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Luxury biking just got designer, costlier; Firefox to focus on guerrilla marketing

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The adventure sports market in India is witnessing immense growth with global brands and entrepreneurs setting shop in the country. Bicycle manufacturers are lapping up on similar trends to expand base and target urban consumers with innovations in this category. For instance, Firefox Bikes, the premium bicycle maker, got international designer and entrepreneur Gary Fisher to further modify its range of mountain bikes suitable for its Indian TG.

The latest innovation has been brought in the 29er series of mountain bikes, where the earlier 26 inches standard wheels have been replaced by the faster 29 inches wheels. Explaining the idea behind the invention, Fisher says, “The 29 inch wheel calms down the trail and is also a little faster. It is for the safe rider who wants to go from point A to B with a small amount of effort. The 26-inch wheel, on the other hand, is for the rider who likes to play around with the trail.” With that, the latest series currently adds two new models to the Gary Fisher Collection being distributed in India by Firefox Bikes – the Superfly AL and SuperFly Comp, priced at Rs 1.45 lakh and Rs 2.35 lakh respectively.

Ajit Gandhi, Deputy General Manager, Firefox Bikes India

Ajit Gandhi, Deputy General Manager, Firefox Bikes India

In terms of marketing goals, Ajit Gandhi, Deputy General Manager, Firefox Bikes, reveals that the brand holds a market share of about 40 per cent and is expected to register a sales turnover of Rs 50 crore at the end of the current fiscal year.

For those about to ride
Gandhi also explains that consumer trends have shown a growing tendency among buyers in urban centres to upgrade from the standard to the premium segment. Though the commuter bikes are still extensively prevalent in comparison to the leisure bikes, Gandhi feels that what earlier followed a 60:40 ratio, now exists in fifty-fifty split.

Shiv Inder Singh, Managing Director, Firefox Bikes

Shiv Inder Singh, Managing Director, Firefox Bikes

Shiv Inder Singh, Managing Director, Firefox Bikes adds that consumers are still looking at affordability as a major factor driving purchase decisions, which ultimately, echoes in sales. “In adult cycles, the bestselling model ranges between Rs 13,500 and Rs 14,000 and in the kids’ category, the model priced at about Rs 5,800 sells the most. So, as you go up in price, sales definitely fall,” says Singh. Another trend that he points out to is that the market is heavily skewed towards men and thus, the focus on women is relatively low. On its end, the brand has, therefore, been forced to make a differentiation by offering one Trek model for women and about three under Firefox.

The network
With eight company outlets and about 100 dealer outlets, 60 per cent of which are exclusive, Singh clarifies that by 2015, the objective is to achieve a 200 dealer mark. He adds, “We won’t increase the company owned outlets beyond eight. We are very selective, slow and careful when it comes to choosing dealerships and expect pre-requisites of location, space and staff to be met.”

Providing context to the fact that a manufacturing facility is not feasible at this stage, Singh details,

“The duties on bicycles, which was earlier 15.5 per cent, shot up to 39 per cent with the last budget. Simultaneously, the Rupee depreciated by about 27 per cent. The import structure has thus, moulded itself in a way that local manufacturing is not possible at this point.”

He also adds that the component industry in India must change to strengthen the supply base. And for Firefox, which has around thirty offerings in India, volumes are not enough to build up a component base.

Selective yet collective
Fisher further particularises design, customer satisfaction and publicity, as the formula which has guaranteed him success since he first put together a bike in 1974. “For this category, we need to rely on ‘Guerrilla Marketing’ and cannot usually afford mainstream advertising,” he says.

In the same breath, Singh says there is an existing community in focus and people who frequent these bikes are already bikers. “We use traditional media for basic advertising to highlight Firefox as a brand and its alliance with Trek. With television or editions of mainstream newspapers, I’d question whether the investment is worth it and subsequently, whether my focused audience is being taken care of,” adds Singh.

Firefox has set aside five per cent of its sales for marketing and Singh says that amongst various verticals, social media is vital. “We have a Facebook account which is handled by an agency called ‘Frog Walks Out’. With approximately 42,000 followers, it engages the biking community and brings them together,” he says.

Singh also believes that events work for a brand like Firefox at all times. Taking this forward, Firefox is slated to organise ‘Firestorm’, an offroad race challenge in February next year, with the objective of forming a collective of riders with varied levels of expertise.

With an attempt to broaden the target audience and, an intent to work with the youth, Firefox also has a tie up with various schools in the NCR regions where every week, classes are organized for students to learn about gear ratios, shocks and springs, tyres and valves and dismantling and assembling bikes. “If kids are bikers when they are young, then they will stay bikers when they grow up as well,” believes Singh.

With the lineup of engagement activities, Firefox is aiming at wrapping up the fiscal year by selling 50,000 bikes across categories. And, this figure is expected to shoot up to one lakh bikes a year by 2015.

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