It all started with a decision to divest. Siddhartha Lal, the proud CEO and MD of Royal Enfield, started his career as the CEO at the age of 24. A young boy who didn’t know the nuances of how the world or an enterprise worked, he shaped the bike culture, not just among his peers but also for bikers across the country. Enfield found fame, recognition, profits, goodwill and everything nice, thanks to the driving force, going by the name, Siddhartha Lal. In his truest and inspiring display of following one’s passion, he turned an ailing company into one with a cult following.
As of 2018, he is 44 now (rounding up to 45) and his company, which was once written off as a big loss, is now minting money, in fact, bringing in almost 80% of profits for Eicher group. This reminds me to tell you, how Siddhartha is connected to Eicher and RE. Their relationship was formed thanks to Vikram Lal, the former CEO of Eicher Group (under which Royal Enfield now stands tall) and the father of Siddhartha. Having set the premise of the story for you, let’s now take you through the colorful life of Siddhartha Lal, the proud CEO of Royal Enfield.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
With a gazillion degrees and schools to attend during his young(er) days, Lal knew that eventually, he would be working for his father, in Eicher Group. But little did he know that he would be made responsible for his passioned project, the Royal Enfield bike, at the age of 26! The unconventional CEO then took over an important position of COO at Eicher Motors in 2004 (he was 24) and soon took over to become the MD and CEO of Eicher Motors. As both the automobile brands came under the leadership of one man, he started making changes in the business model. Primarily, the idea was to cost-cut and make Royal Enfield profitable. However, that changed.
Eicher, as a brand, was a jack of all trades and master of none. With such a scenario to deal with, Lal took a decision. A decision that changed the fate of both, Royal Enfield and Eicher Motors. He shut down a majority of the automobile projects (we’re talking roughly about 15 businesses!) that Eicher undertook and channeled all resources into two of their projects, tractors and Royal Enfield. With only two major markets to target, Lal invested as much time and resources into building Eicher and Royal Enfield into an empire that it is today.
He even quoted to the Economic Times, “In my mind, the basic question was this: do we want to be a mediocre player in 15 small businesses or just be good in one or two businesses.” Of course, this move was frowned upon by many industry onlookers, who found it rather blasphemous. What happened next? It took a great deal of patience – a decade to be exact – and a heck load of projections, mathematics, new project plans, a lot of divestments and investments to finally see a turnover of Rs. 8,738 crore in revenue (basically a net profit of Rs. 702 crores) in 2014, a whopping 80% of the profit influx coming straight from Royal Enfield. The stock prices of the bikes have also seen a consistent rise in the market.
Word is, if you purchased an Enfield back in 2004, you would’ve been the proud owner of a rusty ol’ cruiser. However, had you invested the same money your bike cost in the company stocks, you’d have probably been a millionaire!
HIS BELIEFS AND IDEOLOGIES
Lal aims to go global and find a base as strong as (or maybe even more) India. The whole idea behind enhancing Royal Enfield’s bikes is simple, make a mid-weight motorcycle that’s fun to drive but at the same time, stays true to its roots. He drew inspiration from Mini Cooper and Porsche that fashioned his vision for his brand. In fact, while speaking about their project Himalaya, the bike that has made bikers get a good rush of adrenaline as they ride through the Himalayan terrains, Lal explained how bike-weight was a big conundrum which, “if the motorcycle falls in deep slush, it takes three people to lift it. And anyways, most people who aren’t 6 feet tall find these motorcycles very intimidating – so that rules out 99% of Indians!”
To add to this, former CEO Ravichandran said, “Royal Enfield is not bought for pure acceleration nor for fuel efficiency, but it has a stature and legacy. There are no bells and whistles associated with it, but there is purity and purpose built into it.” Lal himself displays a passion for creating a legacy when he says, “For entrepreneurs, revenue and market share run their ego. I was happy to shrink my business, run a Rs 350 crore great company rather than a Rs 10,000 crore mediocre one.”
ROYAL ENFIELD’S MILESTONES ACHIEVED UNDER LAL
Under Lal, RE bikes saw new legions of success and fame as the bike shaped the bike culture in India. Numbers were putting Royal Enfield over Harley Davidson, something that’s no short of a milestone, especially for an “underdog”, as stated by the man himself. Another milestone that makes us applaud RE is the 2.5 million customer base that they formed in a span of five years. The quality of bikes has improved and the sales have skyrocketed. Their product, The Enfield Classic is still touted to be their best and most sold. The brand name has found its rightful place in the hearts of bikers in the country. And this can be attributed to Lal’s success in being crystal clear about the purpose of the brand. He is known to personally try out new models in challenging terrains to think from the customer’s perspective.
IMPORTANT NAMES IN THE BUSINESS
Kudos to Lal’s efforts to make Royal Enfield the brand that it is now and what it is capable of becoming in the near future. However, part of the credit also goes to his hiring skills as he managed to rope in individuals who have propelled RE to become one of the most sought-after brands in the country with aims of global domination.
The names, you folks must know, who Lal was able to rope in for RE and played catalyst to its success are: Rod Copes, currently the president of Royal Enfield (North America) is a former Harley Davidson manager; Pierre Terblanche, who is currently head of the industrial design team was earlier employed with Ducati; James Young, head — engines and Simon Warburton, head — product planning and strategy (new projects) are both based out of the UK and were previously part of Triumph; Engineers Mark Wells, head — program (new projects) and Ian Wride, both, worked on Enfield’s Classic and Continental GT models. They are both currently in the UK tech centre. Very recently, Lal hired Shubhranshu Singh – former Marketing Head at Star Sports, who also played marketing roles at Visa and Diageo India and HUL (Hindustan Unilever Limited) – as the Head of Global Brands.
The two-wheeler “underdog” is all set to take on the international market, Argentina being its latest target. More recently the focus has been on fast emerging motorcycle markets, like South East Asia and Latin America. The company has other flagship stores in nodal cities like London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona and Melbourne to name a few.
Owning a brand tracing its lineage to the Victorian England and making it a true Indian icon, Siddhartha Lal is one of the most young and dynamic CEOs out there.