17/07/2014 - 15:03

Atma aims to break the poverty cycle in India

17/07/2014 - 15:03

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A recently established social enterprise is aiming to use the sale of bicycles in Western Australia to reduce poverty in India.

Atma aims to break the poverty cycle in India
GAME CHANGER: Alex Carpenter says bikes are a simple but effective way of improving the lives of children in developing nations. Photo: Attila Csaszar

A recently established social enterprise is aiming to use the sale of bicycles in Western Australia to reduce poverty in India.

For every bicycle Atma Cycles sells, the Perth-based for-profit start-up will donate a bike to a schoolgirl in Maharashtra, in rural India, which founder Alex Carpenter claims could lift school enrolment by up to 30 per cents.

Mr Carpenter, who is also co-founder of Hospitality Produce and Supplies and Citrus WA, said bicycles were a simple but effective way of improving the lives of children in developing nations. 

“To the Western world a bicycle may be a fun way to get fit or a cheap way to get to work, whereas in the third world a bicycle can mean the difference between getting an education or not; it can mean the difference between getting medical assistance or not,” he said.

Mr Carpenter said the main purpose for the bicycles would be to help children get to school in order to complete their education.

“To someone who is caught in the poverty cycle, a bicycle is the only form of transport,” he said.

The company will buy bikes produced in China and then will act as a wholesaler to existing Perth retailers in the hope that they can attract a different slice of the market to traditional distributors.

An online store will also be available.

“Our bikes are made to be simple, easy-to-use commuter bikes; this is certainly a growing section of the Australian market and one that is often overlooked by large international brands,” Mr Carpenter told Business News.

Atma Cycles was launched in April this year, and Mr Carpenter aims to sell 100 bikes by the year’s end, from $499 each, and then plans to grow to an annual turnover of up to $300 000 within two years.

“There are very few comparable bikes on the market as our bikes rest between the extremely cheap throwaway bikes and racing grade quality,” he said.

“There are a lot of bikes similar to ours in the US market and have proven to be very successful but these brands are not available in Australia.”

Mr Carpenter, who has pledged to donate half the company’s profits to charitable organisations in India, said Atma’s dedication to social responsibility was also likely to attract customers in a trend he described as ‘consumer powered change’.

The buy-one, give-one model has been used effectively by a number of other businesses, including Australian-owned Mexican restaurant Zambrero and Tom’s Shoes, which Mr Carpenter said helped provide inspiration for Atma.

Zambrero donates food on a ‘plate for plate’ model, donating one plate of food to partner charity Stop Hunger Now for every meal sold at the restaurant.

Nearly 2.8 million plates have been donated to date.

Tom’s Shoes has given away millions of shoes while earning revenues reported to be over $100 million annually.

Mr Carpenter has opted to produce the cycles it donates at local Indian factories, initially in the Satara district in Maharashtra, in order to generate local employment.

Mr Carpenter has turned to crowdfunding platform startsomegood.com to raise funds.

So far, $9,832 of Atma’s $35,000 funding goal has been reached, with pledges closing on July 20.

Atma Cycles needs to turn to (crowdfunding) because any traditional investor wants a financial return on their investment and more importantly they want their investment back one day,” Mr Carpenter said.

“We will not require further crowdfunding as this first round will kick start the company and then it will be self-sustaining from then on.

“So this campaign goes well beyond donating bikes; it is starting an engine that will give bikes for as long as necessary.” 

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