Kathmandu is filled with two-wheelers but spare a few, most bikers are not aware of the importance of owning safe biking gear and are less likely to tend to their bikes. The helmet is a compulsory accessory, but other than that people aren’t interested in keeping their bikes in shape.
The online market was just booming and no one, before Sajal Joshi, had thought that helmets could have a market of their own in the digital world. With a laptop, a website and minimal investment, Sajal started Helmets Nepal on March 2016 regardless of all the risks and uncertainties involved.
Prarthana Saakha, co-founder/MD of Helmets Nepal, partnered with him and helped him implement the idea on a bigger scale. In their words, that was when ‘idea met opportunity’. They were both members of a Career Club at Kathmandu College of Management. Prarthana was his senior who was welcoming to his idea.
Sajal is a bike enthusiast himself and he decided to explore the market after he lost his helmet after a bitter incident a few years ago. He had left his motorcycle along with his helmet outside while attending a birthday party only to find it missing the next morning. He had to walk all the way home and back to get his motorcycle with a spare helmet which is why he decided to make helmets available online.
But for two young college students to attempt running a market and a new one at that was undoubtedly a challenge. The very first challenge that they faced was a loss of attendance in college. It was very hard for them to manage time and work on their business simultaneously. Their families were also not supportive during the initial phases of the business, “Like every Nepali parent, they were worried that their son/daughter was deviating towards a wrong path,” the duo shared. Sajal has a vision to help people look at the bikers’community with respect.
A lot of people even questioned their capability because of their lack of experience. While, on the other hand, people still hadn't developed trust with online transactions, a problem which only added to theirchallenges.
But on the positive side, they got to experience the realities to all theories learnt in college. Their teachers also turned into their mentors with whom they consulted on their business-related matters. “Prarthana was a big help to me. She was an active student with great business-sense,” Sajal shared.
After they started their business, they figured that would not receive sales-requests for six months at least. But to their surprise, they started sales within two months. “Prarthana was not here and I took the responsibility of the very first delivery. I was really nervous but fortunately the customer liked it," Sajal recalled.
Even after the first delivery, they were unsure about their business but with time they received tremendous response from their customers. They moved to a small rented room and then a bigger one in Anamnagar, from where they operate now. They have even set up their own stores at Maitighar and Teku, aesthetically designed to welcome bikers.
But how is it different from buying a helmet from any other store? “While the end product might be same, the difference lies in choosing the product. A helmet is an investment, and we help you make that choice by giving you a proper assessment of why and what you need to stay safe. And the prices are the same for all of our customers,” they shared. Helmets Nepal has a network with more than 15 brands and 500+ items. They are all classified into A, B and C class and are certified. Not only helmets, the site also provides a variety of choice regarding safety gear and accessories.
Better Business and The Team
Taking about their team, they have a team of 14 people, all young, dynamic and bike enthusiasts. "We only hire people who are passionate about bikes and all things related to it. We share updates about new biking accessories or new bike models with each other; this makes the working environment very refreshing. It has also turned into a unique selling point (USP) for us," Prarthana shared.
“Now the business is better than ever and people come looking for us even when we don’t have an office sign installed; we want to keep the feel of online market alive. People who come to us are satisfied with our products and service.Because of the word-of-mouth promotion we’ve implemented, our sales have also seen an increase,” Prarthana added.
Apart from few hits and misses, the duo has learned to be more professional and is all set to launch their mobile app. The app, dedicated to riders, will provide information on the newest updates, blogs and will even provide a platform for the selling of second-hand products. After experiencing exponential growth of their start-up, they have even started to customize helmets with stickers, hand prints and logos adding a Nepali touch.
Even if they are relatively very small today, they plan to broaden their platform by going international and providing their customers with more items to choose from. After this experience, the duo advises young entrepreneurs to set a long-term vision with short-term planning.