Cyclotron Bikes CambodiaAn idea for a luxury bicycle dealership in Phnom Penh selling this futuristic bike
One of the hallmarks of emerging markets coming of age seems to be the luxury goods market. When Louis Vuitton opens a flagship store, or Rolls Royce opens a new dealership, it tends to be reported by the WSJ and FT et al as a sign of that country’s emergence.
Well, SE Asia as a whole is replete with luxury goods, clothiers, and autos. I am confident in saying that there are more Range Rovers in Phnom Penh as a percentage of total cars, than anywhere else in the world.
Remember that game “slugbug” you used to play as a kid on family road trips? Where the first person to see a VW Bug got to yell “slugbug! ”smack their sibling? If you played that game with Range Rovers in Phnom Penh, it’d essentially be a boxing match.
It’s all over SE Asia though, and most noticeable in areas where there is not yet a middle class, or where the middle class is only just beginning to develop.
In Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, or Vietnam, a bright yellow Ferrari will stand out more because of the stark contrast with the tuktuks, motos, and people on foot pushing carts. As opposed to the glut of more mundane middle-class cars in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, etc which makes seeing luxury vehicles less surprising.
The keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality is blatant and unapologetic in these cultures – for the most part, people have yet to learn nuance or subtlety. If you’ve got it, flaunt it, seems to be the mantra, and the money is spent where it will be most visible.
So while there are certainly nice homes, that typically isn’t where the money is spent, instead choosing to be more visible with the consumption. Cars, phones, watches, handbags, clothes, shoes, dining in upscale restaurants, partying at the hottest clubs – that’s where the focus is at.
LUXURY BIKE MARKET
One item though that has yet to really take root in the market though are high-end bicycles. Oh, there are stores, not as many as there are for trendy motos, but there are bike shops, with prices as high as $2700 for a mountain bike. They’re rarely seen though on the road – much more common are the beach cruiser type of $40 bikes with the long curved handlebars and the big puffy triangular seat.
Part of the reason those are so common, too, is because Cambodia is second only to Taiwan in the number of bicycles produced and exported from to the EU, with over 1.7 million bikes shipped in 2015, valued at $364 million. That’s a lot of hipster bikes!
But here in Cambodia, people want luxury goods from the west – the hipster phase is still far off, right now they are looking for conspicuous consumption. But that market for bikes is still nascent.
Most people who bike a lot – as a hobby and for exercise, not as a daily commuter – will ride early in the morning on weekends, heading outside of the city limits into the countryside. It’s a social time, but among those who know bikes, that’s where the appreciation for the expense of your bike will be found.
But just like there is rapidly developing a market for “cafe racer” type of motos, I believe there is a market for bikes that turn heads – it’s just that a $2700 Giant bicycle doesn’t look much different from a $270 Giant bicycle, for 99.5% of people who see it.
The Cyclotron, however, will turn heads everywhere and impress everyone, because it looks like it came from far in the future! And that alone is reason why it will sell extremely well in these newly materialistic markets.
People buy based on emotion, and emotions driven by external validation are fleeting as the validation is fickle. The iPhone 6 delivers zero validation when you friend shows up to a group outing with the iPhone 6s. And heaven forbid you’re still walking around with a plain old 6, when the new iPhone 7 is now here!
It’s not dissimilar to how it works in London or New York, but it’s much, much overt – here, you’ll be mocked to your face for having that “old” style phone. There is little subtlety.
So while a Cyclotron bike is not a necessity, neither is having a Ferrari in a city where, apart from 3AM, you’ll never get it out of 1st gear. Money isn’t spent in practical ways – it’s spent to boost one’s standing in society.
The Cyclotron will be the Rolls Royce of bikes here, and even if one never takes it out of the neighborhood, and never breaks a sweat, a few staged photos will make for instant facebook stardom.
And forget about the car vs buffalo, and Range Rover vs Ducati battles that dominate pop-culture music videos. The Cyclotron will make a superhero out of the underdog in a new, eco-friendly way!
THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT
How to accessorize? Add the Lumos helmet (video below) and you’re covered from head to tires!
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