iGrow Interviews: Steelbird aims to be Rs 500 crore company by 2015

One brand that stirred one of the crucial yet unorganised helmet and riding gear sector, is now aiming to reach new heights as it expands its retail presence, product offerings, licensing tie-ups and even creating awareness. Steelbird Hi-Tech India, has now started a new chapter of making this journey even better. In discussion with Rajeev Kapur, Managing Director, Steelbird Hi-Tech India Ltd, iGrow gets to know more about their plans and strategies.

030Rajeev Kapur, Managing Director, Steelbird Hi-Tech India Ltd

  • iGrow: Share with us the journey of Steelbird.

Rajeev Kapur: Founded in 1964, the flagship company of Steelbird Group of Industries, we are one of the oldest manufacturers of helmets and auto accessories in India. With growth being achieved across five decades, we are now India’s largest helmet manufacturer with the capacity of manufacturing 9000 helmets a day.

The brand was started by visionary Subhash Kapur, who started at the age of 20 with little finances and a lot of dreams. Despite little formal education he moved on to develop a successful business and product innovation. The brand now bring products including air filter, fuel filter, electronic of two wheelers or helmets.

  • iGrow: Share more details about products and product development.

Rajeev Kapur: Our aim has been to save lives and not make money. We have always ensured and created helmets that meet European standards as well as Indian standard too. We are the only brand which is catering to both Indian and European standards. We are now working towards designing product which fulfil the Indian needs and choices of sophisticated Indians which not only meets ISI Standards but also with chic new designs. Moreover, the innovation needs to be done to meet various needs of all age groups, males and females and maintain the quality.

Additionally, cost is another are of concern for Indians, so we worked towards further reducing the cost and launched non-painted helmets.

  • iGrow: Has the consumption pattern changed in past few years when consumers have upgraded from two-wheelers to cars? How have the sales pattern changed?

Rajeev Kapur: No the consumption pattern hasn’t changed. In small towns or cities people still prefer two-wheelers instead of cars. The only change is the market is that the customer is looking for good quality product, and even unique products for which they are ready to pay the cost.

  • iGrow: How are you working towards creating awareness among consumers about the need of a correct product?

Rajeev Kapur: We are seeing that the young consumer understands safety and hence, wants quality product. Infact as a brand, we have invested almost two decades in educating people the importance of quality helmets and thankfully today our consumers realise that . Keeping in mind the Indian needs and choices of sophisticated Indians, we started producing helmets which not only meets ISI Standards but also with chic new designs.

Additionally, we are working hard towards creating awareness among consumers. Joining hands with youth clubs for arranging rallies, expeditions. We have started first of its kind of a campaign for women safety ride with a message for women to drive safe and wear helmet while two wheeler riding.

We are also seeking opportunities like MTV, where we can associate our brand to create more awareness

  • iGrow: How important is product innovation? What all has been launched by Steelbird in terms of innovative products? Share details.

Rajeev Kapur: In the past, many organizations have been able to survive even with very limited amounts of innovation. They focus on providing quality products and simply update them to a level that maintains their competitiveness in the market. This method still applies to some products with long lifecycles and few opportunities for innovation. But with time and global trends, product innovation has become the key. Factors such as globalization and outsourcing, have increased push to improve efficiency and effectiveness of organizations. Organizations need more than good products to survive; they require innovative processes and management that can drive down costs and improve productivity. Thus, catering to moder consumers who are informed and have options in hand.

Some of our innovative products include:-

  1. Carbon fiber helmets
  2. SB 29 – Shutter helmets for summers so that air can pass on the head
  3. Steelbird MTV Co-branded range of helmets
  4. Eve– Helmet for women
  5. Adonis
  6. Open face helmets that can be locked
  • iGrow: What are your plans of spreading the retail presence and what is the pattern of the same?

Rajeev Kapur: Although we have presence in multi brand stores with a widespread distribution network but we realized the need to enter the EBO model as there was a stronger need to sell the right product to the right consumer depending on their requirement. Hence, we launched Riderz Shoppes.

We will spread our retail presence through our exclusive Riderz Shoppes pan India. After the success of first pilot project in Delhi we have gone to Chandigarh and Karnataka.  Steelbird has also set up another in Northeast India, due to overwhelming demand of Steelbird products in this part of the country. So, seeing the demand we have plans to come up with 200 Riderz Shoppe. The stores would be spread over 200-500 sq ft in major markets where there are high footfalls.

  • iGrow: Who are your target audience? How are you reaching them beyond retail?

Rajeev Kapur: We are targeting everybody including males, females and even kids. We have products for everybody catering to all age groups and price points.

Steelbird range of helmets includes over 30 models along with 6-8 variants per model.

Today we have more than 170,000 fans on our facebook account and we put the entire new product over there. As we realise that a huge number of consumers are young, this is the best mode to reach them. The page is equally interactive giving them all the information.

  • iGrow: You have recently tied up with MTV. Does licensing help you create more awareness?

Rajeev Kapur: This tie up will definitely provide tutoring to youth on safe and secure riding. As a responsible citizen we want to emphasis on the importance of safe driving, and through this innovative tie up’s platform we will communicate the message of safe driving to all the youth.

  • iGrow: Do we see more collaboration coming up? What they would be like?

Rajeev Kapur: There is a lot of potential in market. We have value tie ups with MTV, Yamaha and Honda, which you will not get in any other brand. And very soon we will be tying up with many more brands.

  • iGrow: Share details about the product manufacturing and R&D.

Rajeev Kapur: We are focusing on our R&D Design team which plays a critical role in designing and developing products at par with international standards and best fit to Indian pockets. The team is currently working on new line which will be launched soon.

  • iGrow: Your take on the current market numbers and areas of growth.

Rajeev Kapur: Currently, on 10-15 per cent of the total Indian helmet industry is organized while 85 per cent market is unorganized sector and a keen potential area to tap. India needs 100 crore helmets a year and almost similar number of products in a replacement market. Besides there is new segment growing up that is riding gears which another key area to tap. Apart from domestic, for us even overseas is key as there is a huge demand of two wheelers in countries including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Africa, Indonesia and Hong Kong.

  •  iGrow: Share expansion plans, if any.

Rajeev Kapur: We are intended to be a Rs. 500 crore company by 2015, with a vision to be known as Asia’s largest selling ISI Helmet brand. Since the last 3 years, Steelbird has increased its manufacturing capacity over 3 times to 9000 helmets a day and intend to increase this figure to 18000 helmets per day soon. Besides, Steelbird has set up a fully automated Robotic Visor manufacturing line. We are launching all kind of accessories required by two wheeler riders in STEELBIRD brand and all will be produced by STEELBIRD only. Also, we will be spreading our wings through our exclusive Riderz Shoppes pan India. After the success of first pilot project in Delhi and then in, Chandigarh, Karnataka and many more.  Steelbird has set up another in Northeast India, due to overwhelming demand of Steelbird products in this part of the country.

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