Book Review: Indian Icon – A Cult Called Royal Enfield – carandbike

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Author Amit Raj takes a look at the story of Royal Enfield, which has attained cult status in India, and now looks to replicate its success globally.



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The book with the scale model of the new Royal Enfield Meteor 350

Few Indian motorcycle brands have the aura and charisma the name Royal Enfield commands. For many of its tens of thousands of fans, the Royal Enfield name is more than just a brand; it’s a religion, a way of life, a name taken and word with pride, like the extension of one’s personality. In ‘Indian Icon – A Cult Called Royal Enfield,’ author Amrit Raj takes a journalistic approach through interviews of key players in the brand’s history to tell the story of a motorcycle brand founded in the UK, but which commands cult status in India. ‘Indian Icon…’ is the story of the Royal Enfield brand, the people behind it, and the trials and tribulations of a brand that scripted a remarkable turnaround story from the brink of collapse to becoming one of the most successful motorcycle brands in the industry.

Also Read: Royal Enfield Meteor 350 Review

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The Royal Enfield Meteor 350 is the first model in the all-new 350 cc platform which was launched in 2020

The book attributes much of Royal Enfield’s success story over the past two decades to CEO Siddhartha Lal, going into the details of how he started off as a trainee for a brand almost about to shut down, to turn it around to make it the iconic and successful brand in less than two decades. The book is also the story of how Royal Enfield’s old guard clashed with the new, detailing dramatic corporate power struggles which brought in changes to product strategy, operations, supply chain and brand management to transform Royal Enfield. It’s the story of how a small, niche player in the Indian motorcycle industry turned around to become a powerful consumer brand, not just in India, but around the world.

Extensively researched, and with insightful interviews from members of past and present employees holding key management positions at Royal Enfield, ‘Indian Icon…’ manages to also give a fleeting glimpse into the corporate culture of Royal Enfield. What the book misses out on mentioning is the community and clubs that made the brand what it is, and helped transform the motorcycling landscape in India. Sure, the company helped develop communities around the Royal Enfield brand, but it’s as much the story of the riders, the owners, and fans of Royal Enfield, who sowed the seeds of leisure motorcycling as it’s known today in India.

For observers of the Indian two-wheeler industry, ‘Indian Icon…’ provides an almost intimate and personal account of those who were, and are still involved and invested in the Royal Enfield story. It’s a must-read for every Indian motorcyclist seeking to understand product and brand strategy, whether he or she is a Royal Enfield fan or not.

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The RE Interceptor 650 along with the Continental GT 650 is spearheading the brand’s reach into global markets

‘Indian Icon…’ also gives an insight into the evolution of a company from being on the sidelines of the Indian motorcycle industry a few decades ago, to eyeing leadership position in the mid-size motorcycle segment around the world. To me, the interviews conducted by the author and the candid revelations of key players in the Royal Enfield story stood out as some of the more insightful parts of the book. The author also dwells on the evolution of the technology of the motorcycles and their engines, without making it sound too tech-laden, and he comes across as a person who knows and understands Royal Enfield motorcycles and probably has experienced them in some form or the other.

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In ‘Indian Icon…’, author Amrit Raj doesn’t mince words writing about the failures on the product side and quality issues which plagued Royal Enfield, but he also didn’t delve too much on the massive improvements made on existing models as well as on R&D, and new product development of the Royal Enfield brand of the future. ‘Indian Icon…’ may leave several questions unanswered, but it’s definitely worth a read, whether you’re into motorcycles, or not.

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