Steelbird Helmets is one of the leading helmets manufacturing company in India under its flagship company, Steelbird Hi-Tech India Ltd. (SBHT). The Steelbird Group of Companies was founded by Mr. Subhash Kapur and the legacy is being carried forward by his son Mr. Rajeev Kapur, the Managing Director of Steelbird Helmets. The group boasts of a diversified business ranging from helmets, retail, automobile parts, entertainment, motoring sports etc. The company believes in constantly innovating its business as the makers have been seen quoting their success mantra as:
Innovation that we believe will help to be the inspiration to raise the standards of service excellence.
Bird Group has ventured into new businesses such as the e-commerce site Yooshopper.com, high-end brand Ignyte Riding gears tapping the global market for biker’s suits, globes, jackets etc., Steelbird entertainment and Steelbird Motorsports and started franchising model concept with exclusive Steelbird Rider shop with approximately 35 stores pan Asia.
Steelbird Group was founded in 1964 by Mr. Subhash Kapur with a small capital of Rs. 3000 in New Delhi. Today, the company is a whopping 1500 crore group and one of the leading helmet manufacturers in Asia. It is known to be the first company to bring the concept of helmets in India. With over 45 years of experience, today it boasts of more than 5 offices supported by over 3000 well trained staff and an impressive clientele. Steelbird Group is India’s fastest growing business conglomerates with interests in Helmets, Retail, Automobile parts, Entertainment, Motoring sports etc.
Mr. Rajeev Kapur is the managing director of Steelbird group and he started his journey in the corporate world long time back at a tender age of 20. In less than 2 years, he took the Steelbird name to many countries around the Globe. The efforts of Steelbird and its name in the Asian Region also resulted in an Italian collaboration with BIEFFE, world’s no.1 company in producing helmets. His hi-tech facility in Baddi Himachal Pradesh boasts of a robotic visor facility. The company boasts of producing around 2-3 million helmets every year.
In addition to manufacturing helmets, his love of music has led him to venture into the entertainment industry, resulting in the birth of Steelbird entertainment while Steelbird Motorsports is gearing up for its first debut motor sporting event. Recently, our team at Business Alligators got a chance to interview the founder of Steelbird Helmets, Mr. Rajeev Kapur. Let us take a look into some of the excerpts from the interview:
Que- What made your family enter into the helmet business?
Rajeev- The Steelbird brand was started in 1964 that makes it a 53 year old brand as of today. We started with Steelbird automobile filters and till 1976, we tasted great success. Many people took advice from my father, Mr. Subhash Kapur that what kind of business they should start and he would suggest them to start a helmet manufacturing business. Quite surprisingly, it struck to him a bit later that if he can give this idea to others, why not implement the same idea and start a helmet manufacturing business himself? This is how he decided to start this business.
Que- What made your father believe in your helmet business?
Rajeev- My father is blessed with the acumen to foresee the future and he could sense a great potential in the helmet making business in India; since it was already a hit in the global market. Besides, there are over 2000 different kinds of helmets making this business segment a lucrative opportunity. And so, he was confident that this business would grow very well.
Que- What makes you stand out from your competitors like Studds?
Rajeev- The first and foremost thing is that all our helmets are unbreakable. You can also check on YouTube where many people have tested the durability of our helmet by breaking them by hammer and other heavy objects and our products have sustained all those tests.
Secondly, we are using the highest impact grade of ABS. Also, we challenge everyone that if anyone is able to break our helmet, we give them a free trip to Thailand. So this is the kind of confidence we, as well as all our customers, have on our products. We have also been awarded the best helmet company in India.
Thirdly, our helmets are provided with a unique feature. We do not launch any new product just for its design, without any USP now. For example, our product ‘Steelbird Air’ has now become a brand with an ‘Air Technology’ feature in the helmet. So, your head and ears can feel and remain cool while wearing our helmets. Another helmet that we launched was SBA2, around 2 months ago. That helmet has the longest visor in the world. It is provided with stunning designs and an amazing vision for the sake of all our customers. Then we have another product, known as the ‘Steelbird Hygen’ which is stemmed with Hygen interiors, bacteria-free and fungal-free treatment giving you a safe experience while you wear our helmets. You will also not experience any kind of allergy or hair fall. So like you can see, all our products are being launched with some kind of unique features that makes us stand apart from our contemporaries.
Que- How safe is your helmet? How much pressure your best helmet can hold in case of an accident?
Rajeev- These days, helmets are not designed to withstand pressure or impact. Instead, now helmets are being tested for acceleration, as is being done in many western countries like USA and Canada. The reason for this is that the kind of acceleration and vibration that is produced in your head due to accidents can severely damage your brain. So, we make sure that the acceleration level should not exceed a particular limit thereby harming you and your body in any way. And that optimum safe level of acceleration is 300g. Also, each standard in different countries has defined their own level of ‘g’ that they consider safe limits.
Que- How you take care of the Quality?
Rajeev- First and foremost, all our R&D and testing is done in Italy, where we have our office located as well. Although we have every manufacturing and quality checking facility in India, but we send our helmets to Italy for cross verification. There, we check if the testing done in India was right and if the right products were used in manufacturing or not.
Secondly, all the raw materials and technical specifications that we have finalized, cannot be changed by anyone in our company. In worse case scenarios, they can stop the production but they can never change the specifications or raw materials. In case they have to do this, they have to seek permissions, and do all kinds of testing, like weather testing, atmospheric testing, on-road testing etc.
