When Slovak businessman Richard Galovič acquired the Favorit brand name of former Czechoslovakia’s famous but long defunct bike producer, some wondered whether it wasn’t a mistake. Since, Galovič has proven doubters wrong, now producing and selling city bicycles under the Favorit name in the Czech Republic and abroad. At a glance the retro-style bike appears unassuming but in fact it is full of surprises, boasting top craftsmanship and top materials such as a carbon fibre frame. The bike you can buy today is certainly not your granddad's Favorit and it isn’t cheap either.
“I was travelling to many Western European countries and to the United States and I saw the rising trend of city bicycles. I understood that this is something that will come to Prague. Secondly, I found out that the Favorit brand was dead and it of course has a great history and a great base that we could revive and build upon. The third was that many old traditional Czech brands came with new design products and that the key selling point these days is new beautiful design.”
Did you have experience in the field of design before you came to bikes or was that something that you brought to the table or you knew the people who were involved in it?
“I understood what the main issues are. Then I studied design, and the first thing I learnt was that design is not about how things look but about how things function, how we interact with them. If a thing is beautiful or not is a matter of aesthetics, not design.
“My first focus was to make bicycles which work seamlessly, are easy to use by the rider, require no maintenance, are light. The beauty is one of many aspects.”
To follow up there, is history important for the consumer, that to say, the first Favorit came out in 1922, that they were mass produced after 1948… Or is it just, ‘there is a really cool bike coming out of the Czech Republic and you have to see it’?
“We are gaining the image of a successful high-quality brand again in the mind of the public.”
“The short answer is, if you want to build a successful company, you have to offer everything, the history is one part of it. You have to have a good product, good design, good customer experience, good visual presentation of the product, nice placement, a good price and so on.
“There are many aspects as to how to build a successful company, I am not saying that I know how to do it, these guidelines are just my image of a good bicycle company.
“History is just one part of this picture, very important, the tradition, for example, we are now producing in an old Favorit factory, where bicycles were produced in 1922. Favorit is one of the oldest in the bicycle industry which is still producing today.
“When I acquired the Favorit brand, the spontaneous recognition of the brand here was 36 %. It was still the strongest most known brand on the market even though it had been defunct for a decade. When we made a survey this year in September, the spontaneous recognition was 89%, the result of four years of PR and marketing that we did.
“Last week we were awarded first place by the Czech brand 2016 as a brand that people are most proud of. I am so happy that we are gaining an image of a successful high-quality brand again in the mind of the public. I believe that one day, Favorit will be the customer’s first choice to buy a bike.”
Anybody who has ever biked seriously7 knows that the heart and soul is the frame.
“That’s right. The material looks like steel, when you ride on the bike it feels like steel. But it is carbon fibre. Hand-made in the Czech Republic, built according to biometrics, built to order. What we wanted was to have the feeling of the bike from the past but to have absolutely the latest technology.
“Therefore the bike is much lighter than steel bikes were and it can have built in technology like built-in lightning, electronic belt, leather seat with titanium rails that adapts to your body, puncture-resistant tires, a belt drive instead of chain, that you do not need to grease, it never breaks and never falls down. That you have a gear shift hidden in the rear hub and you do not need to grease it.
“Everything is focused on a pure joy of riding and no maintenance. No worries and no problems.
“We did not hit it on the first try, of course. The first prototype was a complete disaster, as we expected, nothing worked.”
“We wanted to build a bike that looks cool and has cool technology only you are aware of. Nobody else needs to know that you have the best bike on the planet. But you know it and it makes you proud, it makes you laugh and it makes you feel special.”
What is the entry price for a Favorit, about sixty thousand or sixty-five thousand?
“Exactly. Today it is sixty-five thousand. Last year when we introduced bikes, we decided to go with a price that does not cover the cost of production. This year we increased this price, but it still does not reflect the costs. So you can guess what is going to happen with the prices of the bikes.”
Now is the time to buy is what you are saying…
“Yes, that’s right.”
Are you happy with where the sales are at now, did they grow to where you want them to be or is there still room for improvement?
“We definitely need to grow. On the other hand, I am happy that the sales are as they are because one thing is to sell a lot of bikes; another thing is to make a lot of customers happy. For this you need to build infrastructure, showrooms, you need to have people, increase the capacity of production, build a relationship with the suppliers; it is a process.
“We should not forget that we are building all the processes from the ground up. At the beginning we did not know how long it will take to build a bike. We did not know what the chain supplier issues are and how to solve them, how to train people and how many we need for particular tasks in the production.
“We did not know what people see when they see our bicycles and we absolutely did not know why they should buy the bike. Now we have had a couple of hundreds of customers that bought the bike and we know what they see. So we can focus the marketing for the properties and the parts of the bike that are important for them.”
Were there some unfinished samples or unfinished bikes; where you said ‘okay it is almost there but it is still missing something’? Did you have to restart the process or did you hit it the first time?
“We did not hit it on the first try, not at all. The first prototype was a complete disaster, as we expected, nothing worked on it. But the second prototype was like 90% of what you see today, the next one was 95% and then we continued until we reached the bike of our dreams. It was a very complicated process; it was very difficult to build it exactly as it was defined.
“First we defined what the bike should fulfil and what it should look like. And it was based on who is our customer, what their expectations are and what our brand is and what our values are. The brand and the product must go together in both directions. It was therefore crucial to build a product exactly as it was designed because now when the customer comes, he immediately sees what we wanted to show. We do not need any explanation from him because we know our customers.
“We wanted to build a bike that looks cool and has cool technology only you are aware of. Nobody else needs to know!”
“There are many people who do not fit our customer description, they say ‘it is nice, retro, but it is very expensive’, they do not see the value and they do not see why they should buy it. And that is normal; they are not our focus group.
“We have never tried and hopefully will never try to please everybody. We just want to build a bike that the owners will be proud of and a bike that they will be happy with and will enjoy the time riding it.”
If we could look at one of the bikes, this is the flagship of the bicycles, you were saying.
“It is called Big Boss. It reminds us of the 1960s, 1970s, when whoever owned a Favorit was a king of the street, the boss. So we gave the model with the drop down bars this name. It has all the new technology of the carbon fiber frame, which looks like steel with all the attention to details.”
It is very, very clean in terms of the design and one of the things that is striking about it is that my mind is more pleasing the longer I look at it. There are certain details that pop out, you were talking about the decal here, which the aluminium inside, it really is a beautiful bicycle. If I change gears, how would I do that?
“You have just one gear set, near the rear hub and one lever, and you just change gears up and down you do not need to think about it. And you can change gears also while standing. So if you stop on a crossroad or in the middle of a hill you can still do that without an issue, even start at the lightest possible gear.
“It has a built-in lighting that can distinguish day and night. During the day it blinks and during the night it shines. It also has an electronic bell.”
“Generally our aim is to be successful in the US. It is the largest, with the highest buying power and with high affinity towards European hand-made products. Also western European markets are very important for us, such as the UK, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
“I decided to build the best bikes on the planet, the best I can imagine. I am pushing my colleagues beyond the limits to bring original products with very high added value. This is something I am focused on and I do not care what the competition is, I just want to make the customer happy.”