What started as an air filter manufacturer in 1964 has now come to be one of the most trusted names when it comes to helmets in India. Steelbird Helmets now supplies to motorcycle manufacturers like Royal Enfield and has a simple motto: “Nobody should die wearing a Steelbird helmet,” as told by Rajeev Kapur, Managing Director, Steebird Helmets. We got in a conversation with Kapur to find out about the future plans for Steelbird Helmets and about what he thinks of government proposals on the ban on non-ISI helmets.
Steelbird Helmets has an R&D centre in Noida and one in Italy, three manufacturing plants in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh, and four in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The manufacturer currently has a production capacity of 22,000 helmets a day and is working to increase the capacity to 40,000 helmets a day.
Ban on non-ISI helmets
Kapur welcomes the ban on the sale of helmets that do not adhere to ISI standards. He says that there are 224 helmet manufacturers in the country certified by Bureau of India Standard (BIS) but 90% of them are producing fake helmets.
About the possible ban on international standard helmets like DOT and ECE, he says that the likes of Arai or HJC helmets are definitely of higher quality standards, but if these helmets are allowed to be sold in India, how will the government control quality and make sure that fake units are not being sold in the name of international standards.
If foreign brands are to retail helmets in India, they must acquire ISI certification and complete all homologation requirements for the country they want to sell in – just like a European brand has to adhere to US standards in order to sell in the US.
When asked that is it fair to make these international manufacturers adhere with BIS quality considering that, for example, a DOT or SNELL certified helmet provides better protection, Kapur explains that the speed limits in India are maximum 100 km/h and that two-wheeler riders do not ride at 200 km/h or above here.
New Steelbird helmets
Steelbird, Kapur says, is the manufacturer of the lightest helmets in India and was also the first to launch a handsfree helmet. He also tells us that Steelbird will be launching new helmets this year and the next. He further explains that Steelbird already has helmets with air-conditioners fitted to them, but then also notes that since India is a price-sensitive market, launching them here would not account for large sales numbers. Steelbird has also launched a cricket helmet and we might see Steelbird helmets on cricket fields soon.
Promoting the use of helmets
Rajeev Kapur has requested the government and reiterates his point, saying that GST on helmets should be reduced from the current 18% to 5% adding that they should not be treated as luxury goods because helmets are necessary life-saving equipment. He makes a simple example to promote the use of helmets, saying that why do people get insurance done on their vehicles? It isn’t every day your car crashes or gets stolen but even so you like to be assured that in the event of something like that happening, you are insured. Similarly helmets, he says, are an insurance for your life. It isn’t every day you’ll crash but if you do, you’ll be assured your head isn’t harmed.