Innovation is often a story, woven between people. Our story begins in November 2014.
At that time, the innovation teams lead by Sylvain VENANT from B’TWIN (Cycling Passion Brand) and Guillaume LENCLEN from PCM (Plastic Composites and Metal Industrial Universe) and based in Lille (France) are working in pre-project phase on a new architecture for entry-priced bikes.
Their goal is to significantly lower the cost of a bike frame. The combined use of composites and metal, as well as the idea of a frame in “kit” format, stand out as viable solutions. A patent is filed.
On this famous eve of November 28th, 2014, while heading down a hallway at the B’TWIN VILLAGE, Sylvain VENANT (Innovation Manager) runs into Tejvir SAINI (India Bicycle Production Manager).
Passionate about products and the designing thereof, the conversation quickly centers on their respective works in progress towards reducing costs. However, a picture–taken on a phone–would soon change everything: both realize that the two Decathlon teams (French and Indian) are moving ahead, without mutual consultation, in the same direction: the methods of each country are different but the geometry of the French and Indian prototypes are similar…
Through this similarity between the 2 frames, it becomes obvious that joining up would be beneficial to both teams: working as a team to move along faster, bringing together the French biking experience and engineering skills with the ingenuity, creativity and quick readiness of the Indian teams.
Sylvain and Tejvir imagine the organisation and the roles to be put into place. That which was merely a pre-project (code name B’ONE) is now a bicycle kit project (RIVERSIDE ONE).
An entry-priced bicycle project, designed with Indians, manufactured by Indians, for Indians: the India Commercial Organization sees a fantastic opportunity in this project, to contribute to the purpose and social mission of Decathlon.
The project is managed in 360° start-up mode (from manufacturing to stores to after-sales). It is open to all thanks to a Google site, the primary communication vector, which naturally capitalizes on the life and information of the project. Its use contributes to the international coordination, to the advancement of the project in “challenge” mode, by regularly offering challenges for India and France on a four-week timeframe…
The concept entices and attracts different competencies within the Decathlon group.
With each internal communication, new, motivated members (R&D, materials, calculations, design, prototyping, lab, tests, communication…) are won over and freely join the adventure.
Vishesh BHUTANI is named Local Leader and manages the interface with Sylvain.
During the industrialization phase, Vishesh came to France to smooth over the numerous technical exchanges with the production team and local suppliers.
And these “freed-up” competencies are none too many when facing the 3 main challenges of the project:
-Test the frame to European standards and guarantee enjoyable feelings when using the product,
-Give the customer a good assembly experience
-All while ensuring a low price
To innovate is to test, learn, and bounce back: the team (French and Indians) took full advantage of 3 trips to India, each time doing a complete overview of the project: prototyping of parts, editing technical reviews with local suppliers, following the logistics track of the bicycles, measuring the assembly experience and the use of the bike out in the field with the Indians…right up to putting the prototypes on sale in stores with associated merchandising and communication…just to see…
The moments of technical surprises, of cultural revolutions, of difficulties, of cohesion, of energy, of reaction, and the lessons learned and adjustments drawn from these trips are multiple and intense.
Each new challenge taken on is a victory and allows the team to remain mobilized in the long run.
We really have the feeling that we’re doing something crazy, a small revolution (bikes have evolved very little in 100 years).
For the moment, we’re testing the sale of 250 bike kits on the web and in 4 stores (2 in the north and 2 down south). We’re moving ahead, step by step, with the humbleness necessary for such a leap of faith.
The rest of the story is not ours to write: good or bad, it will be written by the customer.