x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

First designed in the UK decades ago, the Bullet is still thriving in India

The Bullet first appeared in India 60 years ago but in recent years Royal Enfield of India has expanded beyond India’s borders and sells its three brands — including the Bullet — in more than 20 countries.

Bikers from the The Royal Knights Motorcycle Club get ready for a ride on their Enfield Bullets at Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu. Amirtharaj Stephen for The National
Bikers from the The Royal Knights Motorcycle Club get ready for a ride on their Enfield Bullets at Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu. Amirtharaj Stephen for The National

The Bullet, originally a British brand, was built by Enfield in Redditch in the West Midlands before it found its way to India.

The first motorcycle with the Bullet name was produced in 1931 and was named because of Enfield’s links with the Royal Small Arms Factory in London.

But today’s version of the Bullet traces its ancestry back to 1949. It proved to be an excellent trial machine and won hundreds of races in Britain in the 1950s.

By the mid part of the decade the Bullet was a regular sight in India’s as the government had ordered 800 units for the police and army.

To fulfil the Indian government’s demand, Enfield set up a factory in India to assemble Bullets in 1955.

Enfield became an Indian company in 1971, when a firm based in Madras (now Chennai) purchased it. The brand changed owners again in 1993, when it was bought by Eicher Motors, a New Delhi manufacturer of lorries, buses and tractors.

At the time, recalled Siddhartha Lal, the chief executive of Eicher Motors, the Bullet was struggling, even though its beefy, powerful look remained iconic. In 2000, Mr Lal, then 27, applied himself to the task of reviving Royal Enfield and the Bullet brand.

The growth since then, Mr Lal said, showed that “there was obviously a latent demand for a motorcycle like this, which hadn’t been served for decades”.

Royal Enfield of India has expanded beyond India’s borders and sells its three brands — including the Bullet — in more than 20 countries.

To meet growing demand, the company opened a new plant in Oragadam, Chennai, in 2013.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae