the market grows. So if from 1 million it goes to 5 million, and we have 75 percent of 5 million, I would be delighted.

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  • What would you say about Indian bike makers’ ‘Japanese’ moment?

    Indian motorcycle companies today have the same opportunity that the Japanese had in the 1950s and ’60s, when they started making a push overseas; they had a certain competitive advantage that no one else could match. And they became dominant in motorcycling for decades. In fact, till now they dominate. But what has happened is that because of our home market, our ingenuity, our understanding of various other aspects such as brand, our ability to make equally good motorcycles, or even better in some cases, we have perhaps a better understanding of certain other areas like design or brand or even distribution. We have a solid home market. It could be our turn now. It is already happening. Indian motorcycle companies will be the next wave of what the Japanese did 50 years ago.

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  • Describe any mistake that you made and what did you learn from it?

    Our joint venture with Polaris (for off-roaders) was a huge one [mistake], which took a lot of time, money and energy. Actually more than the money, it is the energy and time that it took for all of us to understand the segment, business, and customers. We tried something different. That was, if you want to say, a mistake of epic proportions. Fortunately, it was not big enough to cripple the Royal Enfield. It wasn’t that big, but it was big enough to take our time and energy. Money-wise, we lost quite a bit. But that’s fine. The real mistake we made there was that we tried doing too many new things. If there are one or two new variables, it is fine. But we tried too many new things and products.

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  • What do you have to say about the similarity between Royal Enfield and SUVs?

    UVs were meant for utility, they were meant for off-roading, or they were meant for hauling. Then came SUVs. Though initially meant for off-roading, now they have become mainstream. People use SUVs for their daily use. RE too became an all-purpose bike…from commuting to leisure to long distance. And that is when it became mainstream. The analogy for Royal Enfield’s success into the mainstream is the same as the SUV’s success.

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  • How is your equation with Rajiv Bajaj?

    We are good friends. But obviously, in the market, we have to do what we have to do. At the front end, there is no friendship. But at the backend, we are friends. Rajiv is always like a big brother. When we were tiny, and we needed guidance, he opened his doors. We always had an amazing friendship, there is no doubt about that. But at the front end, it is all competition.

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  • What are your comments on Bajaj Dominar’s dig at Royal Enfield with ‘haathi mat paalo’?

    We didn’t react. Because to react means to acknowledge. And honestly, there was no need to be on the defensive. The rival brand got blasted on social media. It was bad PR. Rather than being happy about what you are doing, you are taking down somebody. It was like free advertising for us. People were talking and felt more strongly about Royal Enfield.

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  • What are your comments on Bajaj Dominar’s dig at Royal Enfield with ‘haathi mat paalo’?

    We didn’t react. Because to react means to acknowledge. And honestly, there was no need to be on the defensive. The rival brand got blasted on social media. It was bad PR. Rather than being happy about what you are doing, you are taking down somebody. It was like free advertising for us. People were talking and felt more strongly about Royal Enfield.

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  • How are you competing with the superbikes?

    When you are waiting at a traffic light, and the guy next to you on a (fancy) bike zooms off when the light turns green, then frankly speaking, he is acting like a kid. He is not a man. The people riding Royal Enfield don’t want this. Our guy is more self-assured with power and does not want to compete with these kids. Of course, we like to give a little throttle and ride it hard. But the manliness quotient of the whole thing is a bit more different. It’s not kids’ stuff.

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  • What are your tips on being patient and having a healthy balance sheet?

    I can stay patient, but if I had a bank banging on my door, asking me to repay a loan, I am screwed. Then you can’t stay patient. So being patient is nice, but it has to be backed by balance sheet. We have the strongest balance sheet in automotive because we have no debts; we have ₹5,000-6,000 crore cash on our balance sheet. We are in an amazing working capital position, and this helps me in being more patient. On a pull versus push strategy We have built beautiful stores, we have lovely rides, we have lovely events… this brings people to us, pulls them in. Once we have a ‘pull’ factor, (growth) will happen. It (pull) might take us five years, a decade or 15 years. But I am okay… we need to charm people. We do not need to dash people on the head, asking them to buy Royal Enfield. That is not the way to do it.

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  • Why is India the key to global success?

