Ludhiana. The city of chicken cooked to perfection, with cream or lemon or pepper, and luxury cars. A 20-minute stroll in the city’s main residential areas and you will run out of fingers to count all the customised, fancy wheels.
How was this fortune created? The answer lies in the third thing the city is famous for — industry. Punjabis party hard and work harder. Trade here is chiefly in textile and, secondly, in the humble bicycle.
Ludhiana has given the world brands such as Hero Cycles and Avon Cycles, and makes 80% of India’s bicycle parts. It sends out 17 million new cycles every year from its 3,500 to 4,000 MSMEs, which employ about 500,000 people. But, today, it is facing the might of the dragon. China is flooding the market with cheaper components and the industry here is slowing down, says Manjinder Singh, CEO, Citizen Group, which is a leading manufacturer of cycle components.
India began manufacturing bicycle parts more than a century ago, around 1910, with small-scale units set up in Kolkata. The industry expanded and production improved multifold when WWII was nearing, around 1938. Initially, domestic companies manufactured only spares and accessories. In 1943, the production of indigenous cycles began and Cycle Manufacturers’ Association (CMA) was founded, for better coordination between local units and keeping competition out, among other things. The biggies in the industry then were LN Birla, Janki Das Kapur of Atlas Cycles, Murugappa Chettiar of Tube Investments, and SK Sen of Sen Raleigh and the CMA.
Today, the big four companies here are Hero, Avon, Atlas and Tube Investments — which manufacture close to 90% of the bicycles in India. MSMEs simply supply components to the larger units.
“India is now the second largest cycle manufacturer in the world. But the reality is that we are a distant second. China supplies close to 70% of the wor