You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
Meet the man who made cycling not just a commuting habit but a style statement in India – Shiv Inder Singh the Managing Director of Firefox Bike Pvt. Ltd.
“My partner Pradeep Mehrotra and I started the company in October 2004. We realized that the automobile sector has moved on from Ambassador to Fiat, then Suzuki, Honda and so on. And motorcycles from Rajdoot to Yezdi, then Yamaha to Honda but bicycle was not. It was stuck with old technology, catering the commuter market and of course kid market but not really focusing on anybody who really wanted to cycle for pure pleasure, to enjoy the experience of cycling. We saw a small window of opportunity here,” says Shiv Inder Singh about the idea behind the company Firefox.
No matter what and how good you are, it is always not easy to start something new from the scratch. “The most important thing about launching a new product like bicycle is that you not only have the right product but also the right range of product. And my partner was in the bicycle trade for the last thirty years but based out in Taiwan. He started sourcing bicycles for his United Kingdom customer, however as Taiwan got expensive he moved to China. Then when anti-dumping duties were levied on China for European Union and UK, he set up first in Sri Lanka and now in Bangladesh. He was the one who had the knowledge and product,” says with confidence the sixty-five years old entrepreneur knowing that he is with the expert.
Even though things look quite planned but selling high-end bicycles in India was going to be a walk on thin ice. “How were we going to sell these bikes in a country like India? Cycling in urban India will either kill you by road accident or by air pollution for sure. But again on second thought there are still people who get up early in the morning and go for jogging and morning activities in spite of pollution. These days go to India Gate in the morning and you will see lots of cycling clubs coming all over cycling from Gurgaon or Noida. This bunch of people who are for leisure-cycling was going to be our target, till the infrastructure and traffic management for bicycles get better in our country. And secondly, how are we going to sell these bicycles which are 20 to 30% more expensive along with the normal ones. We needed to create our own distribution and retail methods made on our standard – interior design, layout, desired quantities, trained staffs, and all,” says the industrialist about the challenges.
“In April 2005 we opened our first outlet in Delhi with 35 models which had terrain, mountain, road, and even hybrid bikes. We decided to start our own initially in four cities – Delhi, Chandigarh, Pune, and Bangalore just to show dealers how it is going to be. And we were happy to give them better margins than the existing in market, 24% which was 5 to 15%. Along with that we will give no competition in their area, no Firefox show room in and around 100 yards of the other. Dealer saw the product and concept we have and they were happy to be a part of it.” Now comes the most vital part – consumer, after all consumers are the king in the business world. Understanding the need of the hour, “These days even a small kid is surfing internet before they ask their parents to buy anything. That’s why we made sure that we come with a good website and that we are among the top in Search Engine Optimization process. It gave a good boost to Firefox, kids came so the parents and so did the dealers.”
Bringing home the point that no matter where you are and what you do a cyclist will never give up pedaling, “Weather is of the least importance I tell you why. For example Northern European countries like Holland, Sweden, Denmark, France, and Germany is the most cycle friendly country in the world. They have brutal winters but a cyclist there will always cycle throughout the year. We are glad that the young professionals age 24-35 have shown interest in Firefox and even the dealers are coming to us with the specific model or color. And not to be missed, kids, they have started identifying with specific models and if one child in a society or neighborhood buys a Firefox then the whole of kids in the area wants it. So we have very unhappy parents!” says the happy capitalist. Relaxing back to his sofa, takes a sip of tea as he continues, “We are close to 70 models now and in about 80 cities in India, out of which 50% are stand alone. I think that there is quite a potential in Indian market that at least for 3-4 years we have no plans of going abroad or international.” So much is the confidence and belief in his product that they don’t have any brand ambassador. “The word of Firefox is spreading, however we do promotion activities with schools and institutions and give away bicycles as prizes. Though currently we don’t have brand ambassador we look forward in coming days maybe with some upcoming sportsperson but not Bollywood actor or star for sure.”
According to him he is an occasional cyclist but he knows his bicycles. “We have a 26” full size model called Tart which is one of the most selling because it fits beautifully with the prize, steel body, dual suspension, fork at the rear and 21 speeds with the five shifter-gears. People who are more serious about biking go for Target, 21 speeds, higher component, and alloy frame. We start from 14” bike and our entry level starts from Rs 4000 to 14000, 16” and 24” are the different size for kids. And 26” is for adult which starts from Rs 9000 and goes up to about Rs 18000.” Proudly on the final notes he says, “To sum up, we are giving an international product at the affordable Indian prize.”