While COVID-19 is ruined the prospects of most businesses, for the hoary cycle industry the pandemic is turned out to be a shot-in-the arm. Cycles are back in the race given the huge revival in demand in the market.
Post pandemic cycle sales have surged as pan-India people have taken to cycling for fitness reasons and sometimes to commute. The demand is such that supply cannot keep pace with demand and cycle manufacturers who were used to modest increases in annual production have now ramped up manufacturing.
Not surprisingly the cycle industry which was growing annually at 5-7 per cent is now expected to grow 15-20 per cent led by first-time buyers, according to the All India Cycle Manufacturers Association.
Meanwhile in Goa as well sales are on the fast track as locals opt for recreational cycling to keep fit while maintaining social distancing. Across the state residents can be seen cycling on roads sometimes solitarily or sometimes in company as they avoid community fitness activities. Adult cyclists with a child following at the rear are easily spotted these days alongside joggers on the roads. The Miramar- Dona Paula marine drive, the Goa University road and even the interior roads of old-Goa, Margao, Vasco, Ponda, are all seeing more cyclists these days than in the pre-COVID days.
The sudden spike in popularity of cycling is good news for the handful of retailers in the state who cannot believe just how much the scene is changed. “We never expected such a boom in the demand,” says Jozico Cabral, Margao, partner, Jose Cabral Enterprises, one of the oldest cycle dealers in the state.
Like other local dealers, Cabral maintained an inventory depending on the average sales. With the demand increasing two to three fold, he is in the unusual situation of finding it difficult to manage the rush of customers.
“Cycle demand has increased to such an extent that they are in shortage,” says Cabral, adding that, the shortage is everywhere in India and even manufacturing companies cannot give commitment on when the stocks will come.
Ground check with other local dealers reveals that, the demand is mostly for adult bikes or geared cycles. The shortage is because no manufacturer in India makes the gears. Most of the gear system is imported and nearly every Indian company uses Shimano gear system which is imported from Taiwan, Malaysia or Sri Lanka.
Cabral says that his average sale of cycles presently is about 100 cycles per month compared to 50 cycles per month in the pre-COVID days. “If there was stock we would have sold even more than 100 per month,” he says. Cabral is the main dealer for Schnell in Goa, a brand that sells extremely well. He is also the dealer for all the domestic companies as well as top brands such as Trinx where the price range starts from Rs 20,000 and goes up to Rs one lakh.
“Pandemic is changed the market for cycles,” feels Raikar, proprietor, Raikar Sales, Panaji. He says that demand for kid bikes has decreased while that of adult bikes is increased yet there are definitely more enquiries for bicycles from customers and sales are slightly higher than normal.
Raikar points out that, the cycle popularity is because other fitness activities such as gyming, yoga , zumba, etc is hit a roadblock because of the pandemic. “Cycling is the only activity that can be taken up safely in the present situation,” he says.
Elaborating on the increase in demand he adds that, trending bikes are in the 27-inch wheel and 29-inch wheel range. Further Goans prefer bikes that give value-for-money and are reasonably expensive. “Most purchases are in the range of Rs 14,000 – Rs 19,000,” says Raikar although, he recently sold a Rs 1.15 lakh cycle, a BMC bike.
Cabral adds that, he recently sold a cycle costing upwards of Rs one lakh, a Hero Lectro electric cycle to a Calangute resident.
Other dealers reveal that, mountain terrain bikes, viz. the ones with fat tyres are popular among locals as they are good for all roads. Electric cycles have also piqued the interest of local peddlers, according to dealers although some among them doubt whether e-cycles are effective for keeping fit.
Cycling as a sport was already picking up in the state and it is reflected in the growing number of cycling groups, say dealers. They add that, cycles would have witnessed more sales if there was the finance option for buyers. “Banks have stopped giving cycle finance although many prefer to buy bicycles on EMI,” says Cabral.