Friday, September 9, 2016

Are Royal Enfield motorcycles Indian enough for India?

Royal Enfield introduced an updated brand logo at the end of 2015.
Some thought it looked more Indian, with inspiration from an elephant's tusks or trunk,
but the company hedged, taking the occasion to stress its "British motorcycling roots."
My apologies first for writing about India, a place I've never visited or studied. But I do own a Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle and I am grateful to India every time I ride it for preserving my ability to experience it.

What is good for me is not necessarily good for India, of course. So, when a blog item in The Times of India suggests such artifacts of the past as my Royal Enfield may be unhelpful to India, I'm compelled to consider that possibility.

Blog author Francois Gautier describes himself as French, but he obviously knows more about India than I do. He is prepared to point fingers.

"It is probably the British colonization that blunted for good the Indian innovation spirit," he asserts.

"...Take the manufacturing sector, for instance, since Independence, India has often copied English models, such as the Ambassador car, the Royal Enfield Bullet, or the Raleigh cycle, selling them at huge profits for decades and never caring much to improve them."

Gautier's argument, I take it, is that India must innovate from its own strengths to prosper in the modern world.

Makes sense. Take what you have and build on it.

And so, he asks:

"What is that Indian-ness then? And what to do so that Indians become innovators again and not copiers anymore?"

Unfortunately, his solutions are not innovative. He suggests, in effect, that India celebrate its own national history, heroes, religion, sports stars and business spirit. His proof that this will spur innovation seems to be based on the argument that it worked for France.

"...Napoleon is known in India."

In all, I think he's a bit harsh. Napoleon is a special case. So is India.

Today, Royal Enfield is taking steps to insert itself into international markets. Surely a good thing.

In an effort to gain traction globally, the new Continental GT certainly trades on the motorcycle's British heritage. Maybe not innovative design, but smart marketing, I think.

And now the new Himalayan model seems to me to be a pure example of India building on its own strengths (and geography) to innovate.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9/10/2016

    those curly bits on the 'E" and the 'D" remind me of a pair of cats with their backs to us, and their tails curled around them!



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