Que- How many total products are there under the flagship of Steelbird?
Rajeev- Total products in the Steelbird Group would be somewhere around 3000. This is because we are producing helmets, side boxes, accessories, crash guards, garments like jackets, gloves, rain gears. We are also exporting components to all helmet industries in the world. However, talking about helmets alone, we have over 4000 SKUs. Each helmet differs in terms of colors, style, variant, utilities and so on.
Que- Where are your manufacturing units located?
Rajeev- We have a total of 3 manufacturing plants at Baddi in Himachal Pradesh and 4 plants in Noida with a manufacturing capacity of 18000 helmets a day. We are also setting up a plant in Rajasthan in 16 lakh square feet with 8 laces built-up area and planning for the investment of Rs. 170 Crores for this expansion project.
Que- How does it feel to be born with a golden spoon? Does having a rich background really help you in becoming successful or it just adds unnecessary pressure to get into the family business?
Rajeev- Basically, for me, getting into a helmet manufacturing business has always been my passion. Right from my school days, I would visit factories during my summer vacations and carry out inspections and see how helmets are produced. I have pursued B.Com and right after completing it, I got into this business.
Also, my father is still working in the company. He takes care of the operations and he always assists me when I have to build a new factory, building or a layout. Moreover, he still suggests me in case I get stuck in some critical decisions.
Que- In how many countries are you currently selling?
Rajeev- We were exporting to all the major helmet industries in the world. Moreover, in addition to producing helmets, we are also exporting components of helmets to different countries around the world. Almost all top brands in the helmet are using our components. And now, we are primarily focusing on the Indian market because the market is growing and the future demand in India is expected to grow to 100 million helmets while the production in India is only 10 million. So, we intend to fill the gap of 90 million and for this, the Indian Government should also make helmets mandatory in all states and banning non-SIS helmets which are not safe to use. So as and when these actions take place, Indian market will grow fast in terms of the helmet industry.
Que- Which helmet do you prefer to wear whenever you ride your bike?
Rajeev- Being extensively into R&D, I keep on wearing new helmets each time I ride a bike. I control and manage the entire R&D in the group. The entire R&D operation takes somewhere around 1.5 to 2 crore, so I try different helmets in terms of comfort and durability myself. These days, my favorite is SBA-2 (Steelbird Air, Model number 2), our newest launch with the longest visor.
Que- What is your management mantra as you are handling around 3000 employees? How do you deal with situations like strikes or other major problems in production house?
Rajeev- I am fortunate to have a very old time working for me. All my staff is experienced and they have started with me from scratch and learned with me as I stepped into this business. Back then in 1976 when we started, there was no high-end machinery and most of the things were done by hand. So my taskforce right from that time are still working with me and they bring with them tons of experience and expertise. Also, I am a firm believer of people who are imbibed with practical experience in comparison to theoretical experience. Since I have joined this business more than 29 years now, not a single employee has left the organization, apart from just 5-10 in the entire span of their profession. Before hiring, I see a person’s attitude, mentality and family background, instead of their qualifications or past experiences. This helps me in retaining employees for a very long time as they have a belief that I envision to create great futures for them as well.
Que- How has GST impacted your business?
Rajeev- GST has not impacted our business at all since we have not done any black business with retailers, distributors, and suppliers right from our inception. Besides, we have tie-ups with Royal Enfield, Yamaha, Piaggio, Mahindra and so our business is growing significantly.
Que- How has your vision changed from the first day of your office to today’s date?
Rajeev- Vision towards the company changes every year, with every new phase in life. A businessman never stops, he likes to grow and aim high with every milestone. It is important to evolve at each step.
Que- Where do you see yourself in 2 Years from now?
Rajeev- By end of 2027, we foresee a turnover of 3,600 crores for our company.
Que- Can you share the most struggling phase in your life and how you overcame it?
Rajeev- Frankly, there have been many. In 2002, there was a massive fire in our only factory in Mayapuri, New Delhi. That time, I had a loan of 23 crores on me. Every single thing in our factory was finished in that fire. After almost a year, I was able to recover only 1.5 crores from insurance cover, nothing else. That was the time I was so demotivated that I decided to quit working. After my father’s persistence, I went to a bank and asked for a loan of additional 1.5cr.
Moreover, we had an agreement with Italy for 7 lakh helmets a year that helped a great deal in sustaining our business. As a result, in 2005, we established another plant at Baddi and became the number 1 in India. However, that growth could not be sustained for a long time and in 2005, that tie-up company got bankrupt and I went into a phase of demotivation again. That was the time we were manufacturing 6000 helmets per day and I decided to quit that business and enter into export.
I sold everything and started an export business of components. I grew that business to 400%, earned a lot of money and in 2011, we started to make 10,000 helmets in a month. I re-entered Steelbird helmets in October 2011 and today, we are one of the leading manufacturers of helmets in India.
Que- Any message for budding entrepreneurs?
Rajeev- “Firstly, never give up”. Second, “Only that person wins who takes the last shot so keep fighting till the last moment”. And third, never get out of the game. To win a game, you have to be in the game. As my grandfather used to say,
Never sit still, if you are free then tear your shirt and stich it back but don’t sit still.
Que- Any favorite book that you would like to tell us about?
Rajeev- Frankly, I don’t read books. I learned everything from my father, my uncle Mr. Ramesh Kapur and from all my employees.