WHEN NEWS of 15-year-old Jyoti Kumari cycling over 1,200 km to take her ailing father from Gurgaon to Darbhanga, Bihar, came out, Ludhiana’s Manjeet Singh Deol got to know that her second hand bicycle was manufactured by his company.
“My bicycle’s brand is ‘Afro’ and my company’s name is Deol Cycles. My dealer from Bihar called me up and told me that the little girl was riding my company’s bicycle. No doubt it is very sad to see that people are riding bicycles to reach their villages but at the same time, the bicycle is being seen as a dependable mode of transport. We will honour that girl once things settle down. Travelling from one place to another can be done without fear.”
This particular bicycle is made up of parts supplied by over 12 Ludhiana companies. Ludhiana is known as the bicycle hub of the country, manufacturing and selling over 95 per cent of the total production. The total bicycle industry of Ludhiana is worth Rs 5900 crore.
Migrants across the country have been seen using bicycles to get to their native places. A number of them reached their villages while many others met with accidents, a few were even caught by police officers midway.
‘Didn’t expect to get orders so soon’
“Industry in mixed land use areas got permission to open on May 14 amid the migrant labour exodus. We opened up, started cleaning up closed units and geared up to start work by May 18. A number of units are still in the sanitisation stage. However, we had not expected to start getting orders soon after we open up,” said Charanjeet Singh Vishvkarama, owner of Vishwkarma Industries, which is in Janta Nagar in a mixed land use area. He added, “Instead of us calling our dealers, they are calling us to supply transmission parts of black roadster bicycle such as tyre, tube, chain, hub etc. These are all in-house productions. In fact the entire roadster which is popularly known as ‘Black bicycle’, is made in India and we don’t import even a single part of this bicycle from China. We will be able to supply them for 1-2 months as per limited demands which we are getting, and if labour comes back within that time, we can enhance our sales.”
K B Thakur, general secretary of the All India Cycles Manufacturers Association (AICMA) said, “All over the country, people have demonstrated that bicycles are a dependable mode of transport…We are expecting that an increase in demand of bicycles will be in the range of 10-25 per cent after two months. In rural India, it has been proven as not only a mode of transport but also to carry luggage along and hence one can see it as a delivery mode as well. In urban India, people are buying them from the fitness angle as gyms are closed. Moreover, it is a perfect answer to maintain social distance and hence can be preferred for short distances instead of using public transport.”
Avon Cycles MD Onkar Singh Pahwa, who is also president of AICMA, said, “No doubt there is demand, but we hope that workers are also here to fulfil that demand. Large units don’t have an issue, but small units may be facing them. In the longer run, we are expecting more demand from outside India as well as people have realised the importance of keeping fit.”
The bicycle industry had in 2019-20 sold around 22 million bicycles — of which nearly 16 million were sold by members of AICMA and the rest by the unorganised sector. Of these, nearly 11 million sales were of ‘Black roadster bicycle’, of which again 4.5 million were institutional sales (sold to state governments of various states for distribution to students under various schemes), Thakur told The Indian Express.
“We always used to focus more on enhancing sale of fancy bikes and kids’ bikes. For the black bicycle, we were more dependent on state governments, but now we are getting demands for bicycle parts, though in a limited manner. However it is a good sign for our industry, which is still gearing up to function fully,” said Rajesh Bansal, owner of Rana Cycles, which is on Gill Road in a mixed land use area.
Ajay Kumar, another small scale manufacturer said, “While our units were closed in April, we started getting calls from the first week of April itself from West Bengal about tyres and tubes. However, I could not supply as borders were sealed. Hence, the dealers have used all stocked up material. So I am trying to supply transmission parts based on the inventory I had. I am getting calls from dealers of UP and Bihar as well.”
Manjeet Deol said, “The way labour is moving, we panic at times. However, we are hopeful that the workers will be back in two months.”
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