How two self-confessed non-bikers built a growing e-commerce platform for motorcycle accessories and gears

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While working as a SAP consultant in Bengaluru, Arbaaz Sha Muzawer was surprised to see his colleague buying a high-end motorcycle worth a few lakhs. “Seeing someone from a middle-class family spend their earnings on motorcycles and accessories intrigued me,” he says.

Accompanying his friend for a bike ride to Kolar, Arbaaz got to meet and interact with motorcycle enthusiasts. That’s when I realised that the community of motorcycle enthusiasts were driven by passion and went great lengths to pursue that dream,” he says. Realising there was a market for customised motorcycles, designs, and accessories, Arbaaz with his friend and now partner Wasim Shaikh decided to start Custom Elements in 2017 as a design startup for customised bikes and helmets. Wasim Shaikh was then working with ACT Fibernet in Nellore.

Pivoting to build scale

In a span of two years, Custom Elements turned profitable. But, the co-founders realised that while the business was doing good, they needed to establish a stronger business model. “We needed to explore a revenue stream that could scale,” says Arbaaz. Running the business for two years, Arbaaz and Wasim got to know their customer base more closely and saw that venturing into motorcycle accessories was a viable option. In 2019, Custom Elements started its e-commerce business. The months to come saw the e-commerce business growing stronger. In FY 2019-20, the startup clocked a revenue of Rs 87 lakh. The traction saw the startup pivoting completely to an e-commerce model. A year later, the startup’s revenue touched Rs 2.72 crore in FY 2020-21.

Today, Custom Elements stands as an e-commerce platform for motorcycle accessories and gears with a loyal customer base spread across the country. Interestingly, the growth is driven by demand from Tier II and IIIcities across the country, highlights Arbaaz. “Motorcycle accessories and gears are often expensive. In the metros, people prefer to go to a physical store, take a look at the accessories and then buy them. But, since most Tier II and III cities don’t have such showrooms, Custom Elements is seen as the go-to option,” he says. He adds that while they see people across the country buying from the platform, West Bengal and the Northeastern states take the largest market share.

Establishing a strong brand connect

There are many reasons why Custom Elements has been able to establish itself in the market in such a short period of time. “One of the top reasons is our service,” says the co-founder. He explains that while motorcycle enthusiasts who are just getting started share the passion, they don’t always understand the space. “They have queries on the size of helmets they should buy, why the helmets are snugfit or even the motorcycle accessories they should invest in for rising on Indian roads. And, we answer every single query that customers put forth and guide them. And, this focus on customer experience has helped to build a strong connection with our target audience and thereby grow,” he shares.

The other reason has been building its presence on the .in domain. Arbaaz says, “Initially, we chose the .in domain because we had already decided on the brand name - Custom Elements. The other reason was the price factor. As a bootstrapped business it was important to build an online presence but keeping the cost factor in mind. And .in domain extension ticked all the boxes.” Today with pivot into an e-commerce platform, the .in domain extension has helped to further build trust in the local market. “When we started the business in 2017, the website was aimed at building an online presence and establishing the brand. Today, as an ecommerce platform, the website is the core of our business,” he adds.

Vrooming towards newer growth paths

Having achieved early breakthroughs as an e-commerce business in a niche market, Custom Elements is now gearing up for another big bet. “We want to start our own private labels,” says Arbaaz. “This will enable us to penetrate the market further and also reduce dependencies on imports in the long run. Due to the disruption in the supply chain because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been mounting pressure by dealers to stock up the products. This is not only expensive but also poses a huge risk. A private label that matches up to the quality can address this challenge,” he adds. The startup has already started the groundwork for the private label.

Custom Elements was started by two self-confessed non-bikers. But, working in the sector, the co-founders have realised the need to nurture a community for the business to stay connected and relevant. That’s why the startup is working on community building initiatives. “We are putting our blogs and videos on topics of interest to the community. We want to be more just an e-commerce platform for motorcycle enthusiasts,” says Arbaaz.

The ‘Shaping India Inc's Online Growth’ series chronicles the journeys of startups and SMEs in India and how creating an online presence on the .in or .Bharat domain powered their success stories.


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