Interview: Rothar Is Looking to Build a Functional Accessory Market for Motorcycle Riders in Colombia
Rothar is a Bogotá-based company devoted to motorcycle accessories. But unlike other, seemingly similar shops, Rothar is all about what its managers call functional accessories. They are in the market to sell add-ons that serve practical uses for Colombia’s many all-conditions riders rather than bells and whistles for buyers who just like to tinker.
According to Juan Carlos Serna, who is in charge of the commercial division for Rothar, this differentiation was well received earlier this year when the company had its biggest public-facing showcase yet at the Feria de las Dos Ruedas motorcycle fair in Medellín this May.
Loren Moss, executive editor of Finance Colombia, caught up with Serna recently to discuss the idea behind the two-year-old company and how things are progressing in the Colombian motorcycle accessories market.
“These motorcycles are developed for Europe and for the summer season, not for winter. So they’re not thinking about rain, about the mud, about the dirt. And so that’s why we have these accessories.” – Juan Carlos Serna of Rothar
Loren Moss: How was the idea born to start that company? Who had the idea to launch a company manufacturing accessories for high-end motorcycles here in Colombia?
Juan Carlos Serna: The idea was born because we are a group of young people who had middle and high-end motorcycles. We’re motorcycle fans, and we saw the need — let’s say the shortcomings — in the market with our own motorcycles.
We started to develop products for own own motorcycles. We saw the opportunity in the market, that niche in the market, to start a business. We agreed that we could develop it, and we started out in the business. Now we’re developers, we’re manufacturers, and we’re direct distributors to the whole country.
Loren Moss: One thing that I have seen here in Colombia is that people use motorcycles in all kinds of weather — it doesn’t matter if it’s cold or raining. It’s more something necessary for life, not so much a hobby like in other countries.
Juan Carlos Serna: Exactly.
Loren Moss: So, what are the particular needs here in Colombia? For someone who is out in the rain, riding his motorcycle, even in the cold in Bogotá, what are the differences and why do they need accessories or something different from how the motorcycle arrived from the factory?
Juan Carlos Serna: Well, in Colombia there are almost seven million motorcycles. It’s one of the countries in South America that has the most motorcycles at this time, right? Which accessories are needed by the ordinary Colombian, and by many motorcyclists in the world?
We need things like mudguard extensions for the rain to protect our motorcycles and to protect the motorcycle’s radiator. To protect the flow of air so the motorcycle doesn’t overheat. When there’s rain, the mud can get into the radiator, and the motorcycle can overheat. So that’s something that’s very important. That’s something you have to be very careful with.
We have something else, which is the rear mudguards. The ones from the factory come with very low tail ends, so when there is rain, the rain gets the rider’s back all dirty and full of mud. So we offer additional protection.
These motorcycles, the medium and high-end motorcycles, are developed for Europe and for the summer season, not for winter. So they’re not thinking about rain, about the mud, about the dirt. And so that’s why we have these accessories.
We also have very functional accessories, like the bases for stands. Why? Because nowadays the stands are very small. In mud or dirt the motorcycle can fall and get buried. So what this does is keep the motorcycle on a better level and we can be better protected. Especially the high-end motorcycle. If a BMW 1200, which has its cylinders very high up and pronounced, should fall, what would happen? It could knock off the cylinders.
Loren Moss: That would really be expensive. Even the mirrors on a BMW are very expensive.
Juan Carlos Serna: Exactly. So we developed these protectors with an internal neoprene fiber so that if it falls, it absorbs it. It doesn’t let it become deformed or damaged.
So, we handle a lot of things. We can offer a chassis protector for the people who go off-road because they like narrow paths or tracks and marshes. They say that the boots start to wear away, then the stones and all of that. So this is what protects the chassis.
It’s the same thing with the brake elevator. When people are off-road, the boots don’t leave the brakes very accessible, right? So the brake elevator raises it up so that when you are off-road you can brake without any problem.
Loren Moss: And you offer items for various types of motorcycles?
Juan Carlos Serna: Yes, we have all these accessories for a lot of brands. Kawasaki, KTM, BMW, Yamaha, and Ducati are the ones we’re handling right now. And we want to get into the low-end market also.
Loren Moss: What has been the reception of the market in Colombia to the establishment of this company? Are you 100% local or are you exporting now? Can you tell me more about the business side of things?
Juan Carlos Serna: At this time, we are getting into several business alliances. We’re thinking of getting into countries like Mexico and Panama. We’ve had contacts with Chile and Argentina.
It’s a market that we have to aim for, but we also have to think about some fiscal expenses, some taxes, and tariffs. So we have to figure out all that first before getting into exports.
At this moment, we are focused on the local market, but we are making arrangements for the international market. Why? Because there is no company currently designed or conceived for these products. You see many companies that have accessories, but they are luxuries — not functional ones.
Very few accessories are functional, right? So, we’re focusing only on functional ones. Why? Because as I explained, we are young people that have always had motorcycles like these, and we know the shortcomings that there are. We’re not interested in making luxury accessories, but rather functional ones.
Loren Moss: You are based in Bogotá and have been established for about two years, right? How was the Feria de las Dos Ruedas for you?
Juan Carlos Serna: Yes, we’re in Bogota and this is really the first time we went to the Feria as exhibitors. We had come many times as spectators but not as exhibitors. We received compliments because people like the brand, the products, and the quality of the products. We have been well received. One man came up and said to me, “Hey, I didn’t know that product. How great! We never thought about doing that.”
Loren Moss: What are your near-term goals? How are you currently looking to the future and projecting success?
Juan Carlos Serna: We’re interested in making a network — a business network — and in finding good providers. And we’re looking for that international business market, looking for more distribution. That’s what we’re looking for.
Photo credit: Loren Moss