WEARING LIFESAVING HELMET

PAKISTAN HAS HUGE OPPORTUNITY IN HELMET MANUFACTURING

MUHAMMAD IRFAN CHAUDARY
June 1 - 7, 2009

Helmets have existed since early times to protect people in battle. Before the introduction of steel and aluminum, they were made by beating iron into shape. These days helmets are not only used by the police and army, but have also seen widespread use in riding on motorcycle, bicycle, horse, and construction works, snowboarding, boxing etc.

Modern helmets are mainly of polymer construction, but their design varies depending on the application. There is a huge opportunity to manufacture helmets in Pakistan.

In Pakistan people don't like to wear helmet while driving motorbike. But now government has started pushing motorcyclists to wear helmet. Driving a motorbike is very dangerous as it may cause serious head injury or death. Many youngsters die because of motorcycle accidents and most of the time such accidents cause serious injury. The government should also make sure that accompanying rider on motorcycle uses helmet as there is a likelihood that if the bike encounters an accident, he might be the first one to go through severe head injury or death.

Punjab government has notified motorcyclists that if they don't wear helmet from April 01, 2009 onwards a charge of Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,000 will be fined on them. Upon several penalties if a motorcyclist still don't wear helmet he could be punished with imprisonment of up to three years. The government's policy is in favor of helmet usage.

Whenever the government enforces the law for motorcyclists to wear helmet, there occurs a great shortage of helmets in markets of Karachi & Lahore. Even local manufacturers are not able to meet the demand and then helmets are imported mostly from China and Taiwan. During the shortage of helmets its prices increase.

Normally helmets are available in the price range of Rs. 500 to 1500 but when the demand increases and there is a shortage of supply the prices all of a sudden jump from Rs.1500 to 2500. The locally manufactured helmets and second hand helmets are also not able to meet the demand.

The government has implemented section 69-A of the motor vehicle ordinance 1965 and section 239-A of the motor vehicle rules 1969, which make compulsory for a motorcyclist to wear helmet. During the regime of Ziaul Haq, helmet wearing was become mandatory for the first time in the history of the country. The restriction however had to be relaxed because motorcyclists refused to comply despite prosecution. At that time there was only one helmet manufacturing company in the country.

In the fiscal year 2005-06, 0.75 million motorcycles were produced, and it is estimated that the production of motorcycles will reach 1.7 million by 2011-12. As the production of motorcycles is increasing in Pakistan, motorcyclists need helmets and there is a huge opportunity to manufacture low cost and heat tolerant helmets. Secondhand helmets are also available in Rs. 250 to 350, but their quality is not good.

Since it is difficult for motorcyclists to wear helmet in summer there are helmets available in the market that can only be used in hot whether but they become unused for the motorcyclists in winter as they are open on front side and can get them cold affected.

During some interviews with helmet vendors, it was revealed that sale of helmets was season-driven. More helmets are sold in winter than summer. There is a need to develop variety of helmets that are heat tolerant and low cost and can be used in any season so that a motorcyclist will only have to buy one helmet. This will provide a benefit to the customer for not spending money twice.

The idea is to develop a helmet through which air can pass from front and exit from the back of the helmet. There will be small ducts installed on the inner and outer shell of the helmet. The air will enter from the front side of the helmet and keep the motorcyclist head cool while he rides through hot billows. A closing option will also be provided so that rider can stop the air from reaching inside the helmet. This will be useful in cold weather as well. This new feature will support the government's Helmet Campaign that is aimed at to promote helmet wearing.

In new variety, light weight and quality material made up of fiber glass will be integrated so that the helmet can become light weight and protects head injury. Through a systematic process different holes on the front and back of the helmet will be made for air passage in addition to ducts.

The inner side of the helmet shell will be filled with thermo pole sheet. There will also be a duct inserted in the inner side of the helmet so that the air can revolve around in the helmet.

All helmets are made from a number of components: an outer shell, an inner liner (for good fit and comfort), fitting straps, and perhaps a decorative covering.

Helmet shells are made by blow molding, vacuum molding or injection molding. In many cases the relatively thin section of the outer shell lends itself to sheet process technologies.

Helmet manufacturing can generate a lot of revenue for businessmen and the government. Instead of importing helmets from China and Taiwan, we should manufacture helmets in Pakistan. There is an enormous demand that can well be fulfilled by manufacturing helmets locally. A low cost and heat tolerant helmet can also be manufactured locally as the necessary raw materials are also available in the country.

YEAR MOTORCYCLES MANUFACTURED
(IN NUMBERS)
1996-1997 117,188
1997-1998 96,991
1998-1999 93,167
1999-2000 94,881
2000-2001 117,858
2001-2002 133,334
2002-2003 176,591
2003-2004 327,446
2004-2005 571,145
2005-2006 744,875
Source: Federal Bureau of Statistics