Mumbai Engineer shifts gear, despite the odds Masterminds his way to build an aerodynamic career in cycling.
Mukund Umesh Thakkar was 26 years old when he introduced the first Mastermind Bicycle Studio showroom of India, in Mumbai, in 2015. Till date, the Mumbai showroom remains the flagship store of the Mastermind Group.
A Chemical engineer turned entrepreneur, Mukund gave-up his family Business of Manufacturing Zinc Oxide to anchor himself in cycling profession. His captivating journey inclines to fill the void of high-end bicycles and accessories in India.
This narrative of Grit, Determination and Triumph for an average individual reflects the dreams and aspirations of millions of professionals foreseeing to realize their own goals.
Early days on the Saddle:
After completing his MBA in Finance in 2012 from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute Of Management Studies, and a very successful summer internship stint with Citibank as the Product Manager, Mukund decided to join his family business immediately thereafter. In those days, he joined a local gym to maintain some basic fitness.
A year later, when his daily fitness routine picked-up momentum, one of his close friends urged him to register for Mumbai Marathon and compete in the Half Marathon category.
But shockingly, the undertaking turned out very grueling for Mukund resulting into severe pain and sore legs. He abandoned the run and knocked himself on the bed for nearly 3 days.
Mukund reveals “Inside 12 km of the race, I couldn’t walk and suffered brutal pain. I felt my knees are gone forever, as if I won’t be able to walk again, hence I decided to quit”.
Upon examining Mukund, one of the finest Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Anand Joshi ruled out any major injury, and advised him a few weeks of rest for recovery, as his knees were inflamed due to lack of prior training in the sport of running. Mukund breathe a sigh of relief but the intermission in his physical activity nudged him to look for alternative sources of motivation. Following his Doctors advice, Mukund was ready to explore cycling life and that very much laid the foundation of a new chapter.
Within few days of short drills on a borrowed hybrid bicycle, Mukund enrolled for a Cyclothon with Lions Club of Juhu. On 1st Feb 2014, Mukund loaded his bicycle inside the luggage compartment of Mumbai local from his home station Mulund, to Vile Parle at 5 o clock in the morning. He headed for a 16 km bicycle ride, which he did not know back then, will change his life forever.
Mukund recalls “That was the first bicycle ride of my life in adulthood. It was a very special day and I am genuinely thankful to the organizers”.
Overjoyed, he decided extend the ride to his residence. He went on to pursue another 24 kms to avoid crowded train that turned out to be a great decision.
“So many times in my life I must have driven through those roads without giving a second look at the Powai lake, but on a bicycle I couldn’t take my eyes away and kept admiring the lake view. For the first time I was crossing on a bicycle and it was a beautiful feeling”.
Mukund’s 40 km introductory ride was ‘Liberating’, and perhaps became the turning point of his career.
The Making of Mastermind Studio:
Mukund’s Entrepreneurial journey commenced when he acquired a new bicycle in February 2014. Soon he joined the ‘Mulund Riders’ cycling group and started to explore the city. Within two months, he had cycled to every stretch of Mumbai, including his 1st 100 km milestone.
Delighted with his son’s maiden century ride, his proud father gifted him a performance road bike – ‘Colnago’, a cherry red carbon machine.
Same month he had to travel to London for a planned holiday, so he googled about cycling groups in the UK. In his research he found out about ‘More Adventures’ who were cycling from London to Paris in 4 days. After initial communication, he was added in their plan and they even suggested him to carry his own bike to London.
Mukund’s international exposure while cycling with the members of More Adventures was an eye-opener and provided him a platform to gain knowledge. For instance, Mukund carried his bike packed in a cardboard box while others used professional equipment, and many other etiquettes of cycling were absorbed in that span of 4 days. That’s how Mukund learnt about bike packing, essential equipment and skills required before embarking on a foreign tour.
“The ride ended at the Eiffel Tower and those 4 days changed my life as I understood what is cycling and how it is to be done. More importantly, I realized it was high time people in India should be educated about cycling and the right bikes and equipment to be used”.
