Six years after he opened his first cycle shop in a mall, Shahriar Khodjasteh is pumping Dh1.5 million (US$408,000) into his 5,000-square-foot Ride Bike Shop on Sheikh Zayed Road. The Australian-Iranian, who came to Dubai 16 years ago, talks about why a cycling business makes sense in the UAE.
Why invest such an amount in a bike shop here?
There is Al Qudra track near Bab Al Shams, a 10-minute drive from Mall of the Emirates. There are three cycling loops, which used to be old camel racetracks, in Nad Al Sheba. There is also the Corniche in Abu Dhabi, as well as Yas Marina Circuit and Dubai Autodrome, where you can cycle once a week. So the infrastructure is there. We are distributors and retailers of bicycle brands and we see a sustainable business that is growing as infrastructure is growing.
How did you get interested in bikes?
I was born and brought up in Australia and got interested in skateboarding. In 2001, I opened a 200-square-foot retail store on Beach Road called Dubai Desert Extreme, selling skateboards and related apparel. It is now a holding company for Ride Bike Shop and Rage, which I launched in 2005 to expand the retail business in action sports goods, such as skateboards and surfing equipment.
Why did you choose this location?
It is important for the retail concept to be on a high street. I was looking for a space on Sheikh Zayed Road for a long time for its visibility and accessibility. Also, I wanted a store in a building so that customers can pull up and test cycles outside. In a mall you are quite restricted. Also, it is more economical. It is Dh800 to Dh900 per sq ft in Dubai Mall and here on Sheikh Zayed Road, it is Dh200 to Dh250 per sq ft.
You also plan to open similar-sized shops in Abu Dhabi and Doha. What is your time frame?
I want to open first in Doha and then Abu Dhabi. The UAE and Qatar are the biggest markets at the moment. Kuwait would be third, followed by Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. I hope to open in Abu Dhabi in 18 to 24 months.
How has your bike business grown?
I had three stores in malls. I have closed the ones in Dubai Mall and Oasis Centre because they were quite small, but I have kept the one in Mirdif City Centre. We are the retailer and distributor for Giant, the Taiwan-based largest cycle manufacturer in the world that has an annual turnover of $9 billion, along with other brands such as Mavic, CycleOps and Var. In the financial year ending June, revenues from my bike business were Dh15 million and it has been growing at the rate of 30 to 35 per cent a year.