Our alumny startup FESTKA strengthens its position in Southeast Asia through cooperation with Cyclist Wardrobe
In 2018, the Czech manufacturer of high-end carbon bicycles FESTKA faced an important decision. Two dealers from Kuala Lumpur expressed interest in representing FESTKA in Malaysia – a market that seemed very promising for the brand. One of the candidates was an established dealer of five major manufacturers and countless boutique brands, while the other one had until then run a very successful spinning studio, selling cycling clothing and accessories as a sideline. However, while the established dealer was quite lax in his approach, the spinning studio had an ambitious vision and plenty of enthusiasm and did not hesitate to invest in a fleet of display bikes, so FESTKA decided to go with them…
Five years later, Kuala Lumpur-based Cyclist Wardrobe is by far the best seller of FESTKA bikes in the world and Malaysia is the number one market for the Prague-based brand. Led by Max Ng, the shop has become the brand’s flagship store in the region and has been instrumental in ensuring that FESTKA is seen as the absolute leader in the category of handmade custom bikes here. So, the choice of where to introduce the radically updated new FESTKA Spectre to the world was an easy one. The brand’s co-founders Michael Moureček and Ondřej Novotný and two other members of the team travelled to Kuala Lumpur at the end of November for an extended visit, during which the first FESTKA DAYS MALAYSIA took place at Cyclist Wardrobe on 3-6 December. They brought with them two examples of the new Spectre – one of them the fruit of a collaboration with the artist Jakub Kois entitled Bodies, and the other a bike created especially for the occasion sporting a design scheme inspired by the host country’s symbols and colours.
The event included several rides with local owners of FESTKA bikes and fans of the brand. Michael held a talk about the spirit and mission of Festka, and Tom Hnida, the company’s Art Director, gave the gathered audience an insight into FESTKA’s approach to graphic design and the intricacies of the paint techniques it uses. Most of the time, however, was taken up by discussions with new prospective buyers and bike-fitting sessions with those who had already decided to order a new machine before or during the event. Customer interest has hugely exceeded expectations. Twenty-five orders for the new Spectre bikes was a welcome reassurance that FESTKA did not misstep in the bold redesign of this model. And there was another sweet surprise! When the Czech embassy got wind of FESTKA’s mission to KL they invited the team to come and meet the ambassador.
Besides the presentation of the new bike, the visit to Malaysia had another important reason. In the course of it, an agreement was finalised and concluded to make Cyclist Wardrobe the brand’s Asian hub. In this role, CW will become Festka’s logistics and skills base and expand its presence in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan through its geographical closeness, market knowledge and language skills.
“First and foremost, we have found a very reliable partner in Max Ng, the head of Cyclist Wardrobe. And that is perhaps the most important thing for a boutique producer who only makes low hundreds of costly products per year. Even a small glitch can send a company like that to the ropes. Vision, enthusiasm, drive, business acumen and so on are equally important, of course, but reliability comes first. In the five years we have worked together, Max has built a team of quality sales and customer care professionals in addition to a community of fans of our brand. He has good mechanics and bike-fitters, and even a great paint technician who can deal with anything from minor scuffs to graphic scheme makeovers without the need for the bike to be shipped halfway around the globe. Max’s other big advantage is that, as a member of the Malaysian Chinese community, he can communicate in Taiwan and China and, thanks to his solid English, everywhere else,” says Michael Moureček, co-founder of Festka, describing the reasons that led to the expansion of the cooperation with the Malaysian partner.
Asked about what makes FESTKA attractive in Southeast Asia, Festka co-founder Ondřej Novotný explains: “It’s mainly our ability and willingness to meet the demands for customised solution, originality and imagination. The road bike is a status product in this region to a much greater extent than elsewhere. Cyclists here like to project their personality, taste and social position onto their bikes and the fact that we can meet their personal requirements gives us a competitive advantage. Great rideability and reliability are taken for granted at this level.”
Festka has been making top-quality custom bicycles in Prague, Czech Republic, since 2010. It counts many interesting people among its clients – Hollywood celebrities, people from big business, as well as those who discovered cycling later in life as their preferred form of exercise and want (and can afford) to ride an exceptional bike. Festka is renowned for cooperating with top-notch institutions such as the European Space Agency and the Czech Technical University. The firm was founded by the former pro cyclist Michael Moureček and his entrepreneur friend Ondřej Novotný. From the very beginning, the creative side of things has been the domain of Tomáš Hnida. Up to 90 % of the company’s production is exported, with 80 % of exports heading outside the EU to Asia (China, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines) and the USA.