After his return, Mukund successfully pitched an idea of starting a bicycle store to his dad and began researching and networking with the international brands.
As a consequence, a year later the first bicycle studio was inaugurated in 2015 and named ‘Mastermind’.
“Since school days, I was sure that if ever I would start something of my own, it would be named Mastermind, so it was a no brainer”, says Mukund.
Glocal Bike Shop:
Mastermind started with 6 brands inside a concept studio of 1400 Sq.ft area catering to the niche audience. Six years later, the retailer has expanded to 5 cities viz, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Ahmedabad, Surat and Mumbai. It offers more than 20 reputed brands from the world of cycling and triathlon product solutions.
Mastermind is the exclusive distributor in India for some of the best International brands like Pinarello, Quitana Roo, Colgnago, Ceepo, Factor, Kask, StagesCycling, LakeCycling, ProfileDesign, etc.
The product range extends 360 degree solution to customers with high quality components such as Shimano, Ceramic Speed, Mavic, Continental etc.
Mukund says “Our product portfolio is carefully planned for the aspiring athletes. Every brand be it bikes, apparels or accessories is sure to deliver high standards on the performance day or endurance training”.
He further adds “We buy products directly from the global brands and bring it to the customers, and that helps to keep the pricing under check because there is no 3rd party involvement”.
Mukund is technically certified with multiple bike fit courses from Italy, Germany, Taiwan etc. and all of his technical expertise is helping to increase knowledge and build a learned cycling community in India.
Mastermind is a bike shop characterized by Global Experience and serves the Local Buyers.
Business driven by Values:
Mukund strongly endorses the ‘Word -of- Mouth’ philosophy. For all the success Mastermind has got so far, the owner humbly credits it to be the customer’s courtesy.
The retail business focuses on customer relationship management, which has earned Mastermind rich dividends as customers themselves has gone on to become brand advocates.
“Whatever we have been able to achieve so far, all credit goes to our customers. Word-of-Mouth has been a very powerful tool for us. It’s always the consumers who have taken the effort and reached out to Mastermind and I am very grateful about it. Consumer is an important pillar of Mastermind that ensures we remain a responsible service provider” says Mukund.
Team Mastermind lives by a service oriented culture. All staff members are recruited and trained to mirror the brand ethics.
Mukund explains “Every manager gets trained for six months at our Mumbai flagship store. We usually select people who are good athletes and are passionate about sports. Our selection criteria is not limited to sales skills; we go with people who have respect for the sports. Our products are niche and can’t be hard-sold to the consumers, so a staff member should be a good communicator, a facilitator, a guide rather than merely a sales professional”.
Road to the Future:
From brick and mortar to ecommerce, Mastermind is working on to build a strong digital strategy. Customers will have the privilege to shop digitally and the option to visit the physical stores. In next 2-3 years, Mastermind has the vision to add a few more stores in different cities in India.
Talking about the industry trends Mukund opines “The cycling industry is well poised to grow. India has a long way to progress; people still need to be educated about cycling. The world of cycling doesn’t end at selling a bicycle or purchasing a bicycle, there is a lot after that. Post selling a bicycle, our responsibility increases. We have to ensure that the customer rides the bike well, uses the right equipment with all the safety precautions, and that he/she has all the knowledge. We at Mastermind are committed in building the right culture through our products and services and take India on a global map”.
In true sense, Mukund skipped the traditional flat routes – chased his dream through a steep climb and successfully reached to the top of the mountain without drifting from his target.
His time-trial sprint has rewarded him with a breathtaking view that clearly suggests breaking away from the pack was a genius move or rather one of a kind, hence perfectly named Mastermind.
You can reach out to the man behind Mastermind on firstname.lastname@example.org
Mastermind Mumbai Flagship Store Contact : +91 993089 4841
Official Instagram Page: @mastermindbikes
Photo credits: Mastermind Studio
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai