Ananya Pathak

“The female rider community is under-served”: Royal Enfield's Puneet Sood

The Indian motorcycle brand recently launched its first-ever apparel and riding gear line for women. We spoke to the head of the apparel business to find out more...

Royal Enfield, the leading motorcycle manufacturing brand in India, recently announced the launch of its first-ever apparel and riding gear range, exclusively for women. The line is an extension of the brand’s unisex apparel business that was launched in 2014.

Royal Enfield's first apparel collection for women is anchored by a clutch of riding jackets, trousers, gloves and helmets, and also T-shirts, shirts and jeans.

The launch is supported by a digital campaign #DeedsNotWords, conceptualised by the internal team of the Chennai-headquartered brand. The minute-long film, executed by freelance videographer Ronny Sen, features actual (real-life) women riders.

Taking inspiration from the ‘motorcycling way of life’, the clothing range, priced between Rs 700 and Rs 14,000, has been designed to be aspirational, yet accessible. It will help support women in their pursuits of exploration.

Puneet Sood, head – apparel business, Royal Enfield, tells afaqs!, “The collection has been crafted keeping in mind the riding habits of our female customer, and the varied weather conditions across the country."

With around 15 years of marketing experience, Sood joined Royal Enfield in October 2017, and manages end-to-end responsibility for global gear. In his prior stints, he has worked with Microsoft for around two-and-a-half years, Nokia for close to seven years, and Kansai Nerolac Paints for over two years.

Puneet Sood
Puneet Sood

Sood says there wasn’t any specific research, or insight, that led to the launch of the brand’s new business. It was something that was being internally discussed by the brand for quite some time now. “Apparel for women was always on the table,” he says.

There were multiple reasons that led to the launch of the line now. “For the first few years into the apparel business, we were in the process of learning and understanding the market needs. We realised that the number of women riders is growing drastically. Not just that, the number of women going for adventures as pillion (rider) is growing,” says Sood.

He reveals that the number of women riders has grown, from one out 10 riders being a female in 2009, to one out of five in 2018, globally. “While we do not have exact numbers in the Indian context, we have observed the hike in the number of participants in our rides and events like 'Rider Mania',” he notes.

The brand often hears from the female rider community that it is under-served. First, in terms of ride offerings in the market, and second, in terms of accessibility. “The launch of apparel for women is aimed at solving this issue,” states Sood.

He says that the brand started working on the apparel for women segment early last year (2019). He states that safety was the prime consideration, along with three important parameters - protection, comfort, and style.

“When we thought of the launch, our objective was to keep it specific for Indian weather conditions, and accessible – both in monetary terms without compromising on quality, and in terms of availability,” Sood adds.

The brand has divided the range into three broad segments – riding gears (like helmets and gloves), lifestyle apparel (T-shirt, denims, sweatshirts, shirts and jackets), and lifestyle accessories (belts, keychain and wallets).

According to Sood, the riding jackets were crafted keeping in mind the riding habits of the consumers and the weather. “There’s a summer mesh suit and a three-layer all-weather riding suit (both available separately). The highlight, though, is a coated cotton jacket with leather details. In addition, there are a few classic leather jackets and gloves.”

The collection is currently available online on Royal Enfield's website, and at select stores in Delhi, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and Kolkata.

Some of the products from Royal Enfield's Apparel for women collection
Some of the products from Royal Enfield's Apparel for women collection

The range includes cotton riding jackets (Rs 5,800), summer mesh riding jackets (Rs 7,000), three-layer all-weather riding jackets (Rs 14,000), summer mesh riding trousers (Rs 6,500), all-weather riding trousers (Rs 9,500), summer riding gloves (Rs 2,500), leather riding gloves (Rs 3,300), full face helmets (Rs 3,700), open face helmets (Rs 2,700), lifestyle leather jackets (Rs 9,900-10,900), T-shirts (Rs 700-1,100), shirts (Rs 2,300-2,500), shorts (Rs 1,500-1,600), bottoms (jeans/trousers - Rs 2,400-2,600).

Some of the products from Royal Enfield's Apparel for women collection
Some of the products from Royal Enfield's Apparel for women collection

When we asked Sood about the target audience, he states that the riding community is age-agnostic and, hence, there is no specific age group that the brand is targeting. He says, “…it’s essentially for anybody who likes riding.”

"We are looking at launching masks soon."

Given the current market situation and the ‘new normal’, is there anything that worries Sood? “As a business, we’ve always measured ourselves, not just in terms of the revenue generated, but also in terms of the impact that we create on the riding community. Our overall goal remains the same – to make the riding experience better, and to help the rider community express better,” he says.

“Of course, there are categories that we need to focus on right now. In terms of relevance and to create an impact, we are looking at launching masks soon. We had earlier launched head gears that now come with anti-bacterial coating. In terms of revenue, we did have to revisit some of our plans that we drew in the pre-COVID period, but we are sure that the journey ahead would be exciting,” he adds.

When we asked Sood about the brand's competition, he says there are some international players that offer women-specific riding gears. But the challenge is their acceptability, in terms of pricing and adaptability to the Indian climate.

Going forward, the brand will be committed to expanding its portfolio and availability. “For now, we are focusing on staying relevant for the riding community, and making sure that they are aware of our offering. I am sure the community will act as an advocate for the brand…,” Sood says before signing off.