In the second part, Rohan Kini, a cycling enthusiast talks about promoting the cycling culture throughout India.
To read the first part of this story, click here.
In 2006, Rohan started his first cycle store – BUMSONTHESADDLE (BOTS) in a four square meter area on the rooftop of his friend’s (Nikhil) house. “Those were crazy days cause both of us had exciting day jobs that pretty much sucked all of our time on weekdays, we rode our bikes and ran our small bike shop on the weekends”, he says. More than this being a business, it was more a fun experiment for both as they just wanted to be surrounded by bicycles all the time and seek opportunities to create more cyclists in the city.
New adventures come with new challenges.
Setting up the business wasn’t easy going for Rohan. “It took me a lot of time to set up our business and I am still learning the ropes. A difficult business environment, a nascent industry, and low sales volumes demand a certain level of execution and business focus to be successful. This took quite a long time for me to understand and learn how to execute”, says Rohan.
Having a strong set of mentors is critical and Rohan was fortunate to have a good set of people around him who played a major role in guiding him towards his goal. On such mentor was Mr Ullas Kamath, MD of Jyothy Laboratories. With his guidance, Rohan was able to learn how to scale his thought process, develop the fundamentals of working with people, corporations and in turn building his confidence as they went about setting up a cycling company.
In addition to Mr. Ullas’s mentorship, Rohan was also backed by a passionate team of cyclists who believed in the mission and were keen to make an impact. Apart from the retail business, BOTS also ran as a training institute teaching individuals cycling, mechanics, marketing and customer service in the cycling business.
Indians traditionally are not the most sporting kind so creating a cycling culture was a huge challenge for Rohan and team. They had to market cycling quite extensively to overcome this and encourage people to go out and enjoy a ride.
On top of that, finding the right team was challenging too. A career in cycling is quite unconventional for us in India. Rohan was lucky to have had solid support from his family – from believing in him and backing him up completely when he quit a cushy high paying IT job, to being part of cycling events at the bike shop, to celebrating small wins along with him even though they did not really share his passion for cycling. The situation though was quite different for some of his team members as it was a huge task to convince their families on this career choice.
Challenges aside though, Rohan finds the experience exhilarating and as he recounts, “being able to breathe life into a world-class cycling company is extremely exciting as it can create thousands of happy cyclists and impact the environment positively”.
The BOTS experience
BOTS started off as a fun weekend experiment where cyclists would meet up, work on their bikes, share knowledge and ride – it was the perfect environment that nurtured this small passionate community. Rohan had one simple objective in mind – rebrand the concept of cycling in India. So far cycles were a poor man’s transportation, cycling was meant for kids and the general public was completely disconnected from the sport, recreation and lifestyle aspects of cycling that were celebrated across the world. Working in a bike shop or working as a bicycle mechanic was definitely not glamorous. Cycling offered so much and having experienced this first hand, Rohan was passionate about sharing this with everyone else.
On what sets them apart from other bike shops, he says “While on the surface we might just retail a bicycle, like every other bike shop in the city, the real difference comes from our DNA. We started to share our passion for cycling and the entire team is still driven by the same goals today. This permeates into every action we take as a business and results in us delivering the highest level of customer service in the industry”.
Over the years, BOTS has morphed into a full-fledged cycling company with the company actively involved in all aspects of cycling – evangelizing, events, retail, corporate programs, and community building. BOTS has tied up with one of the biggest and more revered cycling brands in the world, Specialized Bicycle Components (a company based out of California, USA) who share the same attitude, culture, and passion to launch their brand in the country. Specialized makes some of the best cycling equipment and at the forefront of bicycling technology. “This partnership will only prove to have a direct impact on BOTS goal of getting more folks passionate about cycling, says Rohan.
Promoting the culture of Cycling.
BOTS is doing quite a bit to promote the culture of cycling in the city and this has had quite a positive impact as there has been an explosive growth in cycling over the years but there’s still a long way to go.
BOTS run an impressive list of programs to develop the cycling culture even more.
- Wheels of Change is a program to help improve the ‘bike to work lifestyle’ in small pockets inside the companies.
- Run regular workshops and ride events in their bike shop to educate and enable cyclists to be better cycling citizens and have a basic understanding of their machines.
- Regular weekend shop rides to create riding opportunities for customers. Actively document the best cycling routes in Bangalore (and hopefully the country) so that riders know the best roads to ride on – https://bumsonthesaddle.com/events and https://bumsonthesaddle.com/cycling-routes
- A program called BOTS StartLine-Support initiatives offers mechanical assistance to community-driven races and events to ensure cyclists can race and ride safely. BOTS mechanics are present at these events assisting with last minute issues and making sure the riders have a great ride –https://bumsonthesaddle.com/startline-support
- Conduct internships & and Ride Leadership program to try and create cycling leaders who in turn create a cycling impact in the city – https://bumsonthesaddle.com/ride-leader-program
- Actively work with stalwarts in the cycling community to promote the concept, culture, and lifestyle of cycling and one such person is the cycling mayor for whom they are actively contributing the “Cycle to Work initiative”.
- BOTS has a blog giving you access to the wealth knowledge on cycling from 2006 onwards and how to improve as cyclists – http://blog.bumsonthesaddle.com/
In India, the cycling industry is still growing and with their experience and knowledge, BOTS are best poised to take this even further. Rohan states that “It’s really nice to see the growth over the last decade and I am extremely confident about steady growth over the years. We’ve been fortunate to see the industry right from the inception and to have had the opportunity to grow along with the industry. We’re keen to grow a very cycling focused company which is innovating the way cycling is impacted across India and see how we can impact every single cyclist in the country. I’m definitely looking forward to what the next decade will bring”.