Gunning the Bullet

Bikes like Fury 175cc, Mini-Bullet 250cc, Explorer, Silverplus (both 50cc) Taurus and Fantabulous have driven into oblivion, but the Bullet is not just alive and kicking but will rule the highway if the management of Royal Enfield Motors, a part of the Eicher group, has its way.

Says REM's new chief executive Siddhartha Lal: "We are the leaders in the power bike segment. By launching new models every six months, we will maintain our leadership in this segment." This is a 360-degree turn for REM, which earlier used to offer new products every two years.

Mr Lal says REM will launch a new bike, Thunderbird, early April. "We will launch the Thunderbird first in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. To be priced around Rs 80,000, the 350cc Thunderbird is a cruiser bike with top speeds, left-side gear and is for people who often ride on the highways." Following that will be a 535cc variant and a street bike.

Only last September did the company introduce the Bullet Electra-350cc four-stroke with CDI ignition, sleek mudguards and in bright colours. The bike replaced REM's another product, the Campus. Today 60 per cent of REM's sales are accounted by the Bullet Electra. "By this fiscal end we will sell 9, 000 Bullet Electras," says Siddhartha.

Son of Vikram Lal, the Eicher group's major shareholder, Siddhartha Lal took control of REM last March from P K Purang, who shifted to another division in the group. The move raised many an eyebrow, as the Eicher group is known for giving a free hand to professional managers, with the promoter family keeping away from day-to-day operations.

The group explained the shift as part of a normal process to provide exposure to senior managers through different assignments and also meeting the leadership requirements in various parts, apart from protecting shareholders' interests. It was further reasoned that REM requires a formulation of fresh strategies to turn around, and Mr Lal is expected to provide the same. Last year REM registered a paltry 2-per cent growth when the bikes segment registered a double-digit growth.