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Driving Safety through Innovation

By Kruti Bharadva,

Added 14 April 2021

An Interview with the Mr. Rajeev Kapur, Managing Director, Steelbird Helmets, Asia's largest manufacturer of helmets.

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Please give us a brief history of Steelbird, its origins and current product portfolios

Steelbird started in 1964. The journey has been quite a roller-coaster for me. I started out very early by joining business and used to handle all the plants by myself at the age of 18.

But as far as work is concerned there is a long way to go. Yes I am happy with what we have achieved till now but certainly not content with it. We are looking at a lot of support from the government because a helmet is a life saving device and personally have given so many presentations to make helmet mandatory in all the states. We have wide range of helmets and accessories.

 

Please tell us about which sectors you cater to

We are catering to Auto sector where we are dealing with Helmets, Pannier Boxes and Auto Accessories. During the Covid era, we have ventured into the health care segment. To begin with, we have launched a wide range of healthcare products to offer protection amidst the COVID-19 pandemic including Face shields, PPE kits, Gloves, Oximeter and masks besides OTC Immunity Boosters Medicines for the domestic market.

 

Please describe for us in detail your manufacturing plant in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh as well as your other manufacturing plants in India

We have around 6 plants in India. The biggest one is the one in Baddi, Himachal. We expanded to our manufacturing plant in Baddi in 2019 which is spread over six lakh Sq. ft. The main reason was to boost our manufacturing capacity. We are now manufacturing 22,000 helmets per day at the baddi plant. We have employed over 2,000 new employees and are selling around 6 lakh units per month.

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How has the last fiscal been for you in terms of numbers and what were/are the effects of COVID on your business numbers and activities?

It has affected us a little for sure but not that much. The two-wheeler sales have picked up rather quickly and that has given a positive boost to our helmet sales. We are now planning on expanding. We have recently opened our new shops in Ranchi, Patna and Noida and are planning on opening some more this year.

 

India is on its way to becoming a globally recognized manufacturing hub. What opportunities and challenges do you see towards achieving this status?

The main challenge is still buying and selling of the non ISI marked helmets. Selling non ISI marked helmets is equivalent to selling fake medicine and just as fake medicines are harmful and poisonous so are fake helmets. Many people are still not aware about how to differentiate between cheap and real helmets.

 

How important is R&D and innovation in the manufacture of helmets? Do you incorporate R& D at Steelbird? Please give us examples of any new innovative product launches you are hoping to undertake.

It is always our constant endeavour to innovate in the features of our products. R&D plays a huge role in this and we have a dedicated R&D team in Italy who constantly work on processes, features and ideas to improve our working. R&D is of many kinds, it can be to improve the cycle time of a process, it could be to increase efficiency, it could be to reduce rejection etc. Hence we are always focused on spending more and more on R&D. As far as Innovation is concerned we have introduced some industry first’s features in helmets like Night vision visors, Photochromic visors etc. and so many other user friendly and user experience improvement based features like push button visor opening mechanism etc. We plan to keep innovating and introducing products that are state of the art and advanced in all aspects.

 

As an automotive ancillary industry segment, how do you see the automotive sector’s future in India and how do you plan to leverage the same for Steelbird?

The two wheeler segment of the automotive sector is bound to grow as more and more people are migrating from cycle to a scooter and from a scooter to motorcycle. The sales trend also show that this segment is growing at a brisk pace. We being an anciliary to this segment also hope to leverage the upwards trend of sales for our products also as implementation of motor vehicle act becomes more and more stringent. Also because of Covid people are avoiding public transport and switching to their own mode of transport. And for a majority of them it is the two wheeler.

 

Please tell us briefly about your export business?

My father with his efforts converted our small time family business into a multimillion dollar empire. We are now exporting across 50 nations like Brazil, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Vietnam, Bahrain, Dubai, Nepal, Colombia, Uruguay and other European countries. We have also tied up with an International brand- Blauer.

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