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Bicycles: Pedalling Ahead In Style

With cycling becoming a hobby among the health and fitness conscious urban dwellers, demand for premium bikes is booming

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Bangalore-based Maj Vivek Varma (31), a retired Indian Army officer and a startup enthusiast, has been cycling to office every day by booking a ride on an app. An ardent cyclist, he often sets out for Nandi Hills (35 km away from the city) on his Hercules Roadeo Turner Vbrake bicyle on weekends. He now plans to join fellow cyclists for a 100-km inter-city joyride on weekends, and felt the need to upgrade to a more premium bike for better mobility and style.

In fact, there is now a growing demand for premium bikes among the likes of Maj. Varma who have taken to cycling to stay fit and out of love and concern for the environment. These bikes, which cost as much as or more than most fuel-guzzling motorbikes, have caught the fancy of fitness and outdoor enthusiasts, a trend that is fuelled by the rising incomes and changing lifestyles of the middle class.

Talking of his love for cycling, Varma says, “It gives me the privilege of riding without any traffic constraints during the weekends. I neither like pollution nor traffic so why contribute to both. Through long distance rides, I want to convey the message that cycling is a good way to commute. I would also like to note that cycling is an interesting concept which should be marketed well.”

Focus on recreation bikes

Of late, cycling has caught on in a big way in cities big and small — for reasons ranging from hobby, fun and fitness, healthy living and love for outdoors to hassle-free commute. And this has been aided in no small measure by the cycling clubs that have mushroomed in cities and towns as well as on social media.

Most of the industry players are focusing on this niche but growing segment of recreation bicycles.

“The premium bicycle has advanced from being a hobby to a lifestyle accessory. Cycling is more of a social activity than it ever was before and for many members of the millennial generation, the high-end bicycle becomes a means to express and exude their identities,” says Pankaj Munjal, Chairman and Managing Director, Hero Cycles.  

The Indian bicycle market, which until a decade ago was confined to local players like Hero, BSA, Hercules, Avon and Atlas, has seen the influx of international players like Trek, Kona, Schwinn, Giant, Fomas (an Indo-Chinese venture) Decathlon, Bianchi, Scott Sports, among others.

Pravin Patil, MD & CEO, Starkenn Sports says, “A lot is happening in the bicycle industry due to which the market will continuously grow in the future. The bicycle manufacturers of our country have made efforts to seize the market through interventions like entering into joint ventures with foreign brands, changes in the marketing and distribution strategies, introduction of wider product portfolio and innovations like alloy and carbon frames, etc.”

According to him, lifestyle changes in the society and people’s inclination towards premium bicycles have also contributed to the different outlook towards bicycles. Patil was previously with Hero Cycles heading its premium vertical Urban Trail before floating his own entity.

Booming premium segment
India is the world’s second largest manufacturer of cycles after China and the world’s third largest consumer. Last year, as per industry estimates, bicycle sales in India stood at over 16.5 million units, valued at Rs 5,000-5,500 crore. The Indian bicycle market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 5-6 per cent up to 2021-22.

While the growth has been static in the mass market or utility cycle segment, the premium segment—comprising touring, road, mountain, city, hybrid and racing cycles—is witnessing an unprecedented growth. As per industry data, metropolitan cities like Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune and Hyderabad contribute almost 55 per cent of the total sales in the premium segment.

“A Rs 25,000 product today would have been super-expensive ten years back. But today the market we are operating in is worth $25 million. The overall size of the premium and super-premium segment is currently small at approximately 30,000 units annually and accounts for only 0.2 per cent of the overall market in India,” says Navneet Banka, Country Manager, Trek Bicycle India.“However, this segment has grown at a CAGR of 20 per cent over the last five years. This is ahead of the overall market growth rate, which is estimated to be in single digits. Therefore, we see that there is a substantial market that exists in this (segment) itself,” Banka adds.

Among the international players, Scott Sports was the first brand to set up a subsidiary in India in 2011. According to Jaymin Shah, Managing Director, Scott Sports India, “The size of the premium and serious sporting segment is close to 1 per cent of the total market. The rest 99 per cent is where the opportunity from a global perspective lies. We have grown with the market and have played an integral role in contributing to its growth.”

Entry of niche players
Besides, the Indian bike market has also seen the entry of niche players like GoZero Mobility, a British electric bike maker which manufactures premium electric performance bikes and signature lifestyle merchandise. It will be launching its flagship products One and Mile performance e-bikes this year in New Delhi.

Says Ankit Kumar, CEO, GoZero Mobility: “We believe India will be at the centre of the electric mobility revolution and we wish to contribute towards this. India is a high potential market for us. We aim to achieve a sales target of 3,000 units in 2019 scaling up further to 75,000 units by 2023.”

The booming premium bicycle market could face roadblocks posed by a lack of dedicated cycling lanes is urban areas. But cycle makers are not worried. In fact, they are quite upbeat thanks to the Smart City Mission covering 100 cities that was initiated in 2015.

“India is a developing country; as such the government has priorities largely to cater to people below the poverty line and other priority sectors. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of smart cities has bicycle lanes as an integral feature, in all the new infrastructure development projects. This will certainly help boost the culture of cycling in the country. In the meanwhile, this has not deterred people from taking to cycling as we continually see growth of premium bicycles sales in the country,” says Patil of Starkenn.

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