Monday, April 06, 2009

Studds Helmets : Safety and Style

Brand : Studds
Company : Studds Accessories Ltd

Brand Analysis Count : 391

Studds is a brand that brings back memories of my two wheeler days. I hated helmets and I bet most of the youngsters do hate helmets. It is a glamour killer. What is the use of having an expensive bike and a handsome face when what those chicks will see is the dark full faced Red Helmet ???

My first helmet purchase was a grudge purchase. One fine morning, Kerala Government had a revealation that its citizen's head was very important. Government decided to  " enforce " the helmet rule and a fine of Rs 500 or more ( depending on the value of the head !) were to be imposed on those who chose to ride two wheelers without helmets.

There was a frantic run for helmets. At one point of time, there was a shortage of helmets and we guys had to play hide and seek with the traffic police who were determined to keep the keralites head safe. Those smart ones bought fake helmets from roadside and put ISI sticker on it. Some even used Cricket helmets to fool the cops.

The helmet game had been a regular feature in our state for a while. Government keep on enforcing and relaxing helmet rules in the state. Last year there was a directive that even the pillion riders should have helmets. This move created an uproar among the lady pillion riders who felt that their hair-style would now have to be at the mercy of their helmets. 

Having said that , majority of fatalities involving two wheelers is caused by head injuries . Helmets definitely is a life saver and I am of the opinion that the helmet rule should be enforced.

Studds is a major player in the helmet market in India . The Helmet market is estimated to be around Rs 200 crore but 85 % of the market belong to the unorganized segment. Studds is a major player in the organized helmet market in India.

Rs 200 crore seems to be a very small size compared to the size of our two wheeler market. India sells about 6 mn two wheelers in an year and that is a huge market for helmets. Helmet marketers are not able to tap this huge market .

One reason for that is the enforcement of the helmet rule across the country. Helmets are compulsory for two wheeler riders as per the Central Motor Vehicles Act Section 129. But this is not enforced in most of the states. 

The second reason is the lack of marketing effort on the part of helmet marketers to create an awareness among the riders about the need for helmets. Even in the states where the helmet rules are enforced, riders use helmets only to evade the cops. Hence they buy sub-standard helmets and put the ISI sticker on it. The helmet marketer are still dependent on the government to make the rule strict so that they can sell helmets without much effort.

It is in this context that Studds brand becomes interesting. Studds brand came into existence in 1970. The founder of this brand was Mr Ravi Khurana who was an R&D Head at Escorts at that time. He witnessed a fatal accident involving several of his colleagues during a test ride which prompted him to start a helmet manufacturing unit. 

Ironically in 1999, the group split into two and the Studds brand now rests with Studds Accessories Ltd and Ravi Kurana had to start a new company Ergo .

Studds is a well known and well respected brand in the industry. Without much advertising, Studds built a brand through positive word of mouth. The brand had a high perception of being a high quality helmet. It was able to charge a premium because of this thrust on quality.
Compared to other brand, Studds also was innovative interms of designs. My last helmet was Studds Ninja which I bought because of the stylish design.

Studds is not without competition. It faces competition from brands like Aerostar, AVG, Vega and host of local players. India is also witnessing the emergence of a new segment of premium helmets.

The single reason why the helmet market has not grown in value terms is the laid back marketing behavior of helmet makers. Despite being an important accessory, seldom we see any ad campaign from helmet marketers. No road shows or sponsoring of helmet-awareness campaigns. The marketers are still banking on the free lunch offered through enforcement of helmet rules by governments.
It is true that helmet is a messy accessory. It is heavy, it spoils the hair, it has to be carried around and unless you have an accident you seldom realizes its use. But it is a life saver for the biker. Every other excuse becomes irrelevant when it comes to the matter  of life and death.

It would have been wonderful if the helmet marketers come togther to increase the awareness and importance of helmet wearing among the riders. Studds could have done far better if it had invested heavily in brand building .
It is also interesting to note why two wheeler marketers have missed this opportunity for selling their own brand of helmets . 

All the marketers are waiting for the natural process of emerging segments which are conscious about the use of helmets. But in my opinion it is marketing laziness at its best.