“For children, Firefox Bikes is an aspiration; for youngsters, it’s a tough brand with style and for adults, it’s a name that stands for quality and reliability. Overall, we’d like to offer a different experience,” states Shiv Inder Singh, founder, MD and CEO, Firefox Bikes Pvt. Ltd. (Firefox) that operates in the premium bicycle segment. Singh observed that while the automobile and motorcycle sectors had moved on from the ubiquitous Hindustan Ambassador/Fiat Padmini and Yamaha Rajdoot/Yezdi Roadking to an expansive range, the bicycle sector in India had remained stuck in 1950’s technology and styling. Sensing an opportunity here, Singh started Firefox in 2004 in Noida. Eight years on, the company sells 4,000 – 5,000 bikes per month and Singh is targeting a 30 per cent– 40 per cent sales growth, year-on-year. He is also looking to record a turnover of Rs. 50 crore in FY 2013 from Rs. 38 crore in FY 2012.
According to Singh, Firefox’s USP is ensuring quality right from the product to the buying experience to the after sales service. Also, there is growing awareness on the biking culture in India, with cycling enthusiasts forming clubs that often become a subculture. Such trends have been encouraging for companies like Firefox. Initially, the company expected its target customers to be from the elite income bracket but now with an increase in the purchase power of the middle class, its customer base has expanded.
For all ages
Firefox offers bikes in various categories: children, ATB (all terrain bicycle), MTB (mountain terrain bicycle), road bicycles, hybrid, women specific, BMX (used for motocross cycling) and more with a price range starting from Rs. 4,000 up to Rs. 21,000. Of these, the adult range of MTB bikes is the company’s bestselling category as it caters to a wide age bracket and accounts for half of Firefox’s revenues. Singh ensures a varied product mix of bikes that comes from China, Sri Lanka and the U.S. but the maximum quantity (about 4000 – 5000 bikes) is from Sri Lanka, from Singh’s partner’s factory. The bike accessories such as biking lubricants and car racks for bicycles come from Taiwan, China and the U.S.
Founder: Shiv Inder Singh
USP: Premium bikes that cater to different age groups and biking categories
In 2006, Firefox became the exclusive Indian distributor for Trek Bicycle Corp., a leading bicycle brand from the U.S. that has products priced from Rs. 22,000 to a few lakhs. “Our association with Trek Bikes was as if we were made for each other. We had the right vision to handle premium bikes and they had a wide range and the finest quality of high-end bikes to cater to the niche segment,” says Singh, who enjoys cycling as well. By catering to different price ranges, Firefox and Trek bicycles complement each other, thus widening the former’s offerings.
But to stay on the pulse of young adults who are passionate about such bicycles, Firefox ensures to be in constant touch with them on social media through Facebook (with 25,000 fans), Twitter and the blogosphere. Through social media, Singh hopes not just to sell bicycles but also promote an active biking culture by increasing awareness about it. “We also organise and associate with a lot of biking events. We take regular feedback from them and at our retail stores to ensure continued improvement in our range,” he shares.
Singh had no experience in this two-wheeler segment when he decided to make a business out of it. A civil engineer from Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi and a post graduate from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi, he spent his early years in the garment export sector in countries like Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines and India. In 2004, his friend in Taiwan, Pradeep Mehrotra (and Singh’s partner) with more than 30 years of experience in the bicycle sector, provided the impetus with financing and more importantly, access to a range of international quality bicycles that allowed Singh to enter the market with 36 models that were simultaneously launched. India had not quite woken up to the concept of premium bicycles then. And though Singh had a few doubts initially, he was buoyed by the market response. With one store in New Delhi, Firefox sold about 500 bikes in the first year.
“The main challenge that we faced was the decrepit state of the Indian cycling retail sector. There was no way that premium bikes could be sold through such outlets. Our challenge was to build a completely new distribution channel of company owned outlets and dealers, who would conform to our standards in display and in technical/sales support,” says Singh. At first, he thought of opening all self-owned outlets but opted for the franchise route to speed up the expansion. Firefox now has eight self-owned stores and 85 franchise stores across major cities in India. It provides the technical support required to its franchises to ensure quality and timely servicing. As franchises will be its main mode of expansion, Singh hopes to add 20 – 25 outlets every year.
While Singh has made an impressive start in a premium segment, competition from bigger players like Hero and TI Cycles does loom. “Hero and TI Cycles are more focused on mass market and lower price brackets. We have created a separate space for Firefox. Though they are also entering the premium segment, the transition from mass to niche has certain hurdles. Moreover, it is a huge market with room for every player,” he says.
Riding past challenges
The biggest risks for Firefox are the devaluating rupee and the government policies on import that play a vital role since the company deals in imported bikes. But the recent launch of its new range of adventure bikes in partnership with music channel MTV, is a step in the direction towards a more balanced expansion. Around November this year, it will be coming out with Tern range of premium folding bikes and more high-end accessories. The company has been seeing a consistent growth of over 35 per cent in the past few years. Singh’s vision now is to be present in more cities across India and maintain brand Firefox as the most respected bicycle brand in India. “We have travelled the journey from ‘What is Firefox?’ to ‘Where can I get Firefox?’ in the past seven years and there is still a long way to go,” he concludes.
- Target of Rs. 50 crore for FY 2013
- About 30 per cent – 40 per cent sales growth year-on-year
- Add 20 – 25 franchise outlets every year
- Tern range of premium folding bikes