World’s largest two-wheeler market India contributes a large chunk to the global two-wheeler helmet market. The Indian helmet market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 14% during 2021-2026 period. Presently, more than half of the Indian helmet market is dominated by three players which are Steelbird, Studds and Vega. There are other brands as well, which include Aerostar, Wrangler, Ergo, Aaron, Royal Enfield, LS2 and THH.
Steelbird being one of the major two-wheeler helmet manufactures present in the country, holds a large chunk of the mass market share. Helmet is the primary safety element any two-wheeler rider opts for. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise in preference towards the personal mobility solutions, two-wheelers have seen a spur in sales.
In tandem with that, the helmet market too has seen surge in sales across India. Steelbird being one of the major helmet manufacturers in India, has seen a uptick in its sales. Besides that, the 56-year old company has recently ventured into the business of medical accessories like face shields, PPE kits, face masks and hand sanitizers opening a new business opportunity.
Talking to Autofintechs, Rajeev Kapur, Managing Director, Steelbird Group and President of two-wheeler Helmet Manufacturers Association opens up about the changing business dynamics for the company in the wake of the pandemic. Kapur is also the Co-Chairman of ASSOCHAM’s Standardisation Cell.
Edited excerpts below.
Q. How the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the business dynamics for Steelbird?
It has affected us a little for sure but not that much. In the beginning, our main concern was lack of laborers but that has been resolved now and the company is making huge progress day by day.
Demand for helmets has been high for our products and our distributors are still accounting for 50% of our sales. The remaining 50% is coming in from e-commerce platforms where we have listed, like Amazon.in.
Q. With the preference towards personal mobility in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially with the surging demand for two-wheelers, how has the business been for Steelbird helmets?
The two-wheeler sales have picked up rather quickly and that has given a positive boost to our helmet sales. People have started buying more and more two-wheelers as they are a safer mode of transport against public transport to maintain social distancing and because of that, the helmet industry has not been affected that much. Steelbird has increased the sales figure by a large amount. It has recorded 80% growth in the helmet category.
Q. With Steelbird venturing into the face shields, PPE kit, face masks, hand sanitizer etc what are the changes the company had to go in terms of manufacturing plant retooling, reskilling of workforce, dealer network etc?
As part of our ongoing fight against Covid-19, we launched face shields and currently produce 40,000 units daily and have plans to expand this to over 50,000 units per day by the end of November 2020.
Our range currently includes shields for the general public, kids, women and special shields for doctors that come with an anti-fog coating as ICU temperatures are cold and require this.
The products are being manufactured at existing plants in Baddi and Noida. SBHT has cutting edge manufacturing facilities in all 6 of its plants and the largest one is in Baddi (Himachal Pradesh), near Chandigarh with over one hundred and 50,000 Sq. ft. of covered area.
Q. How the revised Helmet Safety Rule has impacted Steelbird’s business?
The ban of non-ISI helmets and the new regulations has made a good impact on Steelbird’s business. 40% of our sales are rooted through OEM’s. The costs of helmets have been reduced that is why people are moving towards branded products rather than non-ISI or helmets with fake ISI mark.
Q. Counterfeit helmets have been a menace several companies have been facing. What steps Steelbird is taking to check this?
Steelbird has never faced any problems regarding the counterfeit helmets as all of our helmets’ designs are registered and patented. In the last 3 years, we have done more than 20 infringement cases on others for using our brand, products and graphics and because of our strong legal team we have won all of them.
Q. How Steelbird is working on R&D to make more improved helmets?
When we talk about growth in technology, Steelbird has launched many helmets including the AIR series where we have launched helmets with ventilation technology which allow air to pass on through the head of the rider and keep it cool always. The technology was developed by Steelbird R&D centre in Italy especially for Indian climate conditions.
Steelbird is the first brand to launch Night Vision visors and helmets with photo chromic visors that turn dark as sun rays fall on them and become clear during night time. Also we have introduced NACA duct technology for air ventilation system helmets, which further improves the airflow inside the helmet as these are the same ducts which are used in the aviation sector and supercars to keep their engines cool.
We also keep improving our helmets on the basis of ergonomics and ease of use hence we had introduced the push button mechanism for visor opening/closing. Similarly we have made the inner visor slider mechanism with push button release to make the operation of the inner visor easy.