Cities are characterised by the hustle and bustle of honking vehicles and traffic, but with the pandemic, there was a double fold increase in the number of cycle purchases. The lock-down made cycles a cost-effective replacement to crowded public transport. Cycling groups have been existing for a while now, but the pandemic saw a surge in the number of cyclists. As people started spending more time at home, cycling became a popular recreational activity amidst all age groups.
Erode based Sricharen Sridhar converted his life-long passion for car performance tuning into an entrepreneurial venture in the automobile servicing sector before moving to Chennai to work with Audi. It wasn’t long before he was enticed by the cost efficiency, reduced travel time and the pleasure that came with riding a cycle in the city. This happened long before the cycling-fad that the deadly virus brought along.
One day, his kids’ cycles were in need of servicing. It was with this experience that Sricharen realized that getting a cycle repaired was not a walk in the park. It involved transporting the cycles to the place where they were bought (which in his case was not very close by) and returning after a couple of days to retrieve them. Having bagged about 12 years of experience in the service sector, it did not come as a surprise that he took matters into his own hands when he realized the expensive and time-consuming processes involved in getting bicycles repaired.
In 2017 he started networking with cycling communities and apartment communities through social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. His outgoing personality was even able to land his new brand, Fix My Cycle, a few gigs during big cycling events in Chennai.
From the very beginning he focused on actively engaging with communities and networking through digital platforms rather than spending time on marketing. In three months, following a tremendous response, the Fix My Cycle web platform was created, focused on servicing at Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
Two challenges emerged at this phase. The first was finding the right person to develop the digital platform. “I’m not a very technical person but I always look from a customer’s point of view,” he says while talking about how he envisioned the platform. Once the right developer was found it took about two years to create an effective backend app to track the process and keep the customer, the technician, the manager and Sricharen in the loop.
The bigger challenge materialized soon after. As servicing was the biggest part of the venture, he set out looking for technicians with expertise in the field or were enthusiastic enough to learn more about the field. Niti Aayog, a Government of India policy agency that also provides certified vocational training to become a cycle mechanic, was instrumental in his search for qualified technicians for the job. When Fix My Cycle started there were 2 technicians in Chennai, 2 in Bangalore and 1 in Hyderabad. Over time, Sricharen realized the best way to expand his technician network was to get his technicians to bring in the new ones and teach them the job.
Within six to seven months of active engagement on Instagram, requests came from Delhi and Mumbai requesting these services in their cities. Language barriers were a hurdle while finding the right technicians in these cities, but once it was crossed, it was the beginning of the expansion of the Fix My Cycle Empire. The brand has now enlisted its services in 21 cities around India and more recently in South Africa.
Four and a half years into the business, how did Fix My Cycle manage to expand internationally so fast? Sricharen believes that networking is key. “There was this professional bicycle mechanic course happening online. So I got connected to pro-mechanics across the globe,” he explains, “That’s when I met this gentleman, who later became my partner. He was very interested in what I was doing and asked: why don’t we try this in South Africa?” So, a couple of Sricharen’s relatives in South Africa went as his representatives to check out his shop and everything fell in place soon afterwards.
It doesn’t end there. Fix My Cycle is rapidly spreading its roots to major cities in the US and Dubai as well. Due to changes in regulations after the pandemic, the brand’s launch in these cities have been tentatively pushed to the month of May or June, this year.
Sricharen’s goals for the brand are very clear. “I’m looking at 5 countries around the world, 50 cities in India and Fix My Cycle being present anywhere there is anything to do with cycles.” Being an active member of the cycling community in Chennai, he is confident that India will see a shift in their mode of transport in the major cities within the next 10 years as there is an increasing awareness being spread about pollution and how important it is to gauge the environmental impact of our activities. As a matter of fact, Sricharen adds that the momentum has increased manifold after the pandemic. “It keeps us on our toes!” he exclaims.
Fix My Cycle has its origins in Chennai but has been eyeing the world as its market since its conception. “I’ve been used to video conferencing way before the covid times’” he laughs, while talking about how the automobile industry network and his alumni network spans across the globe and has been instrumental in his company’s growth.
Amidst all the networking, Sricharen also strongly believes that too many cooks spoil the broth. “My advice is, if you have an idea go with your instincts (and probably discuss it with two or three people you trust). That’s what I did and this is where it took me.”
Fix My Cycle is a bootstrapped service based company that fills the gaps in the bicycle industry by bringing the workshop to your doorstep (and in some cases picking-up the bicycle, taking it to their workshop and dropping it back.) They have also partnered with several bicycle brands and become their authorized service stations.