Pandemic Brings Back Bicycles on Streets
If you thought bicycles are a matter of the bygone era, think again! The Indian bicycle industry recorded largest market share of 63.1% in 2016, due to an increase in demand for bicycles for both recreation and fitness purposes. According to industry experts, “bicycle market in India is expected to register a CAGR of more than 8% in terms of value” by the year 2020-2021.
Being the next best option, in absence of cars and two wheelers, bicycles in India are a highly preferred mode of transport as they are not only budget-friendly but also immensely convenient to navigate through heavy traffics. What was once a common affair among the country’s youngsters who used to peddle around once they came of age, evolved into a popular sport in the last decade. Today, bicycle races and championships are very common and with the rise in cycle enthusiasts, a host of cycle companies are being launched in addition to the giants like Hero, BSA, Unirox, and Atlas. That said, numerous bicycle-parts are still imported from foreign markets and constant efforts are being made to improve sales and produce more bicycles with indigenous parts to reduce the import rates.
During the ongoing pandemic which has made public transport unsafe and uncertain, bicycles have gained new and significant relevance. Taking about the convenience quotient of bicycles, CA Arijit Soni, Founder of the MYBYK Rental bikes, shares, “When I was doing my article-ship at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Mumbai, commuting from Andheri to Dadar worsened the daily grind. Despite offering more than the meter fare, I would never get a rickshaw or a cab to cover the short distance. One day, I decided to take a risk and bought two bicycles: one to go from my hostel to Andheri station; and the second one to go to office from Dadar station.”
Deliberating on the mechanics of cycles he adds “Buying a bicycle is easy and cheap but maintaining it is difficult. In case of a malfunction, our busy schedules don’t allow us to visit the dealer we purchased the bike from. Hence, we land up with untrained road-side mechanics who use second-rate spare parts. As a result the cycling experience deteriorates over the years and we build the wrong perception that ‘cycling is difficult’.”
At MYBYK Arijit Soni has converted bicycles as a commodity into cycling as a service. “With hourly, weekly, monthly, quarterly, half yearly and yearly plans, we cater to all types of users and their specific needs. By taking away ‘repair and maintenance’ hassle from the end user we also enhance their ownership experience. Most importantly our ‘Drop & Pick at any hub’ feature, helps enhance the utility quotient of cycles,” enthuses Soni.
With the unique ‘Drop & Pick’ feature, users can use MYBYK to commute long distances as well. They can ride the bike from their home to the public transport stop or station and drop the bike at a Hub there. Similarly, wherever they get down, they can pick another MYBYK to go to their next destination. This way MYBYK addresses the problem of first and last mile connectivity with public transport.
Post Covid situation
Talking about the post COVID19 lockdown situation, Soni says “We are growing at the rate of 400-500 cycles and 5000 users per month. In Ahmedabad, we have added 600 bicycles to our fleet and 6000 customers in June. I also think this shift in demand is here to stay as people’s perception of life has changed along with the changing situation. With economic contraction overall, people have stopped chasing unsustainable growth and paying attention to their health and well being and also to the environment.”
Safety measures for the riders
Right now, safety is the most important thing for everyone and keeping this in mind MYBYK has charted out safety regulation for its riders. “While we sanitize the cycles when they come to our workshop, we educate users to sanitize their hands before and after use of cycles. Besides, we always encourage users to carry their own helmets while riding MYBYK” says Soni.
On the other hand, talking about bicycle sales in Kolkata during Covid19, Naveen Gupta, owner of New India Lakshmi Cycle Private Limited says “The situation has not been good and the market is flat. For the first 10-15 days of the Unlock1, the sales were high and the demand was increasing but it has reduced eventually. However, since social distancing is not possible in public transport, bicycles become the safest mode of transportation for all sections of the society and this we feel will boost the sales.”
Ujjipan Chatterjee, a 25 year old techie, cycles to his office in Sector-V every day. “To ensure social distancing, bicycles have been my solution for commuting during this period. Covid19 or not, this trend of riding bicycles is now going to catch up,” notifies Chatterjee.