From combining F&B with cycling to online marketplaces for fully-fitted bikes, there are many entrepreneurs in the country today who are trying to make the cycle a part of everyday life.
For some, it’s a passion, for others, it’s business. But whatever the reason, these entrepreneurs are sure making a difference. Take, for instance, Chennai-based Ciclo Café, which intertwines F&B with the concept of cycling. The décor of the café ‘breathes bicycles’. “We have tried to incorporate as many cycle components as we could in the décor, from the lights and walls to the false ceiling. So wherever people are seated, they’ll be looking at a bicycle or some bicycle part,” says Ashish Thadani, CEO, Ciclo Café, which has outlets in Hyderabad and Gurugram. Another one is expected in Bengaluru soon. The idea behind Ciclo, Thadani says, is to popularise cycling as a culture and lifestyle choice. So what led to the idea of combining F&B with cycling? “The idea was Arun Alagappan’s (his business partner). So when he approached me, being a cyclist myself, I said yes,” says Thadani. Interestingly, Ciclo also retails high-end bicycles. “We retail all major brands such as Cannondale, Dahon, etc, as well as Montra,” he says. The prices range from Rs 13,000 to Rs 8 lakh. In case of customisation, the price increases.
Another such entrepreneurial venture dealing with high-end bikes is Hyderabad-based Bike Affair, a retailer of high-end bicycles. Started by former techies Krishnendu Basu and Gokul Krishna in 2009, the firm deals in high-end bicycles and has two stores in the city. It was the lack of options in bicycles and professional guidance that compelled Basu to join hands with Krishna and start Bike Affair. The two divide the core responsibilities between them. Basu takes care of design and Krishna takes care of departments such as finance, logistics, inventories, etc. The firm has also developed its own in-house cycle brand called Astr, which encompasses several models. So how is Astr a potent alternative to conventional bicycles? “Aluminium is the core material used for entry- to mid-level bikes. It’s lighter and stiff to use. This transfers the entire energy on to the riders’ body, making it a harsher ride. In case of Astr, we have used steel as the core element, as it’s more shock-absorbent and easier to use,” Krishna says. He believes the market for high-end bicycles will have great scope in times to come. But with the coming of new players, older ones will have to continuously reinvent. “Earlier, our major differentiator was the quality of advice and knowledge we brought on the table for our customers. But now, we look at it from the perspective of a complete service, right from knowledge to customised fitting of bicycles,” Krishna says.
One of the major pain points for cycle buyers is transporting the cycle from the retail store or putting it together when it arrives in an unassembled manner. In a bid to solve this problem and build a cycling community, Rohit Kuttappa, Abbishek Bharadwaj and Akshay Pillai started ChooseMyBicycle in 2012. Originally a website for bicycle reviews, it soon transformed into an online marketplace for fully-fitted cycles. “People could only compare prices and models on our portal before. There was no commerce involved. The business evolved based on consumer needs. In December 2016, we launched the e-commerce aspect,” says Kuttappa. What separates Chennai-based ChooseMyBicycle from other such players is their ability to deliver fully-assembled cycles to places as far as Srinagar or even Tinsukia in Assam. “Our aim is speedy delivery of fully-fitted cycles to customers,” says Kuttappa. The company has also partnered with FixMyCycle, a firm that sends bike technicians to clients’ homes for bike servicing and repairs when needed.
Being a start-up, ChooseMyBicycle has been operating with limited funds from angel investors. However, fundraising for expansion is on the cards, Kuttappa says. Investment in cycling as a sport is also gaining momentum. Mumbai-based sports management firm, Do It Sports, which owns teams across different leagues such as kabaddi, hockey, etc, in India, has forayed into cycling sports events as well. “We have been into the business of sports for the past couple of years. We know how it functions… As we were looking out for more options, cycling came naturally to us,” says Saumya Khaitan, CEO, Do It Sports. However, unlike major business ventures, Khaitan’s firm doesn’t focus solely on revenue. “Monetisation is, of course, important. But we wanted to do something more… something that would have a socio-economic impact. So cycling, because of the benefits it brings, was our choice,” he says. “The only thing that concerned us was scaling. So we went with the higher end of scaling to take it to the next level,” says Khaitan.