Here’s Why Bicycles Are Suddenly Selling Like Hot CakesPage Visited: 14
Work from home made Mumbai-based public relations executive Naresh Sharma, 29, put on 10 kg in just eight weeks of the lockdown. Warm water with lemon, green tea and even yoga did not help in shedding those extra kilos in the weeks that followed.
Instead, however, there were backaches aplenty, as well as aches in his joints and feet, which by June, had become a daily concern. A close friend suggested he take up cycling since gyms were still closed. But to Sharma’s surprise a multi-brand premium cycle showroom near his house was stocked out.
“That showroom sold cycles at a discount of 15-20 percent all year round and now they don’t have a single bicycle to sell. Reluctantly I ordered one online,” Sharma recounted.
Sharma is one among millions of urban professionals who have pushed demand for bicycles to such an extent that cycle makers have completely exhausted their manufacturing capacity and are laughing all the way to the bank.
“First came demand for affordable commuter cycles from migrant workers who were ready to lay their hands on anything cheap followed by an even bigger demand from the urban centres from health-conscious working professionals for premium bikes”, said an executive at a Delhi-based cycle making company.
Sales more than double
According to the All India Cycle Manufacturers’ Association (AICMA), between May and September, 4.18 million bicycles were sold, more than double the number in the same period last year. Premium bicycles, especially those with gears, remain out of stock.
India’s bicycle industry is the largest in the world, with sales of around 15 million units. Just two players, Hero Cycles and Chennai headquartered TI Cycles, command a 60 percent share of this giant market.
The market itself is split on pricing parameters. Those priced below Rs 10,000 are defined as affordable while those above that are classified as premium.
Sukanta Das, Chief Executive, Firefox Bikes, said: “This has been an absolutely phenomenal year for us. Across the world people have taken up biking as a way of life. And the growth for premium bikes has been six times compared to last year. However, none of the manufacturers were prepared to service this kind of demand growth”.
Firefox is the market leader of the premium bicycle segment, controlling 25 percent of the market. Its parent company Hero Cycles controls 42 percent of India’s bicycle segment. The premium segment, which clocked sales of 350,000 units in FY20, is expected to sell more than 500,000 in FY21.
The Rs 6,000 crore industry, which was growing at 5-7 percent annually, is now expected to grow 15-20 percent this year, led by a surge in first-time users. Sales of kids’ and geared bicycles, which account for 45 percent of sales, are expected to rise to 55-60 percent following demand from larger towns, according to AICMA.
“The last I sat on a bicycle was when I was six. I never got a chance thereafter. But now I do 120-150 km every week on my B’Twin Riverside 500, which I bought in August,” said Pune-based IT professional Ashwin Gaikwad. B’Twin is the bicycle brand of French sporting goods retailer Decathlon.
“After I told people in my social group that I am burning 800-900 calories every hour on my Hercules Roadeo each one of them took up the sport enthusiastically. We are now a group of ten who organise riding trips every weekend,” said another Pune-based IT employee, Chirag Patil.
With existing capacities running at full steam, manufacturers are pumping in investments to add new factories. Hero Cycles, for instance, is setting up a cycle making plant in the Industrial Cycle Valley in Ludhiana. The Rs 200 crore plant, which will have the capacity to make 4-10 million units a year, will start producing cycles from the first quarter of next year.
Punjab-based Avon Cycles, with brands such as Solo, Orbita and Yama, is setting up a Rs 100 crore greenfield plant in Ludhiana. The new plant will push up its capacity to 15,000 cycles per day from 10,000 cycles per day now.
Is the demand sustainable?
Parts supply and manpower constraints aside, manufacturers believe that the current trend has opened a new buyer dimension for the sector.
“Cycles carry an emotional appeal just like other personal products like a cell phone or a wrist watch. Buyers spending on accessorising their cycles and learning how to keep them in proper shape is proof of that. This is a growing trend,” said a senior executive at a South India-based cycle maker.
Going about without consuming a drop of fossil fuel or emitting any dangerous gases has become a lead marketing point. In the time of Covid, the fear of contracting the disease while using public transport has also pushed some to opt for bicycles.
“People are contributing to the environment; they are leading a healthier life than before and commuting in a much cheaper way. We have observed that there is consciousness of health among people and for the environment as well. That’s why the demand will continue well into next year,” Das added.