Moving into Top Gear | Kolkata News – Times of India

Moving into Top Gear | Kolkata News – Times of India


Kolkata: Till a year ago, advertising executive Bibhor Singhania had never thought of any business venture, leave alone trading in cycles. Cycle shops on Bentinck Street had been just about surviving selling no-frills standard cycles to milkmen, newspaper vendors, gardeners, plumbers and other tradesmen. The minuscule percentage that stocked up on more expensive lifestyle bikes regretted the low sales and a few old shops had even downed shutters.
In March 2020, the world declared a pandemic and India went into lockdown. Public transport went off roads and gyms and parks were shut down. Those on emergency duty had to organise a transport. Suddenly, the humble cycle’s versatility as a vehicle for commuting, exercise and exploring the city surfaced. As some posted the experience on social media, it fuelled more interest. And demand zoomed. Singhania spotted the opportunity and dived in.
“Everyone was suddenly taking to cycling. The passion had been rekindled, for some due to necessity and others who wanted to stay fit. It also allowed social distancing. When I went to purchase a bike around September, I found the experience very poor with crammed shops and no guidance. That’s when I decided to open a showroom myself,” says Singhania, who opened a 2,200 sqft store, Veloton Cycling, on Prince Anwar Shah Road this February. He stocks cycles ranging from Rs 8,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh.
Dipika Kedia, who had opened the cycle store Bike Studio in Salt Lake in 2018 and rode the boom, says the age profile of customers has changed. While she gets customers from all age groups, usually 30% are now below 20 years, 50% between 20 and 45 years and the rest above 45. “Earlier, 80% of the customers were below 20 years, 15% in the 20-45 years’ bracket and the other 5% above 45 years,” she said.
Dhrupad Raja, who used to cycle to St Xavier’s College and park his bike in an obscure corner to avoid the strange looks of his classmates, also ventured into the business. A techie in Bengaluru, Raja had returned to the city post-lockdown, sensed the opportunity and set up a workshop — Wise Cyclist — with Vipul Kedia in Bhowanipore to manufacture custom-made bikes.
“Cycling has now become ‘cool’. Usually, a person’s third or fourth bike is custom-made where key measurements — knee to ankle; pelvis to knee; elbow to wrist; shoulder to elbow; torso; and angle of sitting posture — are taken and the bike designed for the individual,” explained Raja. His cycles range from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh, depending on whether the material used is steel, aluminium alloy or carbon fibre.
UP Cycle stores, that has been in the business for half a century, and Decathlon in Salt Lake since January 2019 have seen demand skyrocket. “Some categories of bikes that had no takers earlier were suddenly in demand and we were saddled with a three-six months’ wait period,” said UP Cycles proprietor Ashish Gupta, who has even sold a cycle worth Rs 7.5 lakh.
The increase in sales of lifestyle cycles, including mountain terrain bikes, hybrid cycles and road bikes, has also fuelled sales of biking helmets, lights, water canisters, bright jerseys and padded shorts, glasses, gloves and bandanas. “New-age cyclists are more conscious about protective gear and other accessories, leading to a category of business that hardly existed before,” said Siddharth Sharma of Decathlon.
While cycles from all over the world are available in Kolkata now, Hero Cycles — the world’s largest cycle manufacturer — is doing roaring business. “Before 2020, 50-60% households owned a cycle. Now, there are three cycles for two households in Kolkata and by next year, we expect every household to have two cycles,” said Hero Cycles area manager Priyam Das.





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