In Goa, we know the joy of riding a cycle to work, to school, and around the neighborhood. Wherever we go, the bicycle transportation alliance works to make the ride safe, convenient, and fun that was till the mid 1980s when the gearless scooters made its entry and nearly put an end to the bicycle industry.Before Goa’s liberation, journeys in the towns were predominantly made by bikes (bicycles) and the roads became increasingly congested as cyclists were squeezed to the kerb. It was a rare thing to hear death by cycling on the roads and the network of roads build was more like cycle pathways. There were granny style or Omafiets cycles with wicker basket and pedal back brakes for ladies.
Now Goa is on the brink of a freewheeling revolution. A bicycle boom is underway across the State, with more people rediscovering the joy of two wheels cycling rather than gearless riding, says Vinayak Hede turned 60 on June 17. He added sales of mountain bikes have soared and cyclists are travelling to exercise their biceps.
Running the family retail cycle firm M/S JS Narcinva Hede was started in 1936 by his father Narcinva Hede on the old Railway Station road, Vinayak says the rise of the pedal power is poised to accelerate as health conscience people are investing in new cycles, while the seniors in their 50s are asking for utility bikes that was there till the late 1980s.
We were among the first cycle traders in Goa and my father would import cycles from Birmingham, UK and market it to neighbouring states, besides retailing it in Goa. During the Portuguese era we would import Raleigh, Hercules, BSA and Huber, TIA and Philips cycles.
When I entered the business in 1979, people would buy three to four bicycles to start a hiring business. They would give the cycles for hire at eight annas an hour and filling-air would cost 10 paise a tube. A spare tire cost Rs7.50 and a tube cost Rs3.50.
Today the tire cost Rs180 and the tube Rs100. A Raleigh cycle during the Portuguese cost Rs100. In 1979 a Hero cycle price went up to Rs300 plus 6 per cent tax which works out to Rs380. Now the same cycle cost Rs4,200. We have a total of three shops, my wife Kiran Hede manages the spares and parts shop in Borda opposite Multipurpose School while I manage the assembly workshop and retail shop on the old station road. We employ two mechanics to assemble the bikes, one each in Borda and at the old station road, and a clerk cum salesman.
There was only one bank during the time of my late father so we would keep day’s money from the sales in a steel safe and it would remain safe as there were no robberies as Goa was not discovered, he says and chuckles.
After Goa being liberated from the Portuguese rule, there were three cycle traders, Hede the oldest, followed by Cabral and Aboo in South Goa and demand for cycles for college students would increase year on year. Demand also came from bakers, and fish sellers as villages started expanding. There were no kids cycles than and the youngsters would learn to ride on big cycles.
In fact Goans were taller in the past as the standard height of the cycle in the 70s and 80s were 30 inches today it is lower at 21 inches. On an average we would sell 1,200 to 2,000 cycles a year, by now we have sold more than 50,000 cycles. In the mid 1980s when the gearless scooters were introduced in the market the demand for cycles declined.
After liberation there was a change in the bicycle ownership. Raleigh became Sen Raleigh of Calcutta, Hercules and BSA was taken over by a Madras company.
But a few years later in the end of the 1990s children bicycles were introduced and later mountain bikes came into the market. I expect utility bikes to return because people are making enquiries for the old Raleigh and Hero cycles. They are mostly senior customers who had cycles in their hay-days and want to be fit again. During the 70s and 80s we barely heard of diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis.
Kiran Hede, the firebrand housewife of Vinayak spends the latter half of the day managing the retail and spare part shop in Borda. She says fitting genuine spares that are covered by warranties saves money for cycle owners and gives them confidence about the reliability of their bicycle.
Kiran is responsible for spares and parts of all cycles. This year the shop has done better, but argues with the working class that her spares are expensive. She says everyone has become cost-conscious, but the temptation to buy cheap spares should be resisted because it often causes additional expenses and mechanical problems which can affect safety.
The family has been running the business since 80 years and the name Hede has become a brand name in cycle management and solutions. The shop undertakes retailing, repairs, assembly of kid bikes and servicing.
Though it is against my will, I keep a few lower priced spares and parts to please the working class. These are priced lower than the genuine items, but most certainly do not have a warranty and I make it a point to tell them. A vehicle fitted with suspect spares can easily cause break downs and accidents, she says.
A graduate in economic Karen entered the business in 1990. I have a lot of experience in accounting from my earlier working companies and this has encouraged me to manage the shop.