A quick chat with Eicher CEO Siddhartha Lal

On locating Royal Enfield UK tech centre at Bruntingthorpe

If we wanted to attract the right chaps from UK, it’s going to have to be in the Midlands. This one [Bruntingthorpe] was particularly special as we get immediate access to test tracks, proving grounds and it’s also quite nice for productivity. There are two levels of security. Nobody’s here, we really are in a bit of a corner out in the country doing our own thing. And the entire might of the UK Midlands engineering expertise resides right here. The engineering industry is really large, not just F1 and motorsport, and we have access to all those facilities. The PD head, chassis head, vehicle head, engine head, program head, industrial design, all of them were brought here.

On Harris Performance

We use Harris as a special chassis development arm of this tech centre. If we have some issues in chassis development, we bring in Harris and they give us new ideas, new thoughts. Their speciality is in making an adjustable mule, a bike where you can change 15-20 of the important chassis parameters. Harris are blue collared specialists. They know how to work with their hands. They come in and they are like, okay did you try this, did you try that? You know, troubleshooting. It’s simple stuff in the end but it takes quite a bit to get there and we’re learning a lot. We’re putting a huge amount of energy in having a good rideable motorcycle.

On the upcoming twin-cylinder Royal Enfield

We do have a new big bike which is coming out of here. Can’t tell you what it is. Even for our existing motorcycles, we take a lot of support from here. A lot of the future products that are meant for global consumption are certainly all anchored from here. Already we are sort of thinking ‘oh shit, we should have made it a lot bigger’ but we still have a lot of space here to expand into, I think for the next year or two we are sorted. We’ve got rights on one more acre adjoining this so it is enough.

We don’t care about the numbers as long as work is being done. In fact, we don’t even want to do more projects. We have a few parallel projects running and we’re like, now we don’t want to do any more. It’s tough in a company, I don’t know how people do it. But we just don’t want to do too many different things parallely, you end up sort of doing nothing.

On the future range of bikes

We’re not going to make any motorcycle which does not have relevance in India. You’ll never see that in our stables, there’s a motorcycle which is for xyz markets but is not relevant in India. We have motorcycles which are relevant for India but not other markets, but not the other way round. We know that our scale comes from India and if we don’t sell in India, we won’t have scale, if we don’t have scale, we won’t have the cost, if we don’t have the cost then our business model suffers so every new product which is in our pipeline or in our minds or anywhere on horizon will sell in India.

On the North American market

We are in deep investment phase, learning, understanding, really moving the needle on getting the right distribution because the distributing business there has more margins – people are not making money, they are moving out of distribution – so attracting the right dealers, it’s really just a building process. US is slightly different because it’s a bit historical, we’ve been there for a while, our objective is to find out where we fit, where we can fit, create the right demand and desire.

In the US our product range is still fringe, it’s not even close to mainstream, forget mainstream. It’s seen as small, underpowered, not highway worthy and all of that. We’re building distribution, we’re building service support, we’re building understanding of how to market, we are doing all that because once we have products which are above the threshold of these markets in terms of performance, then at that point you don’t want to start building your infrastructure. So really we’re doing all foundation laying activities right now and then getting the right product should be simple.

On exports

Royal Enfield needs to go beyond Indian shores. New, India-like markets for us is not going to be Europe or North America, none of those markets are going to give us many tens of thousands of units a month like we get in India. It’ll be from South East Asia and Latin America. Western markets are important from a leadership positioning point of view and it’s a great sanity check of what you’re doing, working with people who have a certain sensibility and understanding of the industry for a much longer period of time.

On experiential activities

Our portfolio is not just our products.  Look at Royal Enfield portfolio of experiences, look at what Sachin Chauhan is putting together – that’s a portfolio. From Rider Mania as a community to very specific  experiences that are driving… you’ve seen the narrative of leisure motorcycling, encouraging people to ride, it’s the same for me, I’m seeing them as the same.

On the Himalayan

Royal Enfield just weren’t ready. It was the prioritisation of volume. I mean we weren’t just ready [with the BS IV Himalayan], it’s as simple as that. On the new engine the calibration has taken more time, we wanted it to be absolutely right, so there has been a lot of development. It’s not like there’s an emission problem, it’s just the right calibration for the right tuning and performance and all of that. Now it’s all set, it’s in production. It will be back in the markets very soon.

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