India is home to the world’s largest two-wheeler market, which of course means the helmet industry here would be second to none. While it is hard to estimate the actual number of helmets sold every year, it is safe to say that it would be 2-3x the number of new two-wheelers sold.
Mumbai-based start-up Tiivra aims to disrupt the premium helmet market, with what it claims to be one of the safest products but will be available at a fraction of the cost of cost.
The start-up has launched 6 composite fibre-based helmets (you can read about it here) at a price of Rs 15,000. It also plans to introduce carbon-fibre and Kevlar-based models in the coming future. It is the brainchild of Alpana Parida, who wants to bring one of the safest helmets in the country at an affordable price.
While Parida comes from a non-automotive background, her strength has been creating design and branding. She is associated with brands such as Nykaa, Nestle India, DY Works and Tanishq among others.
Tiivra is betting on the growing mid-size motorcycle users who are looking for premium helmets, which do not break the bank.
“When we begin our research, we found that there were hardly any brands in the country talking to young men. I felt that there was a real place for being a brand for young men that deeply connects with them, which changes the old dynamic of men seen as a protector, to that of being a provider, procreator, a collaborator companion,” she pointed out.
Tiivra is betting on the fast-growing 250cc plus to 650cc category and where no premium helmet provides a differentiation factor in the market. The start-up says all its helmets are made of composite fibers, similar to those used by track riders, where plastics fail to protect the user at spectacular speeds.
According to the company estimates the premium helmet market in India is pegged anywhere between 7 -10 lakh units per annum (new and replacement), of which it aims to grab a pretty realistic 30,000-40,000 unit sales in the first year (generating approximate revenue of around Rs 60 crore).
Creating an ecosystem
One of the challenges for most product-oriented start-ups is the initial cost of investment and setting up the manufacturing supply chain. The last two years provided a reality check on over-dependence on importing from China.
Tiivra has found a local contract partner for manufacturing the helmets, while it continues to focus on new product development and ecosystem creation.
Parida is betting on her past experience of creating an experiential ecosystem where the product is driven by a loyal community, thus creating a ‘Pull demand’ rather than a push.
When queried about the company’s total investment Parida is tight-lipped but says that the bootstrapped firm has a CAPEX of Rs 1.7 crore, which includes product development and certification among others.
The helmet is just going to be a starting point for the start-up, the idea is to expand and bring in new products to cater to the premium motorcycle category. The experiential events are planned to take place all across the country.
In fact, to avoid a ‘me too’ brand, despite getting numerous requests from dealers, the company aims to take the Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) route. Parida says once launched a customer will get the delivery of the helmets within three weeks anywhere in India. Going forward the idea is to reduce it to less than a week and in a few cases the same day in select locations.
Retail presence and going global
It is no secret that while India is the world’s largest two-wheeler market, the premium motorcycle segment is far bigger in the developed markets.
While there are many dedicated stores around the country that sell premium helmets, there is very handful of them that have a wide range of exclusive premium helmets.
The start-up does not want to rush and make its products available so commonly. It aims to start retail initiatives in select geographies / key markets in a limited way by end-November.
“We have done our research on key cities where there is a huge riding community and riders. For instance, Bangalore, Delhi, Kerala and we will have at least one location in the northeast. The southeast is another huge market that is so underserved,” added Parida. It is betting on its riding community to drive engagement with the brand.
Tiivra also plans to go global by the end of FY2023. In fact, Parida reveals that while their helmets meet and exceed global standards. It has already got DOT certification and is working to get the ECE 20.6 certification, which will bring it in par among one of the 10 helmet makers globally to have passed the stringent test.
According to her, Europe has over 14 million two-wheeler owners, US about 9 million, with a vast majority of them being premium bike users. This means they become a natural market for the company.
Future plans and profitability
Parida is no stranger to creating brands, creating engagement with customers and product extensions. Her plans for Tiivra is no different and is keen on going beyond just helmets, “We will look at introducing new products and services, for instance, it could be insurance or some other accessory. But we will surely not follow the ‘me too’ approach and launch products just for the sake of it.”
The start-up has already worked on its profit metrics and has about 50 percent margin on the helmet range.
When asked about partnerships, Parida revealed that they have been approached by a few companies but at present, the focus is on connecting and creating a community. She added that she is open to acquiring companies if they can provide additional value for the brand.