Riding the Enfield wave

Deccan Chronicle.  | Reshmi Chakravorty

Lifestyle, Books and Art

Amrit Raj’s Indian Icon — A Cult Called Royal Enfield follows the England-born motorcycle brand, which attained cult status in India

Amrit Raj

The distinctive look and feel and the bass, throaty sound of the engine of the Royal Enfield bike create an instant image of the brand in the minds of any bike enthusiast. And journalist and author Amrit Raj pays his tribute to the machine through his book Indian Icon — A cult called Royal Enfield. The book talks about the motorcycle brand, which was born in England in 1901 and came to India in the 1950s and then later on attained a cult status in the country.

Amrit believes it is unfair to call out one particular factor that led him to writing the book. Talking about his inspiration for writing the book, he sounds matter-of-fact when he says, “We haven’t seen any Indian brand being truly accepted by consumers overseas, and that’s the biggest reason for writing this book,” explains Amrit.

“Royal Enfield has got all the necessary ingredients to become the first Indian premium consumer brand accepted globally. It has a strong brand recall, rich global history, a very well-defined storyline and a top-notch team in the UK building world-class products.” The idea of writing this book, however, had been brewing in his mind for some time. “During my journalism days, I’d often discuss with my colleagues the Indian consumer brands that were genuinely global or could become a global behemoth,” says Amrit although he admits that time management around the book was a bigger challenge while keeping a day job. While thinking about and ideating the book started long ago, it took proper shape only in 2017 when Royal Enfield established itself nicely in India and made inroads into the global markets. “I thought that was the right time to write about its fascinating turnaround story. What also helped then was my stint as a journalist with a financial newspaper, which gave me access to the Royal Enfield management and allowed me to write on the company. Yet, it took me around three years to get the research, writing it down, and get it published,” adds Amrit.

That personal favourite

According to Amrit, Royal Enfield identified their story playbook well and kept building on that from the beginning. “They very successfully sold the idea of exploring the world on a motorcycle. People bought the idea as they thought they would leave their routine lives behind and ride to the Himalayas one day,” narrates Amrit. “That built many aspirations centred on the brand and added a novelty factor to it, which reflected in their stock price for a long time.”
However, in the present day’s context, Amrit believes the brand faces an existential question—whether to be a mass brand or stay premium. “Today, you will find one in 10 motorcyclists riding a Royal Enfield as compared to the earlier times when a specific section of the society rode it,” elaborates Amrit.

Amrit, who’s a fan of anything retro, personally likes all the Royal Enfield models. However, his all-time favourite is the Bullet 350. “I also like what Royal Enfield has done with some of their newer products such as Interceptor 650 and Meteor 350,” the Bullet enthusiast adds. “They have leapfrogged multiple years of product development in these products.”

With his love for the Royal Enfield expressed, Amrit is currently taking a small break from his writing stint before he starts planning his next book. “I juggle multiple ideas daily, and I am yet to come across one idea that could be of similar interest to readers,” he concludes.