Taking the road less cycled

Taking the road less cycled

Rajesh Mani, Head-Marketing, TI Cycles shares a three-legged strategy that the company adopted, to bring more consumers back on the pedal. His goal? To sell cycling instead of selling cycles



Five years ago, when Rajesh Mani joined TI Cycles as the head of marketing, his task at hand was a tough row to hoe. He had to take charge of a brand, which was over 50 years old, and evolve and nurture it to meet the current needs of the consumer. This, at a time when the cycling industry was faced with two major challenges: one, the cycle was no longer a mode of commute for most and two, for the leisure cycling enthusiast there was enough distraction from alternate modes of entertainment and sport.

Here, we take a closer look at the three-legged strategy that TI Cycles adopted, to race ahead of the competition, and bring consumers back on the pedal.

How the consumer market evolved

To set the context, Mani first took us through some statistics on the current state of the Indian consumer market. According to him, India is on its way to become the fifth largest consumer market by 2025. This is supported by the fact that close to 50 per cent of our population is below the age of 25 years. “This segment is exposed to all kinds of products and services in the global sphere. And, this segment is moving towards being more self-indulgent and self-expressive. This allows them to be more open to experimenting with new products,” explains Mani.

So, how do these trends impact the bicycle industry? While in the 1950s-1970s, bicycles were largely used as a mode of commute, today, Mani sees the usage tilt towards recreation, and health and fitness too. “Today, while 68 per cent of the population still uses bicycles for commuting, 31 per cent is using it for fun or recreation, and one per cent for health and fitness,” says he.

Thus, the goal for TI Cycles was clear; to influence more consumers to use bicycles for recreation, health and fitness. Or, in Mani’s words, sell cycling instead of cycles. To achieve this, the company adopted a three-pronged strategy, with a focus on brands, products and channel (of distribution).

Evolution of brands

“We asked ourselves, can we look at the market in terms of how cycling can benefit each demographic segment?” recalls Mani. Thus, as a first step, they mapped their consumers based on three benefit segmentations; recreation, leisure and fitness, and commute.

While the recreation segment focussed on 0-2 year olds, the commute segment included the eight to 14 year old boys and girls, and the health and fitness segment cut across all stratas. “For example, for 8-14 year old boys, it’s all about aggression, power and strength. And, a brand from our boutique that fit this category was Hercules Rodeo. With savvy features such as shocks, gears and alloy wheels, it delivered what this segment of consumers was looking for,” explains Mani. Similarly, parents of consumers in the recreation segment (0-2 year olds) seek more comfort and feel from the product. Thus, TI Cycles introduced and positioned a brand called BSA Toddlers to address this segment.

Incidentally, for the health and fitness segment, a research among consumers revealed that they were willing to shell out more, to get hold of the best international brands. Thus, TI Cycles partnered with the likes of Schwinn and Cannondale, and marketed and distributed its products in India.

Saying it out loud

“Once we identified what each segment of customers need, and what our brand USP was to satisfy their need, our next step was to identify a medium through which we can showcase these brands to them,” says Mani. For example, the medium of expression for consumers seeking the Hercules Rodeo, was stunting. Thus, in all their communication, they designed messages and ads that used stunting as a method to attract these consumers.

With similar strategies adopted for each benefit segment, today, TI Cycles has become an active member on all social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and has created a separate platform for each of its sub-brands such as Hercules Rodeo, BSA Toddler and Ladybird.

The end mile service

The last leg of the three-pronged strategy is the channel of delivery. “Today, when durables (big and small) are being showcased and sold in well-designed retail outlets, why are bicycles still made available only in markets and local mechanic shops?” asks Mani. With this thought, TI Cycles setup customised retail stores in key locations, and designed each store according to the segment it was catering to. Today, it has 940 retail outlets across the country.

“Today, if you don’t get people back on the saddle, you’re not going to grow. And, growth is certainly not about taking a share of the competitor’s pie, it’s about leveraging new, unidentified segments,” says Mani, on an ending note.

Key Takeaway 

Redefining your brand’s offering based on evolving consumer behaviour is key today. For TI Cycles, it was clear that consumer behaviour changed and the usage of cycles changed drastically. The company had to change it product, features and distribution strategy in line with this change, yet it also had to leverage on its strength of being a long-term, established player. For several other brands, it is, often, difficult to spot this change in consumer behaviour. But, to win in this ever-changing world, staying close to your customer and even shaping up his thought process is crucial.

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