Hero Cycles Monday rolled out the first consignment of bicycles from two of its units — Ludhiana in Punjab and Bihta in Bihar — seven days after it resumed operations on May 4 and nearly 50 days after the nationwide lockdown was implemented.
The company, with a production capacity of 75 lakh units per annum, has resumed production of around 30 per cent of its total capacity, to meet the demand in both urban and rural areas as markets start reopening in a staggered way. The plants at Ludhiana and Bihta have restarted operations with around 800 employees against actual strength of 4500.
“Within a week of reopening of the factories, the manufacturing units have resumed production up to 30 per cent capacity to ensure the supply meets the expected surge in demand. We are tagetting a quick recovery,” said Pankaj Munjal, chairman and MD, Hero Motors Company. He said around 500 bicycles and e-cycle retailers have opened their outlets across the country.
“While the lockdown is being lifted gradually, the threat of the disease spread is still high and this necessitates adherence to social distancing measures. In such circumstances, people across the world are preferring bicycles rather than using crowded public transport,” Munjal added. On an average, Hero used to manufacture 19,500 bicycles a day.
Hero rolling out its first consignment has sent positive signals in the industrial hub as hundreds of small units are dependent on the company.
Meanwhile, Avon Cycles, another renowned brand, too has resumed operations. Onkar Singh Pahwa, MD, Avon Cycles, said, “We had cleared pending export orders after taking permissions on April 20 and from May 4, we have resumed operations with curtailed staff. We used to manufacture 10,000 units a day, but now we are making just about 2,500.
Avon Cycles is sending supplies to few green zones in Gujarat, Assam, Bihar. “The response is encouraging. We also have got a few export orders. We got feedback that in China, demand of bicycles shot up as. The demand will increase in India too. Moreover, we are also targeting fitness enthusiasts too because in post-lockdown period not many people would be going to gyms. We have to find new avenues to be back in the market,” Pahwa said.
Last week, Munjal had launched a campaign to advocate for policy and behavioral changes to promote cycling in greater numbers so that social distancing measures are continued in the near future while cities retain some environmental benefits of the lockdown period. The campaign garnered support of environmentalists, actors and politicians from across the country.
“The WHO has also advised people to cycle and walk as much as possible as a containment measure against the disease. We are also expecting a rise in demand for cycles including e-cycles and premium bikes over the next few weeks. In fact, the first trucks from both our factories have already left to address the pent up demand both in urban centres and rural India,” added Munjal.
The cycle giant has put in place a set of best practices as part of infection control measures. These include maintaining effective distance between workers, minimizing need for man-to-man contact and regular sanitization..
In Punjab, out of approximately 2.55 lakh industrial units, nearly 12,726 had opened up by May 9. Out of around 15 lakh registered workers, nearly 4 lakh have started working. At least 2 lakh of these workers are in Ludhiana alone where nearly 6,163 units have started operations.
Though industry is worried over migrants being sent to their home states but at the same time, they are meeting ministers asking them to get nearly 20,000 units in mixed land use areas also opened.
“Unless these units are not opened, the industry in designated areas cannot function properly as supply chain will not be maintained. We have asked Industry Minister Sunder Shyam Arora to take up this matter. It will stop the outflow of migrants. We have also taken up the matter with Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu. They have assured us of a solution,” said DS Chawla, president of United Cycle Parts and Manufacturers Association (UCPMA).
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