The local market demands nearly 1.5 million bicycles a year, and its estimated yearly market size surpasses Tk4,000 crore, according to BBMAIA
Imported bicycles, mostly from China and India, are dominating the local market with their attractive designs and reasonable prices, industry insiders have said.
While Bangladeshi bicycle manufacturers have been making strides and have experienced steady growth in exporting bikes, they cannot compete with their foreign competitors on the domestic market as they have to import the majority of their raw materials to manufacture bicycles, they say.
“Around 80% of bicycles are imported as our local manufacturers cannot meet the customers’ demands. We have to import the majority of our raw materials, which is why locally-made bicycles become costlier than the imported ones,” bicycle trader Imran Ahmed, also joint secretary of Bangladesh Bicycle Merchant Assembling & Importers Association (BBMAIA) told Dhaka Tribune.
“Customers demand new designs, lower prices and high quality for bicycles—that local manufacturers cannot meet. We have several companies that play a crucial role in this sector but their output is insufficient to meet demand,” he also said.
The local market demands nearly 1.5 million bicycles a year, and its estimated yearly market size surpasses Tk4,000 crore, according to BBMAIA.
Bangladesh is the second-largest non-EU exporter of bicycles to the EU market and the 8th-largest exporter globally.
According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), the country’s bicycle sector earned $85.73 million in 2017-2018 fiscal year (FY) and $82.86 million in FY 2016-2017.
Earlier, the emerging sector contributed $99.15 million to the country's export earnings in FY 2015-16 while $126 million in the FY 2014-15 and $112.89 million in 2013-14 fiscal year.
Prices of children’s bicycles are Tk5000 toTk8000, while bicycles cost Tk15000 to Tk30,000 for school, college, and university students.
More demand for foreign bicycles
During a visit to bicycle markets in Gulshan, ARA Center, and Bangshal, in Dhaka, it was found that foreign bicycles are selling far more than those locally-made.
Businessmen said local customers are not interested in buying local bicycles at high prices and that is why the store stocks foreign products.
Ahmed Jaef, a Cambrian College student, said he bought a bicycle made by China at Tk24,000.
On why he bought a foreign bicycle instead of a local one, he said he could not choose local products due to their high price—and the finishing was not good either.
More support needed
Since the country’s bicycle business is gaining popularityon the local market, industry insiders think it has immense potential.
The businesses urged the government to assist them in growing the industry. They also called on big conglomerate companies to come forward to invest in the sector.
They said they need more policy support from the government to boost the sector on the global market.
“Most bicycles sold here are from different countries including: China, India, Italy, and the US. Local manufacturers cannot make a full bicycle. We have to import many parts,” said a manufacturer.
Asked to provide import data, Mohammad Firoz Shah Alom, member (customs policy and ICT), National Board of Revenue (NBR) said: “We cannot give you the data due to the Official Secrecy Act.”
Several companies– Meghna Group, Duranta Bikes of PRAN-RFL Group, Siraj Bicycles, and Alita Bangladesh Ltd – manufacture bicycles for both domestic and global markets.
Kamruzzaman Kamal, marketing director of PRAN-RFL Group, said: “Local manufacturers are meeting the demand for a good portion of local bicycles, while the imported ones meet the rest of the demand. We already have launched expensive cycles in our showrooms to meet local demand. However, we hope that we can meet the demand of all our domestic customers in future.”
He also said increasing import duties on raw materials for bicycles poses a big challenge to the emerging industry.
The company is now exporting bicycles to 10 countries including: the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, and Canada.
“Our marketing policy is to maintain our brand, quality and timely delivery but China does not follow this. They just want customers. They can make a bike at $100 or $1000. They can market substandard products at a cheap rate. We cannot do that,” elaborated Kamal .
Industry insiders think the volume of locally-manufactured bicycles should be increased immediately as the number of bicycle riders has risen in cities and villages.
Sales have increased around 10%-15% in the last 10 months— compared to the same time last year.
Bicycle sales has seen around 10%-15% growth every year since 2010, according to BBMAIA.
Nazibur Rahman, proprietor of Mojib’s Cycle in Bangladesh, in Old Dhaka, said, “We sell both local and imported bicycles. The government has hiked import duties on raw materials and that is why the price also increased. Since we buy the bicycles at a high price we cannot sell them at a low price.
“Since bicycles are eco-friendly the government should prioritize facilitating this sector,” he also said.
Md Salman who bought a cycle from ARA Center in Dhanmodi, said, “We would be happier if roads were safe and had a separate lane for bicycle-riding.”
Supol Chandra Saha, director (operations) of Meghna Group, one of the country’s major assemblers of bi-cycle, said: “Since the use of bicycles is increasing daily, we have a good potential market.”
BBMAIA Acting President Md Lutful Bari said: “Our industry has a bright future. Local manufacturers are playing a positive role in producing better bicycles in the competitive markets.”