The bicycle industry as a whole is going through a transitional phase with sales now shifting towards the kids’ segment
The bicycle industry is one of the most established industries in India. It has raised the country’s position to that of the second largest bicycle manufacturer in the world, next only to China. India has seen a tremendous increase in the number of bicycle manufacturers and bicycle exporters in the recent past.
The annual domestic demand of bicycles in India is approximately 12 million units, according to industry estimates. While the mass-market segment is experiencing a sluggish growth of between 4-6 per cent annually, the premium and lifestyle segment is growing at a CAGR of over 30 per cent.
The bicycle segment has greatly evolved over the years. Hitherto, cycles were simplistically segmented into gents, ladies, kids and high-end. But now the lifestyle bikes are being segmented in line with the global trend that is based on their usage. There are road bikes, mountain bikes, tourers, hybrids, BMX, to name a few. Growth in the “specials segment” that includes sport light roadster, mountain terrain bike and children’s bicycles, has been reported to be higher than in the standard segment and this in turn is fueling growth for the bicycle industry.
According to Purushottam Shirodkar, proprietor, D P Shirodkar, Panaji, although sales in Goa are comparatively better than the rest of India, it has been increasing to a small extent, but not by volume. “There are numerous types of bikes that are available today in the market, unlike earlier where one could only buy the standard ‘u-shaped’ handlebar cycles. Interestingly, what we have noticed is the kids’ range is picking up. The older generation today prefers a two-wheeler over a bicycle, so that’s why the adult bike segment only constitutes 4-5 per cent of the overall sales,” he says.
Echoing his view, Vinay Raikar of Panaji-based Raikar Sales, says, sales in recent years have shifted from adults to kids and teens as “children want a new cycle every year.” The months between April-May and October-December are considered peak seasons. Normally, the average budget for buying a new cycle ranges between ` 4000 – 10,000.
The children’s segment for kids aged 3 years and above starts at ` 2,000 while the adult bike segment begins at ` 4,000 (without gear). There are almost 15 Indian brands in the market today, some of which are Hero, TI Cycles (BSA and Hercules), A1, Action X (that is imported in India and sold), Kross, Urban Trail and Montra. In the adult cycle segment, one can choose from MTB, ATB, hybrid, roadster and BMX variants. The hybrid bikes are the most popular for city riding and long distance.
Bicycle companies are focusing on the niche but growing segment of recreation bicycles.
Raikar points out that as today’s older generation is getting fitness-conscious, this trend is boosting sales. The market for the premium or the lifestyle bikes targeted towards the lifestyle consumer is just about emerging. Cycling groups and clubs too have mushroomed, and their members are buyers of imported premium bikes. Proline Fitness at Panaji only deals in such bicycles and reports sales of 4-5 high-end bikes a week. It deals in brands like US-made Track, Swiss-based Scott and Taiwanese Firefox bicycles. A basic without gear premium bike costs ` 9,460 and can go up to ` one lakh and above depending on additional features.
Shirodkar says that online sales have affected bicycle retailers like him considerably. “Online sales have eaten into our business by almost 8-10 per cent. What people don’t realise is these sites don’t offer any warranty nor after-sales service,” he mentions.
Raikar also adds that such online sales won’t last long as the bikes are sold in a disassembled form, with no local service. “One has to assemble all the parts by themselves. So it’s not worth the discount,” he says.
Shirodkar advocates the need for creating separate cycle lanes. “As a cycle is slower, there is always a risk factor while riding on the road as motorcycles and cars don’t care for cyclists. Therefore, parents don’t allow their kids to ride on roads. There is a need for dedicated cycle tracks like the ones that have been created in European countries. This will also encourage cycling. Also, we should only have cycles entering the city and allow parking of vehicles outside city limits. Apart from its monetary factor, it will also greatly the environment.”