Rituparna Kakati | 12 Dec, 2017
"Remain in the game to win the game. Never leave the game keep playing," said Rajiv Kapur, Managing Director of Steelbird Group, a leader in the auto-component sector, particularly known for its world class helmets.
In an exclusive interview with SME Times, Kapur added that global buyers always expect high quality, and this is the area on which Indian SMEs need to be more focused.
Excerpts of the interview...
Please tell our readers about Steelbird Group entrepreneurial journey.
Rajiv Kapur: Itâs a riveting story of success. I started my journey in the corporate World long time back. At the early age of 18, when all the other boys seems to be too intimidated by their hobbies and are usually geared up to begin their fun and relaxed college life, I stepped into this Business World.
âIt is said that those who dare to fail greatly can even achieve greatlyâ I have even been through the phase of insolvency but nothing could stop me. My failures actually acted as pillar to success. I never looked back then. At the very young age I took market by the storm. All this happened because my dreams were not mere hallucinations. Do not want to blow my own trumpet but In spite of being busy with my work I never gave up on my interests. My love for music leads me to venture into entertainment industry. It contrived to outset of steelbird entertainment.
My father Mr. Subash Kapur had laid the foundation of Steelbird 50 years back as a small auto component unit and later he started manufacturing helmets. Then the uncanny knack was passed to next generation and I took the market.
In less than 2 yrs, I 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, the Worlds no.1 company in helmets. Steelbird helmet changes the perception of helmets it used to be and steelbird started emerging as brand of repute not just in domestic but overseas market as well.
Not only on manufacturing side but I have given priority to R & D and today Steelbird has state of the art R & D centre dedicated to bring innovation, style and safety factors in todayâs helmets.
If you are asked to list the major challenges facing the Indian SME sector, what will be the top five challenges?
Rajiv Kapur: One of the major challenge now is GST is levied 18% on helmets which is giving people more preference to buy local and fake helmets that are low in cost. The government should have pushed for good quality helmets by making them affordable with a zero GST rate. Helmets must not be treated like other commodities. The purpose they serve is far greater and must not come under any GST policy.
Second we can say people donât want to buy helmets as there are no mandatory rules. We found bikes contribute at least 35 per cent of the total accidents in the state every year. Safety of pillion riders should also be given priority. Hence, government should make it mandatory for all states.
You supply products to a number of global players. What they expect from a SME, in terms of quality, price, supply efficiency, etc?
Rajiv Kapur: The expectations are always high like new graphics, new innovations, new fabric and new technology. Steelbird has a capacity of producing five million helmets per year as on date. Steelbird can setup one more plant to produce 60,000 helmets per day. We produce 400 articles but we are only known for Steelbird Helmets. We also supply to the helmet industry all over the world. Even BMW buys components from us for its helmets. We are the biggest producers in the world for helmets. We supply engineering components, visors, metal components, the scratch guards, jackets, gloves and side-boxes. The prices of helmet are not so high but people prefer to buy from road side shops which are fake helmets.
What would be your advice to small entrepreneurs for success?
1. Focus on achieving your goals; never give up
2. Remain in the game to win the game. Never leave the game keep playing.
3. The guy who hit the last punch wins
Please tell us about the impact of note-ban and GST on the auto-component sector, which is highly populated by SMEs?
Rajiv Kapur: GST has affected the whole country and recently it has levied 18% on helmets. This has given advantage to road side shops to sell fake ISI helmets because they are the one with low cost. We are demanding GST rate should be zero. If it will be then it will benefit the customer to buy real ISI helmets with low cost that they do not need to buy the fake one and risk their life. The government gets the GST from the big organizations. High GST give chances to duplicate helmet makers to supply more with low cost. By this more and more people will prefer low cost helmets which will be indirectly injurious to their life.
The report states that for the last 11 years there have been 9.42% rise in road accidents. And around 10,135 bikers have lost their lives for not wearing or using a low-grade helmet. Helmets donât need to be taxed in GST regime as 18%. It would only add in mushrooming of unorganized sector that are manufacturing spurious road side helmets and playing with the life of innocent people.
Please tell us about the helmet Industry and its future outlook.
Rajiv Kapur: India, being the largest two- wheeler market, in the world offers a huge opportunity not just to helmets manufacturers but equally to manufacturers of two-wheeler accessories. Over 15 million fresh two-wheelers added to the roads every year make it a huge untapped industry. As per estimates, and if we go with the regulations, 30 million helmets are required every year making it a Rs 3,000 crore industry. However, it's a pity that 85 per cent of the market is still unorganised but gradually things are changing. We at Steelbird Group are also geared up to capitalise on this massive opportunity. In the last 5 years, we had almost tripled our production and today Steelbird is equipped to produce 21,000 helmets a day across our multiple manufacturing facilities.
And last but not least tell us about the future Plan of Steelbird Group.
Rajiv Kapur: Being the brand leader in the helmet industry, Steelbird is currently enjoying 30-40% market share in the organized helmet sector in India with 3 state of the art plants in Baddi and Noida. With an investment of Rs.170 crore, we are coming up with another a manufacturing facility in Rajasthan in 16lacs sq ft with 8 lacs built up area.
Besides, helmets, we have identified some new thrust areas to expand our business. Today, we are manufacturer and OEMS for helmets, side boxes, and automobile accessories and riding gears etc. We have also entered into retail space and have our own chain of Steelbird riderz shopees besides, an ecommerce portalyooshopper.com. The next in pipeline for Steelbird is Music and Motosports. Steelbird entertainment has already taken off and now it's the time for Steelbird Motosports where we will start hosting motoring sports and FMX events.
We are also planning to set up one more plant at Greater Noida that will be increasingly catering to the domestic market. Going forward, we would also be looking to ally with global heavyweights like Triumph, Harley Davidson, Ducati, etc.
Apart from being Asia's largets helmet manufacturer, Steelbird has made its international footprints as it is present in all major countires. Talking about its global presence, Steelbird plans to increase its foothold in South Asian Countires, Gilf, and Africa as these are emerging markets with a lot of potential for helmets with reference to helmet standards.
What challenges your company has been facing as a SME, in the past and now as well?
Rajiv Kapur: We grow vertically instead of horizontally. There is humongous demand in Helmet Industry in India. But as an SME we have few constrains in our growth. Like, any other company we also wish to come up with the world's largest manufacturing facility but due to money constrains we cannot plan it in one go. That's the only reason we plan smaller units. At the moment, how we work is we earn profits, we grow and then we set up various plants.