We Indians love our motorcycles. For the majority, they serve as a cost-effective means of transport, while for some, they embody a sense of freedom you can’t experience in a closed four-wheeled space. Reaffirming the fact are the numerous ‘wanderlust’ stickers we come across at the back of Enfields. But there’s a disturbing commonality between the two. While we love to ride, we also hate to wear any sort of protection that could save us from any potential harm.
Thankfully though, things are changing. Indian riders are warming up to the fact that a helmet isn’t the only protection you need while on the road. Which has, in turn, prompted companies like Royal Enfield to start venturing into the riding apparel segment more seriously than before. Their newest venture is a result of a collaboration with reputed Italian brand Alpinestars. But how did this collaboration even come to be? We sat down with Puneet Sood, the Global Head of Apparel Business at Royal Enfield to get some answers.
Edited excerpts from the interview
1) How did the collaboration happen? And why Alpinestars?
To enhance the riding experience in India, our objective is to create products that meet global safety norms and make them accessible, both in terms of pricing and availability. Keeping this in mind, at Royal Enfield, we are constantly updating our product range and attempt to bring an enviable collection through our collaborations with the best global brands. In this case, both Royal Enfield and Alpinestars have a rich legacy in the world of motorcycling and symbolize an amalgamation of authenticity and safety. Through this collaboration, we aim to provide our riding community with the essential tools needed to elevate the standard of riding with high safety, performance and comfort.
2) What sort of expertise did Alpinestars bring to the table?
Alpinestars is the world-leading manufacturer of professional racing products, motorcycling airbag protection, high-performance apparel and technical footwear. Alpinestars’ rich legacy and experience, combined with Royal Enfield’s strong understanding of the Indian market helped create the product range which caters to the needs of the motorcycling community in India.
The collection includes armour-infused riding jackets, gloves and riding trousers that meet global safety norms. All the riding jackets and riding trousers under this range are CE Certified with Class A protection under Personal Protective Equipment regulations and come with Alpinestars Nucleon flex pro CE level 2 armour. Additionally, the products also come with Alpinestars’ patented Drystar technology. The Drystar membrane makes the gear waterproof, yet breathable and allows riders to endure all-weather conditions while keeping the rider dry and comfortable.
The range also includes 3 gloves, all of which are CE certified to level 1 EN13594:2015, KP and have been developed with best-in-class features such as knuckle protection, palm protection, padding, cuff adjusters, screen-friendly fingertips, accordion stretch panels, and constructed with high-quality abrasion resistance goat nappa leather, Polyester Air mesh and Drystar waterproof membrane among others.
3) In India where riding safety is often overlooked, how are you planning to raise awareness?
Our first task is to understand the unique needs of the riders in the Indian market. The customer expectations are evolving and they are seeking comfort and style over and above safety from the riding gear. There are the pillars we are building our range on. To increase the adoption of riding safety, we need to build a range that is relevant, versatile and at the same time accessible both in terms of price and availability. To solve for availability, the riding gear range from Royal Enfield Apparel is not only available in dealerships, but also across online via our website and other ecommerce stores.
While building a relevant range, we also want to ensure that we make globally the best safety products available to our riders, and hence the partnerships with brands like D30, Knox, TCX, Alpinestars. We hope to be able to evolve the riding gear market in India by pushing the benchmark higher. With this intent, Royal Enfield Apparel launched a comprehensive range of CE-certified riding gear and also a complete range of riding gear for women.
To help build awareness about safety, responsible riding and the appropriate riding gear, the business has been focused on building the right communication in addition to building the right product. It is important to educate consumers on the need for riding gear and how gear can enhance a rider’s riding experience.
4) Have you noticed any changes in buyer behavior? Are customers/riders slowly becoming aware of the safety riding gears offer?
Motorcycling has evolved into a mainstream culture and a way of life for enthusiasts. The current riders are more aware, responsible and educated and realize the importance of wearing the right riding gear. The customers now seek safety, comfort and style from the riding gear they wear. With leisure motorcycling picking up, more and more riders are investing in high-capacity motorcycles coupled with an increasing number of motorcycle clubs in India, resulting in higher usage of ride gears.
While there are multiple offerings in the market, the larger Indian market for the longest time has been underserved in terms of products that are accessible in terms of price, and distribution and are made for the Indian weather and terrain.
The motorcycle owners are also becoming more aware of the fact that the use of riding gear needs to be irrespective of the commute distance or destination. To enable this, Royal Enfield has focussed on purpose-built riding gear, like a full mesh lightweight jacket or lifestyle jackets with a pocket for slip-in armour, to make it easy to use and comfortable.
From an industry perspective, we see a lot of potential in the overall apparel and riding gear segment. With more and more motorcyclists understanding the need for safe and protective riding gear, the industry is expected to thrive and grow and we are happy that we are at the forefront of this growth and change.
5) Some of the products on offer are on the pricier side, at least in terms of the Indian price point perspective. What were some of the challenges you faced while developing a motorcycle safety apparel line for a cost-conscious country like India?
At Royal Enfield, our priority is to put the safety of the rider first. The thought behind developing our apparel and gear portfolio was to offer a range that is relevant for our riders irrespective of the terrain, weather conditions and destination. To drive the adoption of riding gear, the business has focused on building a range that is accessible in terms of price without compromising on safety, style or comfort. Our range of riding jackets starts at Rs. 4950 whereas helmets start at Rs. 1750 making them accessible for the Indian market.
6) Can you elaborate on the ‘Art of Motorcycling campaign’? How has the response to the campaign been?
ArtOfMotorcycling has served as a unique, engaging initiative and the brand has seen customer engagement and brand interaction attain exemplary results. It has also enabled the brand to reach out to a newer audience and further the message of ‘pure motorcycling. The campaign has resulted in bringing a diverse audience from Tier 2 & 3 cities along with the Royal Enfield community ranging from avid riders and aspirants to artists, illustrators, and graphic designers under a common umbrella through our ongoing digital campaign. Our plan is to keep #ArtofMotorcycling as a recurring event and as a next step ahead, we’ll look at its global expansion.
7) What are some of the milestones Royal Enfield apparel has set for itself?
We measure ourselves in terms of impact and not just revenues. When we started, our first benchmark was to build a comprehensive range of apparel with focus on safety, comfort and style. We aim to continue on this path and engage deeply and meaningfully with the community to keep evolving our apparel range. We not only want to evolve the range but also ally with our riding community and help them understand the importance of the right riding gear for them thereby helping evolve the market too.
( Image credits: Royal Enfield )