Ahead of the 2022 Ironman 70.3 Goa, CNBCTV18.com caught up with Jaymin Shah, Managing Director of Scott Sports India. Shah spoke on a range of topics from the motivation of the company to back Indian triathletes to the growing fitness-conscious cycling community in India and why he thinks the time is not yet ripe for cycling to work.
Goa will host 2022 Ironman 70.3 on November 13. Ironman comprises a series of long-distance triathlon races involving swimming, bicycle riding, and a marathon.
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This is the second time that the state is hosting an Ironman event. The 2022 Ironman 70.3 Goa will offer qualifying slots for the 2023 Ironman 70.3 world championship. While the world championship of Ironman 70.3 expects the participants to swim for 3.8 km and follow that up with 180 km of cycling and finally conclude the race with a 41 km marathon, the participants of the 2022 Ironman 70.3 Goa will have to complete half of those distances in each of the three categories.
Ironman is believed to be the ultimate test of a person's fitness and endurance. As cycling is a major part of an Ironman race, it is essential for triathletes to use proper sports or fitness bikes.
One of the brands that has put its weight behind triathletes in India and is also backing the Ironman event in Goa is Scott Sports.
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Ahead of the 2022 Ironman 70.3 Goa, CNBCTV18.com met Jaymin Shah, Managing Director of Scott Sports India. Shah spoke on a range of topics including why buying a proper fitness bike matters and the motivation to back Indian triathletes.
Here are excerpts of the interview.
Could you tell us about the journey of Scott Sports in India?
Shah: Scott is an international brand and has 60 years of heritage behind it. Scott's India journey started in 2012. This year we are celebrating a decade of being in India. It has been an extremely productive journey.
When we started back in 2012, and we told consumers about Rs 40,000 bicycles but not many bought the idea. Back then, people used to think that one could get a simple two-wheeler for Rs 45,000. So from surprising customers with an Rs 40,000 bicycle to today's customers being ready to spend over Rs 4 lakh for their bicycle, the company has covered some ground.
Consumer education has changed. Their preferences have changed. Events like an Ironman or a triathlon in a way contribute to helping us be where we are.
Indian consumers are now ready to invest in good quality products. They are ready to invest in fitness. The customers of Scott bikes look at cycling as a fitness activity rather than a commuting activity. Those are some key learnings that we have taken away in the last decade.
Over the last decade, we have also launched new brands that target certain subsets of the market. We launched Bergamont in 2016, then in 2022, we launched Avanti. So as a business we are today present in the market with three different brands, each targeted to a different subset within the market.
Curious to know, what drew you to the business of cycles. Were you always interested in cycles or you learned about it on the job?
Shah: During my university days I was into sports. I was part of my college cricket team, till I realised that I was not good enough to make it into the Ranji team. Somewhere down the line, it is my passion for sports that drove me to what I wanted to do. And that is how I transitioned into this business.
When we started Scott it was more about thinking of it as a sport. But today it has translated into much more. That enthusiasm to be involved with sports even in my professional life was something that drove me.
Today I see cycling is just not a sport. It is a fitness activity. It is a challenge and a sense of adventure.
What are the challenges for the business of sports bicycles in India?
Shah: There is no official regulatory body at the top that can overlook the business of the sports cycles in India.
Are Indians open to the idea of buying sports cycles that are priced over a lakh rupees?
Shah: Absolutely! The reservations that the buyers had back in 2012 have completely disappeared. Over a period of time, the consumers who bought our bike realised a bike's value. They also realised the quality of those bikes.
There is a huge community of cyclists in India who cycle for anything between 100-1,000km. That community is strong. It has grown over the years. The resistance as far as the price point is concerned, has disappeared.
It is now boiling down to which consumer wants to take up cycling.
If we also look at the example of the Ironman competition that will happen in Goa next week — there are around 1,200 participants. There are another 3,000 participants who couldn't make it. These numbers also tell us about the demand for these cycles. As they invest in endurance and fitness through cycling, the number of such people is growing year-on-year at a phenomenal pace.
What benefits can a consumer have from using specially designed fitness cycles like Scott?
Shah: People tend to cycle for many years on normal cycles but their efficiency in terms of speed and distance covered hardly improves over time. In Scott cycles, we talk about sizing. Everyone has a different physique. The sizing of a cycle according to an individual's physique matters a lot.
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People tend to cycle on bikes that are either small or big for them. That is not how cycling can be enjoyed. We give flexibility in sizes. We have six sizes of any Scott cycle available for the consumer to choose from. The size range is from extra-extra small to extra-extra large. By picking a bicycle that fits your body measurement, you can best enjoy your riding experience. Unfortunately, we are only told just to adjust the height of the saddle according to our heights. No one explains the nitty-gritty of cycling. As a society we Indians I guess ride the cycles the most, but the R&D that should go into designing cycles is negligible. One size fits all doesn't work.
What is the demography of Scott bike purchasers?
Shah: On the price point, we look at the absolute top. But in the last 10 years, we have also seen middle-class and upper-middle-class consumers also buying our products. More often than not, we try and focus on key big metros but you would be surprised to know how the tier II and tier III cities are also driving the growth.
As I just told you, the Ironman and triathletes are some of our biggest buyers and a close friend of mine who is into data analytics told me that the Ironman athletes and triathletes in India are coming from small towns and cities. Why is that? Because those towns have plenty of space to cycle! These smaller cities are driving the growth of the cycle industry in our country.
Is Scott also promoting the idea of cycling to work?
Shah: Unfortunately I am going to take a very unpopular stand here. Over the last five years or so, we have heard about the idea of cycling to work. It is a solution to tackle traffic and pollution, yes. Cycling to work can be a solution to many problems that plague our metros. But unfortunately, we are not there yet for two reasons. First because of the quality of our roads. And also our workspaces are not built to accommodate cyclists. Our offices need to have shower spaces so that when we reach the offices we can freshen up. We see cycling to work as a slow and long drawn-out process.
What was the motive for Scott Sports to associate with the Ironman event happening in Goa?
Shah: We are part of this community for a decade now. A lot of Scott cyclists participate in Ironman events. For us the Ironman event is an opportunity to engage with the consumers who are riding our Scott cycles. Events like the Ironman give us the chance to connect with people on a one-to-one level.
How is Scott Sports supporting triathletes in India?
Shah: We sponsor a lot of Indian triathletes who represent the country on the world stage. We invest in their fitness and take care of other challenges that these athletes face. We go beyond just supplying these athletes with the right equipment.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)
First Published: IST