Sunday, 1 October 2023

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NParks Brompton Bicycle purchase prompts more questions

~ by Lewis Loh ~

After watching the news on TV about the NParks’s Brompton bicycles purchase, I had more serious questions about this particular company that won the tender as well as the tender itself.

Disclaimer – I am not questioning the model selection as I know the quality of a Brompton bicycles. Besides the tender process, I just have these key questions and observations regarding the eventual winner of this tender, a company known as BikeHop.

The mystery of BikeHop

Is BikeHop a bicycle shop, a tour agency, or an online shop? I cannot figure this out.

Their registered address is a terrace house in a residential area at Siak Kew Ave (Potong Pasir area). It neither operate as a brick and mortar bicycle shop nor does it apparently have any links online to sell bicycles. The issue of whether they can provide actual technical/mechanical support and assistance is questionable.

Brompton's authorised distributor and their network of dealers in Singapore offer a standard 5 year warranty on frames and 2 year on parts, far exceeding the tender requirements! All this for only S$50 more than the winning bid.

Also, I noticed that there are strict regulations pertaining to registering a company as a tour agency. BikeHop's website and YouTube channel seem to portray themselves as a tour agency conducting tours in Singapore and overseas.

Besides doing the usual procedures of company registration with a key executive and directors, they must also fulfil these three important criteria.

1. Paid-up Capital – The company must have paid-up capital of at least S$100,000.

2. Email Address and TRUST – The company must have a website to operate the business. The company must also observe the “Terms and Conditions for the Use of the Travel Related Users’ System (TRUST)”. The TRUST website is a state-sanctioned website that provides relevant information, resources and advice related to the travel industry in Singapore.

I went to the TRUST website and searched for the company BikeHop and they were not listed there. Either they are not a registered tour agency or have not updated their information.

However, TRUST lists all the up to date information on all licensed travel and tour agents in Singapore, but judging from their videos and website, the company has at least been around for a year?

3. Office Space and Signboard – the company must set up a business office dedicated solely to travel agency operations. The space cannot be shared with any other type of business. An easily visible signboard that reflects the nature your business must be erected. If you are an individual freelance travel agent conducting business from home, in either an HDB flat or private accommodation, you must obtain approval from the Housing Development Board or Urban Redevelopment Authority before the STB will give you your license.

I don't seem to recall having seen any tour agency operating from the terrace house in Siak Kew Avenue and since a tour agency cannot be shared with any other type of business, the question again I ask, are they a bicycle shop or a tour agency?

Questioning the tender process

Besides the information listed in the tender, I also noticed was this particular tender was drawn up on 19 Jan 2012, the day before Chinese New Year, and put up on the GeBIZ site on 3rd day of Chinese New Year (25 Jan 2012)?

If I wanted to place an open tender bidding, I would want maximum exposure throughout the particular industry for them to have time to come up with their offers.

Which bicycle shop do you know in Singapore opens on 3rd day of Chinese New Year and will scan the GeBIZ website to come across a tender that expires in a few days’ time? No wonder Brompton's official distributor in Singapore and local dealer networks knew nothing about the NParks tender!

Even if the official distributor submitted a bid, they could still be beaten by their own dealer networks as the official distributor is under obligation not to undercut their retailer networks.

The irony of this situation is that NParks could have got their Brompton bicycles much cheaper and WITH full warranty, mechanical and technical support!

The points I have brought up point towards the fact that obtaining the Brompton bicycles from BikeHop Singapore was not the best deal by far.

Transparency and answers needed

In summary, the tender seemed to be timed in such a way to minimise exposure to the cycling industry (drawn up one day before Chinese New Year and put up on the GeBIZ site on 3rd day of Chinese New Year) and the legitimacy of the company, that won the tender as a bicycle shop, is questionable at best.

The full details of the tender can be found here.

My $0.02 without GST.

TOC thanks Lewis for allowing us to reproduce his article, which first appeared here.

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