Home >companies >Gone in 26 minutes: The Royal Enfield limited edition models

Mumbai: From paintings and coins to memorabilia and fashion, collectibles have always managed to attract buyers’ fancy irrespective of the premiums attached to them.

But the auto market in India has remained insulated from any such extravagance. It all changed on 15 July when Royal Enfield saw 200 units of its special edition motorcycle—the Royal Enfield Despatch—disappear in 26 minutes.

Priced at 224,752 on road in Mumbai, the motorcycle was put up for sale on the company’s e-commerce website, which also retails Royal Enfield-branded apparel, shoes, riding gear, etc. The price of a regular Classic 500 is 186,500.

“We sold out our entire inventory of 200 limited edition Despatch motorcycles for India within 26 minutes of opening the online booking on store.royalenfield.com on 15 July," said a company spokesperson in an emailed response. This is the first time that the company accepted online bookings for its models. Buyers had to pay a non-refundable booking amount of 25,000.

The limited edition motorcycle has been inspired by the bike used by British despatch riders of World War I to ferry urgent orders and messages between headquarters and field units.

Available in two variants—Desert Storm Despatch and Squadron Blue Despatch—there will also be a line of apparel and accessories inspired by the despatch riders.

The launch of the limited edition motorcycles—the first in the brand’s 114-year history—is part of the larger strategy to build a stronger connect with the target audience, Royal Enfield president Rudra Tej Pratap Singh said in an interview on the sidelines of the unveiling of the limited edition model in Mumbai earlier this month.

As a brand, Royal Enfield plans to reorient itself to address those intending to buy, those in a store to buy and those already using the motorcycles, said Singh, describing the strategy “as three moments of truth".

Is there a lesson to be learnt for marketers from the Royal Enfield experience?

To sustain excitement and at times boost flagging sales of a particular model, automakers have introduced so-called special editions. Typically, such models are produced in smaller numbers and boast of features and colours which are not available in the regular models and are priced at a premium. Over the years, automakers in India have used this as a tool to create a buzz around a brand. But none so far has had the appeal that Royal Enfield managed to evoke.

It’s the sheer positioning of Royal Enfield as a lifestyle brand that has helped the firm and is the reason why the limited edition model found greater resonance with target customers, said Pradeep Saxena, executive director at TNS Automotive, a market research firm. “It’s like further embellishing an already exclusive brand," said Saxena, adding that the legacy of the brand is another advantage.

Positioned as a niche motorcycle firm, Royal Enfield has created a name for itself in the leisure motorcycling space in India and is now looking to replicate the same in markets outside the country. It started selling motorcycles in Colombia last year, which, it said, will soon be its biggest market outside India. It has earmarked 500 crore for global expansion, building two new technology centres, of which one will be in the UK.

Singh said the company has been ramping up production month on month to meet demand. The firm plans to increase capacity by 50% and end the calendar year with 450,000 units, he said.

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