INTERVIEW: Local helmets are like fake medicines, says MD of Steelbird Helmets Rajeev Kapur
Rajeev Kapur, MD of Steelbird Helmets, in a free-wheeling email interview spoke on multiple topics, ranging from the manufacturing of low-quality helmets to the company's expansion plans.
Road accidents have become a major concern across the country. Unfortunately, the presence of low-quality helmets in the market is putting the lives of riders at risk. Zee Business Online spoke to Rajeev Kapur, MD of Steelbird Helmets on the issue and in a free-wheeling email interview, he spoke on multiple topics, ranging from the manufacturing of low-quality helmets to the company's expansion plans. Kapur also shared a message meant for those people who put their lives at risk. Edited excerpts:-
Q1. First of all, tell us why one should buy Steelbird? Why not any other helmet brand? What's Steelbird's biggest USP?
A1. Helmet is a designer product. A helmet is a fashion statement & also a technological product. First of all, people are buying Steelbird helmets because of brand recognition. Secondly, people do have faith, loyalty and trust in the brand. Steelbird has saved millions of lives over 5 decades. People tend to buy Steelbird helmets as each and every product has its own USP. Steelbird is surely the safest helmet one can go for. There are varieties of sub-brands in which the Steelbird Helmets are available such as the Steelbird Air, which offers the air technology, Steelbird Hi-GN, offering Anti Alergic, Anti-odour interiors and talking about the latest one which the NACA technology, basically used in aircraft and supercars for better superior air ventilation. All our helmets are manufactured with high impact material and polycarbonate visors with anti-scratch coating offering the consumers different type of visors like Night Vision, Photochromatic in a wide range of colours.
Q2. Many people wear local helmets, and others just carry it around, even wear it on elbows, to escape traffic police! What the government should do to raise awareness? After all, it's a matter of life. As a helmet manufacturer, any suggestions?
A2. Yes, you are absolutely right, some people do not wear helmets and if they do, they are going for the Non-ISI ones. To spread awareness about the importance of wearing helmets while riding, the government should add helmets in the mandatory list of Bureau of Indian Standards. As of now, anybody can produce substandard and Non-ISI helmets in the market. To overcome the issue and to save human lives, the Government should ban the manufacturing and sale of such helmets. According to the Central Motor Vehicle Act, rule 138 (4) (f) 1989, states that at the time of purchase of a two-wheeler, the manufacturer of the two wheeler shall supply protective headgear, keeping in mind the specifications prescribed by BIS. In regard to the same, the Government should enforce this law so that each and every two wheeler rider will have a head gear.
Also, the Government should reduce or make the GST NIL on helmets and even allow the manufacturers to claim the GST credit input leading to low cost of ISI certified helmets. This way the ISI certified helmets will be coming at a really affordable price for each and very person. As a helmet manufacturer, we request the Government to make helmet mandatory Pan India for riders as well as Pillion riders.
Q3: What do you think about Indian helmet market's growth and future demand in India? And, where do you see Steelbird in that race?
Ans- In India, the demand will be for more than 100 million helmets a year. Now the matter comes, how we drive this. As of now, we are producing more or less 25 million new two wheelers that means two helmets for each two wheeler, leading to use of 50 million helmets each year for the new two wheelers only. Talking about the current conditions, the helmet is mandatory only in Delhi, Chandigarh and Jaipur, where the law is enforced. The Government should make helmets mandatory Pan India. As per the WHO Report, 30% of the riders and 10% of the pillion riders are wearing the helmet in India. Now, we have to consider that in India on road, there will be 180 Million two wheeler into 2 helmets, leading to minimum 300 Million helmets will be required to fill the gap of the two wheelers on the road. And, if we say the life of a helmet is five years, means every five years there will be demand to replace the helmet, leading to a total demand of the Indian market of 100 million helmets annually.
We see ourselves in a way that we should be having 30% of the share and based on that continuously, year by year, we are increasing our production capacity. Now, at the Steelbird Manufacturing Plant, we have built up 200, 000sq more. By 2021, we will be having a capacity to produce 43,000 helmets per day. We are surely working on our production capacity, keeping in mind the future demands and requirements of the Indian Market.
Q4: There are many helmets available in the market, that too at cheap rates. People actually fall for it and buy them. But, they are highly unsafe and risky too. What to do to overcome this life-threatening challenge?
A4. Yes, you are absolutely right that 80% of the helmets available in the Indian Markets are local and fake helmet which can be bought at a cost of Rs 100. Talking about the ISI certified helmets, the cost of raw material only is Rs 250. If somebody is selling a helmet for less than Rs 450-500 to a customers, that surely means that it is a fake ISI or local helmet. To overcome the issue, the Government, Media and NGO’s should take a step forward. At All India Medical Trauma Centre, if you visit and asks doctor about the conditions of the victims of road accidents, they will tell you, sometimes they are taking out chips of the helmet from the victims head. It’s really pity that people are playing with each others lives. So, the media should raise the voice for this matter.
