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TIAM turns a full cycle

Tube Investments of India Ltd (referred to as TIAM), part of the Murugappa Group, pioneered the production of bicycles in the south six decades ago. Set up in collaboration with prestigious British companies like Tube Investments, Brampton Fittings, Wright Saddles… TI Cycles produced branded bicycles in higher value ranges. Along with Tube Products and TI Metal Sections, the Murugappa Group emerged a leader in the light engineering sector.

Its contemporaries, Sen and Pandit which manufactured Raleigh, Rudge and Humber brands of cycles and Hind Cycles, the oldest bicycle unit set up by the Birlas, turned sick, were nationalised and later closed down. TIAM changed its track, adjusted to emerging market needs, focused on high-end bicycles and became a leader in this segment. A recent annual report of TII referred to identifying ‘new class of consumers fast taking to the turf of cycling, health, recreation, environmental sensitivity, community of like-minded people’ as the new generation growth drivers. While the demand for conventional products stagnated or grew very slow (at 2 per cent last year), TI Cycles’ sales recorded a growth of 6 per cent resulting in increased revenue from cycles and components to Rs 1314 crore (Rs 1185 crore in 2013-14).

The company has manufacturing plants in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. A new bicycle plant is under construction at Rajpura, Punjab to cater to the Northern and Eastern markets.  I remember the acute competition faced by TIAM, Sen, Pandit and Hind Cycles, having their plants respectively at Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai, from Hero Cycles, Avon Cycles and Road Master Industries in Punjab and Atlas Cycles in Haryana. The northern companies could offer bicycles with comparable quality at much cheaper prices. This eventually led to the closure of two of these. Even TIAM remained closed in the late 1960s for over 10 months.  

M V Subbiah, then heading the operations of TI Cycles in 1960s, re-structured the operations: phased out the costlier production of components, saddles… focused on higher end products and turned around the company. I remember the initial disdain of procuring components from Punjab on quality considerations. But soon, TI opened shop at Faridabad; in recent years it has been procuring components from China, now busy constructing a modern plant at Rajpura! A full cycle has been turned!

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