Last week, Royal Enfield—the oldest motorcycle brand in continuous production—launched two new motorcycles, called the Twins, in India. Both the Continental GT 650 and Interceptor INT 650, the company says, have an agile chassis (developed at Royal Enfield’s UK Technology Centre with sports motorcycle frame builder Harris Performance) and a simple but state-of-the-art, air-cooled, 650cc engine producing a punchy yet user-friendly 47 horsepower.
While the Continental GT 650 is targeted at ‘sporting riders’ with its optional single seat, sculpted fuel tank, rearset footrests and race-style clip-on handlebars, the Interceptor INT 650 has design elements such as teardrop tank with traditional knee recesses, quilted dual seat, and wide, braced handlebars, reminding you of the ‘street scrambler style’ that emerged in the 1960s in California, USA. Also, these are called the Twins not only because they are two of a kind, but also because they are powered by twin-cylinder engines.
“In India, the Twins will play a strategic upgrade role within our range. Our portfolio line-up is now robust. We expect both the Interceptor INT 650 and Continental GT 650 to offer an opportunity for many of our customers to move up towards the top-end of the middle-weight segment,” says Rudratej Singh, President, Royal Enfield. In an interview with FE’s Indrani Bose, he adds that the Twins will also appeal to a newer set of enthusiasts, who have been waiting for a twin-cylinder motorcycle from the company. Excerpts:
Marketing these motorcycles as the Twins appears to be a smart strategy. How did you arrive at the moniker?
There are more than 3.5 million owners of Royal Enfield motorcycles in India. They love the brand; but when it comes to upgrading to bigger capacity motorcycles, 535cc upwards, there is a gap in the Indian motorcycling segment. With the Twins, we have tried to close that gap, and fulfil the aspirations of such customers. We still have only 6% share of the market, so the headroom to grow is huge. The Twins will help us retain our loyalists and enthusiasts. In addition, these motorcycles will appeal to a newer set of enthusiasts who have been waiting for a twin-cylinder motorcycle from us.
Will the Twins be sold pan-India or will you stick to metro cities? Which all global markets do you think will the Twins find acceptance in?
My sense is that mini-metros will give us 70-80% of the volume, but the Twins will be available all across the country, because we have a 500cc portfolio which sells across all our stores, so we will make sure that all our products are made available in all our stores by the end of next January.
As far as global markets are concerned, I see the Twins finding acceptance across the world, from the developed markets of Europe, the UK, the US, to even the emerging markets like Southeast Asia and Latin America—which are very promising markets for us.
The café racer segment has failed to take off in India. Do you think companies such as Royal Enfield and Triumph should do more, maybe by way of experiential rides, in educating the riders about this niche motorcycling segment?
The origin of café racing was not in India. We are building new memory structures. You cannot sell the café racing culture the way it was built in the 1960s; you have to build the café racing culture, the look and feel of a café racer, from a very different narrative in India. Towards that, we believe the new Continent GT 650—which is my favourite—will play a very important role. It is a very accessible, everyday use motorcycle from an ergonomics point of view.
Over time, I believe India will build its own narrative around the café racing culture.
Do you plan to replace the Café Racer Continental GT with the new Continental GT 650?
We don’t work with products; we work with brands. This is the re-launch of the brand Continental GT. We don’t only have an automotive mindset that we are selling platforms or moving metal.
We are moving motivations, and the motivation of café racer now has a new form, which is the Continental GT 650, so yes it replaces the Continental GT 535.
Why does Royal Enfield always stick to naked design for its motorcycles?
Old-school classic British motorcycling is the core of what we do—the design sensibility or a semiotic structure we have always been very close to. Yes, with the Himalayan, there was a slight deviation, where its design was simpler, paired down, naked, not really that old, but it is an adventure motorcycle. We are very consistent in whatever we do, so our design philosophy is about self-expression and exploration—when we offer buyers a naked motorcycle, it is pretty much ready to use as it is, but you can also do so much more with it. You can easily customise it, modify it, make it your own, make it appeal to your personality … these are the things that enthusiasts do.
So, this means you will also offer a lot of accessories for customisation with the Twins…
We have got, for the first time in India, 40 genuine accessories pre-validated with a two-year warranty, and these motorcycles come with a three-year warranty and roadside assistance service.
This is a big change as far as marketing is concerned. Now, the price of the Twins is relatively accessible (starting price of Rs 2.5 lakh for the Interceptor INT 650 and Rs 2.65 lakh for the Continental GT 650, ex-showroom), and this means enthusiasts can spend a bit more to customise the Twins for themselves, for self-expression. The Twins stand for crazy, pure motorcycling where you can ride them every day, and convert them into something that you want for yourself. They also come with a range of gear and apparel—jackets, T-shirts, helmets, boots, ankle-high sneakers, jeans, gloves—that are inspired by the 1960s.