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Red Hot Bullet

A powerhouse brand and perhaps the oldest surviving motorcycle in the world, the Royal Enfield Bullet remains hugely popular in Goa,  Shoma Patnaik checks the popularity chart

If you know anything about two wheelers you’d know how crazy bike riders are about the Enfield Bullet. Unusual in looks and solid in performance the weighty Bullet is as trendy as it is iconic.

In Goa it has a huge fan following reflected in the fact that nearly everybody who has a two-wheeler would love to have a shot at the bike. From the staid women rider to the daring Gen Y motorcycle junkie there are plenty of Goans who like the noise-emitting pair of wheels.

There are two Royal Enfield dealers in Goa – Saini Motors, Margao and Auto Guides, Panaji and according to both the Bullet has a strong demand. There should be more than 20,000 of them on Goa roads, estimates Kamaljeet Singh Saini, owner, Saini Motors. In 2014-15 Saini sold 1,500 pieces of the bike.

Royal Enfield is the only motorcycle company to have bucked the recession in two-wheeler industry, he says, explaining that while regular scooters and bikes are skidding in demand the Bullet’s sales are rocketing.

The supply cannot keep pace with demand, adds Satish Naik, partner Auto Guides, Panaji. Because of the demand-supply mismatch there is a waiting period of nine months. Sales are growing at 40 per cent annually and it is being fuelled by conversion from smaller bikes such as Hero Honda and the Pulsar, he says.

A look at the rider profile reveals owners are genuine riding enthusiasts and in age-group of twenties to thirties. Maximum bookings are for Classic-350 because of its retro looks and Electra 350. The other models viz Bullet Electra UCE, Thunderbird Twinspark, Classic 500 and Continental GT are also being purchased although you’d find very few Continental GT’s on Goan roads. Most Bullet buyers say that they are ready to pay higher price and wait for delivery time. They are also willing to adjust to lower mileage and relatively costlier maintenance.

According to auto industry experts, the bike’s popularity is because of quality as the company has invested on technology to bring out a superior product. Older residents in their mid-fifties add that the Bullet always was the rage and even in the sixties and seventies it had high standards of reputation when the industry comprised of just three players, viz Royal Enfield, Yezdi and Rajdoot.

Currently the only grouse of Bullet enthusiasts is the long waiting period which comes in with lock-in of the booking amount of Rs 5,000. Buyers wonder why production cannot be increased to cut down the waiting time.

The story of Royal Enfield in India is interesting and dates back to 1954 when the government ordered 800 rugged motorcycles for use by security personnel on the Pakistan border. Royal Enfield Bullet 350 belonged to Enfield Cycle Company, UK. Subsequently Enfield partnered with Madras Motors to form Enfield India. Later Enfield closed down production in the UK but the Bullet continued to be manufactured in India by Eicher Motors, Chennai.

In the mid-eighties and nineties the bike faced competition from fuel-efficient rivals such as TVS-Suzuki, Hero-Honda, Escorts-Yamaha, and Kawasaki-Bajaj. It was in serious trouble and making losses. Eicher Motors mulled over closing down the loss-making unit. However the decade of 2000 is of turnaround where the Bullet is making fantastic profits for its company. It is the hottest bike.

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