Q5: We got to know that Steelbird is setting up a plant in Rajasthan in 16 lakh square feet and launching a whole new range of Helmets, biking gears and accessories? Please elaborate about what customers can expect from Steelbird in future?
Ans - We are setting up a plant in Rajasthan in 16 Lakh square feet built up area. As of now, we are increasing the capacity of the 3 plants which are situated in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh focusing on the product of helmets and side boxes and four plants in Noida. We will be launching many more brands for helmets, accessories such as crash guards, jackets, gloves, horse riding articles. We will soon be coming up with Bluetooth helmets as well. So, there are a lot of things we will be coming up with and will be offering value of money products for the Indian consumers. We are growing at a very fast pace and as of now we have 9 brands for helmets and accessories, each brand targeting different segments of the Indian Market. Moreover, soon our helmets will be meeting both the European as well as Indian Standards.
So in the future, we will be providing helmets to the consumers to fulfill their necessity needs. We are not producing helmet only on the basis of the design and style, but developing them based on the USP’s respectively. Like, the Steelbird Air, it offers superior airflow system and NACA technology which has been used for the recently launched helmet called SA-1 Aeronautics. Furthermore, we are in process to launch many more products with many more USP’s which cannot be disclosed yet, but rest assure, will be meeting the address and demands of the two wheeler riders.
Q6: Keeping in mind the demands of helmets, what are Steelbird's expansion plans?
Ans - The Manufacturing of the helmets is taking place at Baddi. We are expanding to 3 helmet plants at Baddi and the totality we will be having more than 6 Lakh sq feet built up area, leading to produce 43,000 helmets per day. The main focus of the expansion is at Baddi only, and once we have achieved 75% of the production capacity here, then accordingly we start building up for the Rajasthan Plant. We keep on launching new products. In November, we had taken 1200 retailers, dealers and distributors to Thailand to witness the Steelbird Excellence Awards 2018. During the Award Ceremony, we had launched 15 new products, and look forward to launching many more products in 2019. The details of the products can not be disclosed right now, but will surely share at the right time. A lot of Innovation will be seen in the Steelbird products in the coming years.
Q7: Any new product launch or innovation can be expected in the near future?
Ans - Yes, in the near future many new helmets with different and unique specifications. Within few months, we will be providing Bluaer Helmets to the Indian consumers. Bluaer is a well known helmet brand of United States which was founded in 1983. We have already launched Kukka Helmets and the second model in the Kukka range will be coming up soon. By the end of the year, we will launching SA-2 model with the NACA technology under the Aeronautics brand.
We keep on launching new products. In November, we had taken 1200 retailers, dealers and distributors to Thailand to witness the Steelbird Excellence Awards 2018. During the Award Ceremony we had launched 15 new products, and look forward to launch many more products in 2019. The details of the products can not be disclosed right now, but will surely share at the right time. A lot of Innovation will seen in the Steelbird products in the coming years.
Q8 Steelbird forayed into the IT & Tech Sector as well by launching an app called Steelbird Connect - Share & Earn. What's that? How customers can benefit?
Ans - Yes, Recently we had forayed into the IT & Tech Sector by launching the application called Steelbird Connect – Share & Earn. This platform will basically provide a quick mode to make content viral. The core idea behind this development is using technology and internet to speedup business and reward the end users which is not at the moment in any of social platform. Developed with a very simple and easy user interface Steelbird Connect-Share & Earn accumulates points on every share at the user’s account which can be redeemed easily through the shopping mall at application or on http://shoponsteelbird.com/ and one can do endless shopping. The Steelbird Connect application has already crossed 200,000 downloads and within next 1-2 month we expect a 10 fold growth i.e 2 Million downloads. The reason is with this application each and every Indian can earn SB Coins and which are redeemable. One can redeem these SB Coins by doing shopping at Steelbird Connect Share & Earn shopping mall. In Steelbird Connect Shopping mall we will have more than 10,000 products so the user can shop all day to day items by just sharing the sponsored posts
Q9: Last and the most important question - What's your message or must-follow advice to people who don't wear helmet or wear fake ISI or cheap and life-threatening helmets?
Ans - My message and a humble request to the two wheeler riders is to always wear good quality helmets which follow the regulations prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards. If a dealer is offering you a helmet at a cost below Rs 450, then you must know that it is surely a local or fake ISI helmet which can be really harmful just like fake medicines.