Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Marketing

“Health and leisure cycling driving bicycle sales in urban India”: Rohit Gothi, Hero Cycles

The Indian bicycle industry is now growing at a rate of 25 per cent. The growth is being driven by the top cities and sales in the premium segments.

The Indian bicycle industry is witnessing a major surge in sales. Rohit Gothi, CEO of Hero Cycles mentions this as something that hasn’t taken place over the last several years.

A Rs 5,000 crore industry chugging away at a growth rate of 5-7 per cent has now achieved a rate of around 25 per cent.

Gothi tells afaqs! that the growth being is propelled by several factors majorly being the COVID era focus on health. While consumption has steadily increased over the last ten months (post March 2020), it also brought in new sets of consumers.

He says that the latent demand for bicycles was always there but the opportunity of riding a bicycle was missing. “It is not that people didn’t want to cycle. They didn’t know where to cycle.”

Rohit Gothi
Rohit Gothi

Empty roads caused by the long lockdowns got people pedaling across age groups. Gothi equates the situation with that of nationwide strikes when people come out on the empty streets to play cricket. The in-flow of new customers happened in phases.

The first phase included consumers who were health conscious. They were looking for ways to stay fit in the absence of gyms. A second set of consumers emerged when they saw others cycling. They were not health conscious but were fed up of living within the four walls.

Next were kids whose schools were shut for weeks. “Parents realised that they could send their kids downstairs to the society or colony.”

While the industry grew in general, the growth is being driven by the urban segment. The uptake grew by almost 100 per cent in the top cities and premium cycles in the upper price range saw the most amount of interest. The development was slightly out of place for bicycles which have been perceived as a medium for people who cannot afford a motorcycle – to be used for commuting from work to home and vice versa.

“People were able to use cycles for leisure to a large extent. That helped the industry,” Gothi says.

While the entire industry is now growing at 25 per cent, the growth in urban bikes and mountain bikes, is almost at 100 per cent. Hero’s premium brand Firefox plans to double its turnover this year. “We could have done much more if the global logistics wasn’t affected,” Gothi says.

While the growth over the last several months has been steady, the goal is to keep it going. Hero Cycles has been trying to get more and more Indians on the saddle over the last several years. The main challenge has been to keep people pedaling even after a certain age. Indians generally stop cycling once they start riding motorcycles.

“A challenge for brand Hero is to refresh itself, so that the affinity for the brand increases with the current consumers.”

Gothi says that unlike in the past, children today do not ride bicycles. A goal is to bring the core target consumer group of 12 to 20 year-olds closer to the brand. “I don’t want them to only surf the internet or watch Netflix, but to really enjoy the experience we had as kids.”

Hero Cycles has been expanding it retail presence over the last two years. The brand currently has 400 premium Sprint stores. This, apart from the 2800 dealerships across India.

The brand’s latest youth focused campaign launches a discussion about what to expect from a bicycle and how to match their requirement. The campaign also highlights Hero’s premium premium line of Sprint cycles. It personifies bikes to match their use and style.

#ThePerfectMatch campaign targets current bicycle users, potential bicycle users and consumers seeking an active lifestyle.

“We want consumers to visit our stores, experience experience it and find the perfect match,” Gothi says.

Apart from the product focus, Gothi says that the campaign also aims to refresh the image of the brand in the mind of consumers. He mentions that Hero Cycles has historically been known for value.

“We added performance and style to it. It is now a mix of performance, style and value.”

The ad films also highlight several aspects of the ergonomics, maneuverability and design of the bicycles.

“There is a set of consumers that go for design. Years back, it only used to be the black cycles. We invested in a design center in Manchester five years back and then we took another design center in Berlin. The idea was to get what was happening in the European markets and then tweak it to the to needs of the Indian consumer.”

Hero Cycle has also been trying to cozy up to the health aspect of cycling, something that has been in focus since COVID set in. The brand even partnered with health-tech platform Fittr. As apart of the partnership, Fittr’s fitnesss trainers highlighted the health and fitness aspects of cycling.

“The Fittr initiative was to multiply and pivot cycling into the health platform,” Gothi signs off.