Navneet Banka is the Managing Director at Trek Bicycles India. A sharp and approachable person, Navneet is credited for leading the market entry of the US based Trek Bicycle Corporation into India and taking the Brand to new heights.
Navneet cycles 30 kms at least 4 days a week in Gurgaon from where he manages the Trek India operations.
In this chat, Navneet speaks about various issues pertaining to cycling and the dynamics of heading a lifestyle business in the land of opportunities called ‘India’.
How is Trek India coping with the ongoing Bike Boom?
The Global bike boom has created an overwhelming spike in demand in a very short period – which has led to most bike companies having sold through their entire year’s stock in just a few months and also caused some unexpected delays in supply.
We at Trek have tried our best to mitigate the gap between demand and supply by rolling out a structured and well-defined booking process at our partner stores – where customers can book their bike of choice in advance. This has made the entire experience of buying a Trek hassle free and transparent.
Tell us about the #GoByBike campaign?
#GoByBike is the biggest campaign in the history of Trek. We started a movement and need everyone across the World to participate. Science tells us climate change is putting the World at risk and will irreversibly damage the places we ride and live, unless we act now. The global climate crisis will not be solved by a single person, agency, or master stroke of genius. This problem belongs to each one of us. And so, does its solution.
The idea was to make the campaign simple and resonate with everyone by encouraging people to replace one car trip each week with a bike trip and tag a photo of their ride with GoByBike to inspire a cultural movement.
The segment of high-end bikes is warming up, what are the different bike offerings for advanced users?
We have witnessed an increase in demand for high-end performance bikes; specifically in the road and mountain bike category; with Trek’s Madone SL6 (road bike) priced at INR 3,85,699; Domane SL5 (road bike) priced at INR 2,48,399; Slash 9.8 XT (Mountain bike) priced at INR 5,08,199; and Fuel EX 5 XT (Mountain bike) priced at INR 1,84,999; being some of the preferred choices of our customers.
Last year, over 3 million e-bikes were sold in Europe, what kind of trends do you see in India?
We regularly interact with our customers and dealers and based on their feedback we keep on adding new bikes to the Trek India product portfolio. We currently sell more than 50 models across Road, Mountain and Hybrid categories. We have already introduced Trek’s “Performance Bike” program, where consumers can select any bike from our USA website and place an order at the nearest authorized Trek retail store and we will have that bike delivered.
How is Trek encouraging Mountain Biking/Adventure sports culture in India?
We are bringing the best MTBs in Trek’s portfolio to the Indian consumer. From Trek’s patented Alpha Gold Aluminium frame bikes that are found on the X Caliber family to the OCLV Mountain Carbon frame found on the Pro Caliber family; customers in India already have an array of options to choose from.
We also sponsor Kiran Kumar Raju, who is a Trek Pro Cyclist and India’s former No.1 National MTB XC champion. He has been supporting us in growing the sport of cycling in the country, by not just setting the bar when it comes to MTB races but also being an ambassador for the brand and a mentor to budding cyclists who want to pursue cycling as a profession.
Does Trek Bicycle Corporation have plans to manufacture bikes in this region?
Trek is based out of Wisconsin in the USA where all of our bikes are designed and tested. We have manufacturing facilities located in various countries, from where we import our bikes. The current setup is working seamlessly for us, as our focus is to provide a great buying and ownership experience, while promoting the sport of leisure and competitive cycling in India.
How is Trek contributing towards building ridership across Indian Cities?
Over the last 3 years, since Trek set-up it’s subsidiary office in India, we have organized over 15 multi-city events under the name ‘Trek Founder’s Ride’ – that served as an enriching platform filled with group rides and cycling conversations; connecting riders and encouraging them to share their inspiring stories and cycling tips.
We have been working very closely with our Trek Retail Partners to change the way the trade of cycling works in the country by providing them with global products, state of the art enterprise resource planning software for streamlining and easing business processes. Today, Trek and Bontrager products are available in 57 stores across 53 cities, which can provide a great buying and ownership experience to consumers.
Concerns related to ‘Safety’ are a major challenge. How can we address those effectively?
We surely need to start at an individual level. It is imperative for riders to make sure they always ride with the basic safety measures – wearing a well-designed and safe helmet, installing front and rear Daytime Running Lamps (DRL) on their bikes, wearing bright colored clothing to make themselves visible to motorists.
At Trek, we have been effectively using our events and social media outreach program to educate customers and audiences about the ABC of Awareness while riding:
A: Always on (front and rear DRLs, day and night)
B: Biomotion (highlight your body’s moving parts by wearing bright clothing)
C: Contrast (choose the right riding gear for day and night)
For quite some time the industry is knocking at the doors of central government asking for a reduction in GST applied on bicycles. When can we see a breakthrough on this?
At Trek, our focus is to get more on more people on bikes. We are already witnessing huge focus by both Central and State governments on building infrastructure that will encourage people to commute short distances on bicycles. We believe this movement will pick-up and soon we will see the Government promoting cycling and this industry in many other ways.
“Which Bicycle Should I Buy?” – A common question that keeps popping-up in the community. As a specialist, what are your tips?
To enjoy cycling, one needs to ask a few basic questions
What is my goal? – (is my goal fitness driven, leisure or competition)
How often do I plan to ride? (daily or couple of times a week)
Where do I plan to ride? (road or trail)
These questions will help you understand which bicycle amongst Road, Mountain or Hybrid category would be the ideal choice.
What can aspirant buyers look forward to in the Trek 2021 range?
We have already introduced our Model Year 2021 range. Enthusiasts can check out our entire line up of more than 50 models across Road, Mountain and Hybrid categories on www.trekbikes.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caught us by surprise. What priorities will Trek India be focusing on in the following years?
We are looking to work with retail partners who understand our philosophy of providing a great buying and ownership experience, taking care of consumers, and doing the right thing. Our focus is also to make our global products and buying experience accessible to more and more consumers across India.
How do you see the future of cycling?
We believe that cycling has a bright future and we shall continue to see more and more people get into the sport of cycling. While talking to many new riders; we understand they are now hooked to this great way to staying fit while having fun and enjoying the outdoors with their friends and family. In addition, cycling is a great way of social distancing, contributing to the environment and reducing congestion on roads – a simple solution to many of our World’s most complex problems. Many consumers are now commuting short distances on bicycles – a huge change in the mindset, which will further fuel the demand for bicycles…
Cover photo credit: Navneet Banka
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai