When fuel prices are on the rise, employees of the Manali plant of Kothari Petrochemicals could not have asked for a better gift from their employer. The company recently surprised its employees by gifting them a bicycle each.

The message was loud and clear: stay fit and do your bit for the environment.

The plant has 142 employees on its rolls, and right from those at the leadership level to the attender all get the same bike – a Hercules.

“We have already distributed 100 bicycles and are waiting for the next lot to arrive,” says V Murugeswaran, senior manager (human resources and admin), Kothari Petrochemicals, adding that the cycles were distributed at an event held to observe National Safety Day.

The company has been promoting green modes of transport among its workforce for a few years now. Last year, as part of World Environment Day, the company organised a cycle rally to encourage employees to pedal to work.

“We only had a few employees coming by bicycle to work, and that is when we thought: ‘Why not gift all of them a bicycle’,” says Murugeswaran.

A majority of the employees reside in and around Manali and are either dependent on their own transport or company-operated vehicles.

By offering them such an incentive, the management is confident some employees will make the switch.

Suresh Pachyappan from the production department is one of them. The day after he took home the gift, Suresh has started cycling to work. “I stay in Madhavaram, which is around 4.5 km from my workplace. Pedalling to work takes me double the time it used to take by my bike, but I see many benefits in this. I am already seeing a huge saving on my fuel budget,” says Suresh.

The management is hoping that employees will inspire each other to cycle to work. “We slowly plan to start asking employees to come to work once a week, may be on a fixed day and then extend it to the other days,” says Murugeswaran. “We will not cut down the shift van to force them to switch to bicycles, the realisation should come naturally.”

How good is the road infrastructure in the neighbourhood for the staff to cycle to work?

Says Suresh: “If more people cycle to work we can push the authorities to improving the road infrastructure and we could even ask for a separate lane.”