    Without India we cannot do anything. This is where our scale comes from. This is where our cost structure, our understanding and our profitability come from so that we can reinvest in markets outside the world. The base will be India because millions are riding 350cc, and some 500cc. So, if we manage to upgrade those guys to 650cc, we can have a huge base and scale. This scale, in turn, will help us get the right cost structure so that we can offer the 650cc in global markets at a true middle-weight pricing. So, India is super important for us.

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  • What are your global aspirations for Royal Enfield?

    We have been working on our global strategy for three to four years. We are putting ourselves in a position of understanding our capability so that we can truly in the next decade or so become the first global consumer brand or premium consumer brand to come out of India. Global to me does not mean a few markets. It means looking at developed as well as developing countries.

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  • How do you deal with the downturns?

    People say the market has shrunk, so we should reduce capacity. I am like, why is that? Because R&D and capacity expansion are for three years, five years from now. Downturns will be there, but there will be an upturn again later, so why would you stop doing R&D? I never understood that. But now I understand why people do it because they need to conserve cash in the short term. But that is like shooting yourself in the foot. You can conserve cash now, but you can’t see the negative effect of less R&D today. You will see it years from now.

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  • Will we see a Himalayan 650 as well?

    I’d love one, but, no, not right now – not in the near future.

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  • What's next in line for Royal Enfield?

    What next is to demonstrate the absolute strength that we have in our product development. Our engineering is absolutely superlative, at par with anyone in the world. So, what you’re going to see is bikes like this – the Interceptor. This was our first motorcycle with our all new product development process, and it’s taken us a long time. It takes four years to make a ground-up new product. Over time, at best, it’ll become 3.5 years – but it does take that long. And we’re not going to cut short that process. We’re going to do the millions of kilometres that we need to do in testing and validation to get the product to be absolutely perfect, and all our new models are going to follow the same path. And, in fact, we’ll continue to improve the process. So, it’s a totally new world of motorcycles that you’re going to see from Royal Enfield.

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  • Over the past few years, you’ve got a new production facility on stream, a technology centre in UK, and the rollout of these models worldwide. How challenging has all that been?

    If you look at the past, at every point in the last fifteen years, there’s been a different bottleneck. For example, in 2010, we hit a ramp, and then the bottleneck was manufacturing – we weren’t able to make enough. So, for the next five years, we worked on our supply chain and we opened up our first modern plant in Oragadam. And now we really know how to make motorcycles. It’s taken us time and effort, but we’ve got it underway. Then, and I’m talking about 6-8 years ago, when we foresaw that the gap was going to be in our new product line-up, we opened up our technology centre. Today, we have a UK technology centre with 150 engineers, and our Chennai tech centre has just opened up, and it’s absolutely fabulous – and these are the kinds of products that are coming out of there. So, now we believe that we really know how to make new products. It’s exciting, that’s what we live for and that’s what we enjoy – all the different aspects of a motorcycle company.

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  • What people love about Interceptor 650, that it goes to the heart of pure motorcycling?

    We really tried to be extremely focussed with this motorcycle – so, excel at the essentials and cut out everything else! Just make sure that what we do, we do really well – that’s also part of the reason why the rolling chassis of the Continental GT and the Interceptor are exactly the same, because every single change means a lot more time, attention and energy. So, everything is the same – the tyres are the same, and so is the suspension. The end result is that we’ve been able to make something tremendous, but also something quite accessible. So, yes, that was the idea.

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  • In India as well, but also in mature markets like the UK, you’re getting rave reviews. Did you expect that going in?

    It’s all to a plan. This new platform was made with an idea that it’ll be Royal Enfield’s first proper big global motorcycle. The specifications, if you look at it, are at the higher end of Indian specifications, but also at the threshold level of European specifications. It’s extremely highway worthy. You can go 80 miles an hour at part throttle, and you’ve still got a lot more to spare. In the UK already, we’re the number two naked bike in the mid-weight category, which is brilliant, and we’ve got awards there and people are loving it. We’ve already crossed some very big models of other European or American brands. So, we’re doing well.

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  • Were you surprised at the response you’ve got after receiving awards for the Interceptor650?

    I’m absolutely delighted, but I can’t say I’m surprised because the Interceptor is truly a very special bike. We’ve put our heart, soul and energies for half-a-decade behind this, and it’s come out exactly as we wanted it. So, we’re delighted about it, for sure.

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