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Foot on the pedal

Foot on the pedal

  • 12 Jul, 2014
  • Bangalore Mirror

Three passionate cyclists roll out successful business models that help them keep up with their love for the sport while encouraging others to do so too

Over the past decade, Bangalore has seen the definition of high-end cycles change. In the '90s, a high-end cycle would cost around Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000. The entry of global brands such as Firefox in April 2005 has changed the price-points. Cycles — road bikes, off-road bikes, tourers and hybrids —now cost from Rs 20,000 to a few lakhs. The big foreign brands in the Indian market now include Trek, Bergamount, Bianchi, Dahon, Giant, Merida, Canondale, Specialized and so on, creating a community of over 10,000 avid cyclists in Bangalore. Making the most of this scenario are city entrepreneurs, who have created innovative business models to sustain the city's growing romance with cycles. Three such entrepreneurs discuss their ventures. 

In a business of tomorrow
Gauri Jayaram (42) Founder-Managing Director, Active Holidays Started in: 2013 USP:Cycling tours across the world When Gauri Jayaram turned 40 in 2012, she gifted herself a trip to the Mount Everest base camp, a Trek 7.0 bicycle (`30,000), and the completion of the Dead Sea Marathon in Jordan. Her tryst with bicycles began in 2011, when cycling provided the much-needed cross training for endurance running, which she took up in 2009. At the time, Jayaram had a "dream job" with Globus Cosmos Tours, one of the world's largest coach touring companies, where she worked as the regional director for South Asia and the Middle East. "When I came back from Everest, living out of one bag for two weeks had given me a different perspective on life," Jayaram recalls. Heading a company became meaningless. "I had started to feel complacent. I wanted to do more with my life." So she started her own company, Active Holidays, one of the first in the country to provide guided bicycle tours across over 35 countries in the world. It also caters to marathoners who want to register for the Chicago and London Marathon. But her primary focus is cycling tours. "The idea was to give travellers an opportunity to live the life of a local and use transport that enables them to explore the place," she adds. There are three categories — easy, moderate and challenging. There are tours in some of the most exotic locations such as Santorini and Naxos in Greece, Andalucia in Spain, all of Europe, Asia, and experiences such as cycling from London to Amsterdam, the best of Tuscany, and hiking along Austrian lakes. "This is exactly the way I would like to travel and I wanted to offer the same to the Indian public," she says. Jayaram is aware the business comes with a risk. "Cycling tours are still a business of tomorrow. It is an expensive sport and not everybody in the country can do it," she notes. But the positive is that, "today we have more runners than we ever did and more cyclists than before." The company's initial investment between 2013-14 was about Rs 65 lakh. Whether they go on to break even remains to be seen, but Jayaram is content to follow her heart.

Service men
Rohan Kini (33) Co-founder, Bums On the Saddle Started in: 2006 USP: Passionate cyclists selling the product When Rohan Kini began cycling to his office in Indiranagar from his family home in Jayanagar fifth block in 2005, he fell in love with the boyhood experience. In 2005, he and childhood friend Nikhil Eldukar picked up a FireFox worth Rs 10,000, and "super excited," began cycling to work religiously. "It would take only 25 minutes," he recalls. Off-road cycling tours became their favourite pastime on off days. But Bangalore had few service stations with expertise in handling high-end cycles. "There was no one who understood the fundamentals and gave hands-on guidance. We had some bad experiences while setting up our cycles." In 2006, they started servicing cycles out of a 200 sqft workstation, Bums On The Saddle (BOTS) atop Eldukar's home in Jayanagar first block. Kini borrowed Rs 80,000 from his father Dr Prakash Kini, a gynaecologist. As engineers, the duo was well settled; Kini worked with ThoughtWorks and Eldukar worked with Mercedes as a mechanical engineer. Until 2010, on weekdays, they would correspond with cycling enthusiasts who took half-hour appointments over emails and on weekends they would set up cycles for them or provide assistance. "Since we had regular jobs on weekdays, we had dedicated our weekends to run the store. We would start at 9.30 am and stay in the store till about 8 pm," Kini says. Trek, a premium brand, offered dealership rights to them and in no time, BOTS had turned into a successful and trusted cycle store in the city. "We weren't businessmen, nor did we know much about assembling cycles but we learnt from scratch, from the Internet," he adds. They even started Bangalore Bicycle Championships (BBCH) in 2009, to close the gap between cycling for fun and a sporting culture. It offers 12-14 off-road and track races a year. In 2010, Kini quit his IT job to work full-time with BOTS. "It was a very difficult decision. But my family was really supportive," he says. In 2011, BOTS moved into a 2,000 sqft retail space in Jayanagar Fifth Block. In 2013 they became the official distributors (in India) for Specialized, US-based high-end cycle manufacturer. They opened their second outlet of Specialized BOTS on Infantry Road last year. Today, BOTS sells 15-20 mid-range to high-end bikes a month and conducts talks and seminars for corporate houses to promote cycling to work. 
Mail on a saddle
Rajiv Singh (30) 
Co-founder, Cyclercity Started in: December 2013 USP: Bicycle messenger One sunny summer afternoon this year, Rajiv Singh got a call from an aging couple in Jayanagar asking for help to bring home their medical report from a hospital a few km away. Singh's 15-member team at Cyclercity gets several such calls every day. They pick up and deliver goods such as CDs, pen drives, keys, books, medical reports and so on for their customers across Bangalore. "Parents wanting to send food to their kids who live in a different locality get in touch with us asking us to deliver it for them," Singh says. An investment banker and an avid cyclist, he had been pedalling to work in UB City from his home in Cambridge Layout for almost two years. But the idea of starting a bike messenger service came about when he travelled to Frankfurt, Germany on work in 2012. During his four-month stay, Singh admired the local cycling culture. There, he says, you will be abused if you encroach upon cycling lanes — something Bangaloreans frequently do. With an initial investment of Rs 5 lakh, Singh rented a 300 sqft garage in Koramangla and converted it into an office space, bought eight cycles and got in touch with NGOs to help him find unemployed men from economically deprived backgrounds. "I wanted to take a sabbatical from work and started this with absolutely no intention of making money or breaking even," he adds. The initial response was overwhelming, and six months later, Cyclercity has over 4,000 regular customers. Off late, Singh says, they have been getting orders to deliver 200-300 wedding cards. "At times logistics become an issue and we have gone back to our client saying so. But they insist that it's an eco-friendly thing and they want us to do it," he says. On an average, they get 20-30 requests on weekdays, and on weekends it goes up to 40. The rate per delivery starts at Rs 70 for up to 5 km and up to 100 gm. "For now we are able to sustain and whatever we earn goes back into the company," he says.