Launch Rather than sell cycles, Specialized wants to sell cycling to the city

A giant poster of Mark Cavendish greets visitors to Specialized’s first Indian outlet. It is in keeping with the spirit of the place that studying the British rider, his team-mates behind, and his taut expression of triumph, perhaps the last thing you will notice is his bike. It could well be a thing of beauty but as those who run the place like to point out, they’re not trying to sell bicycles; they only want to sell bicycling.

The Specialized Concept Store, a tasteful 1600 sq. ft. facility on Infantry Road that opened its doors last month, represents the renowned American bicycle company’s first foray into the Indian market. Bangalore’s burgeoning cycling community would have only been too pleased.

The California manufacturer’s cycles will be distributed across India by Bums on the Saddle (BOTS), a popular, pioneering, boutique store of sorts that started operations in Jayanagar six years ago.

“We want to see actual growth in the cycling community,” Rohan Kini, founder of BOTS, says. “We want to make a difference in this space.”

The Specialized range, spanning some 20 models, begins at Rs.12, 000 and rises all the way up to the S-Works Tarmac – a top-notch road-racing bicycle – at Rs. 8 lakh. “We will be happy if we sell 500 bikes a year,” Ullas Kamath, Joint Managing Director of Jyothy Laboratories and a ‘mentor’ of BOTS, says. “Our target customer is anyone and everyone but we expect interest from the IT and knowledge industries, where cycling is catching on in a big way. The top-end bikes could cater to professional teams.”

Specialized spent a year observing the industry in India before seeking BOTS out. Joseph Wheadon, the company’s Director of Business Development, has big plans for the store and operations in the country. “This store will be head and shoulders above any other cycling dealership in India,” he says. “We have Body Geometry Fit experts who will work with individual customers on each bike.”

Specialized set foot in India two years ago, although not as a retailer, with its sponsorship of the Specialized Kynkyny team, the country’s first fully professional cycling outfit. “We started with Bangalore since it’s the cycling capital of the country but we plan to open more stores in a year’s time, in Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune,” says Kamath.

Bangalore, the company will hope, will secure for it a firm foothold. Cavendish, meanwhile, may have been outshone by other sprinters at this year’s Tour de France but up on the Specialized Concept Store’s walls, he has no rival for attention. Not even the bike he’s promoting.