The Royal Enfield name was first seen in India in 1895 as the rifle of the British Army, which had colonized India. When independence came to India in 1947, the Royal Enfield was the first motorcycle available in 1949, becoming the official motorcycle of the Indian Army and Police forces, with local production following in 1955.
As the only motorcycle of Indian manufacture for the next few decades, the company served as the primary supplier of motorcycles to India at a time when two-wheels offered the most cost-efficient and reliable way of covering distances in a vast land.
Returning 80 mpg and with legendary reliability in adverse conditions, Royal Enfield claimed a special place in Indiaâ€™s national psyche. Not only had it become an Indian success story (the British parent company went broke), it had along the way become entwined with Indiaâ€™s motorcycling culture. Royal Enfield is to India as Harley-Davidson is to America.
Indeed, though Harley-Davidson enthusiasts are loyal enough to tattoo their arms and chests with the company logo, they show nothing like the brand allegiance of Royal Enfield enthusiasts.
The dominance of Royal Enfieldâ€™s retro design now appears to be shaping the entire marketplace, as heritage brands are being courted, partnered and created so that other manufacturers can compete with Royal Enfield.
Royal Enfield began making motorcycles in 1901 and its status as one of the oldest motorcycle marques is the main reason that other long standing marques have all partnered with, or been acquired by an Indian motorcycle maker in the last few years: Peugeot (since 1901), Triumph (since 1902), BSA (since 1903) and Husqvarna (since 1903).
Previous year, India dethroned China from a long reign as the worldâ€™s largest motorcycle manufacturer, having already overtaken China to become the largest domestic motorcycle market three years ago.