Companies

‘Ride the Thunderbird, leave your worries behind’

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on December 02, 2012

Siddhartha Lal, Managing Director, Eicher Motors Ltd with new the Royal Enfield Thunderbird. Photo: Paul Noronha   -  Business Line

Siddhartha Lal, Managing Director, Eicher Group, on how the Enfield brand got a makeover

Siddhartha Lal, Managing Director of the Eicher group which owns Royal Enfield, has every reason to be pleased. The iconic manufacturer of the Bullet is now going flat out with monthly numbers of 10,000 motorcycles. By mid-2013, the company will also have in place its new plant in Oragadam near Chennai. Lal spoke to Business Line about the changes at Royal Enfield and the road ahead.

Could you throw some light on the dramatic transformation of Royal Enfield as a brand?

A lot of hard work went into this, right from sorting out production, quality and suppliers to getting the right dealers, attitude, service, showrooms and products. The Classic was an important trigger.

The reasons why someone did not buy an Enfield bike earlier have vanished with the Classic. Till then, people had all kinds of reservations about Enfield.

What happened next?

Well, we removed all the age-old problems and this has led to the new Thunderbird. We studied the market carefully and designed something to cater to highway cruising needs. It is a great looker with enormous comfort and space for riding along with the power and torque.

When you ride the Thunderbird, you leave your worries behind. However, this virtue alone will not guarantee a huge franchise. The fact that we can use the same 350 cc or 500 cc Thunderbird daily to ride to work and back makes it an attractive option. The brilliance of city riding and highway cruising is what will help us really gain traction. Nearly 80 per cent of our buyers use it as a daily commuter which means it is not just a bike for the weekend. The entire thought process was to make the ultimate highway cruiser which is also excellent for daily commuting.

Would that be the Enfield motto from now on?

Every bike of ours should be roadworthy and fun to ride. If you go on a regular commuter bike to work and back, you will have had a regular day. On an Enfield, you can actually ride to work elated.

You have the bubbly feeling of a wonderful ride and you cannot put a value to that. There is this element of daily biking in an Enfield. Our entire demographics have shifted to a younger, urban audience which has contributed to this growth.

Do you see a similar change happening with fresh recruits?

On the white collar side, people would earlier think twice about working here but this is no longer true. We are now realising that we are in the preferred employer space. The perception of the brand has changed dramatically where passionate riders on the white collar side are now keen to work for us. It also allows us to be more selective.

On the blue collar side, we are going through a dramatic transformation in-house and the levels of training are more intense.

Are women also part of this new workforce considering a fair number now ride your bikes?

We are increasing the diversity of employees in Enfield enormously.

We are planning to get more women into critical roles, for sure. We have a lot more of them working in general functions because it is no longer considered a hardcore engineering company. We are perceived as a leisure motorcycling brand which makes it easier for us to attract women.

We believe increase in diversity is brilliant for any company.

Are there changes happening with your dealers?

Of the 100-and-odd dealers we have recruited over the last three years, a lot of them are in the 25-35 age group. Most are also passionate about Enfield. This is an important criterion because the entire market dynamics have changed. There are good, young and enthusiastic people who want to make a career out of selling Royal Enfield bikes.

We are not in hard-sell mode but get them to ride, participate in events and build the brand.

murali.gopalan

@thehindu.co.in

Published on December 02, 2012

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