Retread Industry in India: An Enigma or a Myth?
By VN Ramamoorthy*:
The Retread Industry in India, unlike other advanced and developed nations, is highly fragmented. Customers are willing to entrust the quality and safety of their tyres to even road side repairers and retreaders whose technical competency and the quality of machineries and materials used for retreading/repairs are highly suspect
The concept of tyres, retreads and the “tyre technology” is more than a century old. But the industry scenario and core knowledge about tyres and retreading in India are, in my opinion, still at a nascent stage.
I stepped into Tyre Retread business in 1994. Till then, I had no technical or commercial knowledge of tyres or retreads, except that four of them were fitted in my car and they were black and round!
For a vehicle operator, especially a large fleet owner of bus, truck or trailer trucks the “cost of tyres” is the second highest cost, next only to the cost of fuel. There is an enormous scope for cost saving in tyres leading to better and longer service of each tyre and for reducing the purchase of new tryes by a fleet operator. This scope can mainly manifest in 3 ways:
– By proper fitment and use of tyres
– By proper maintenance and care of tyres
– By adopting Quality retreads of worn tyres at the right time
If you travel to advanced countries like US, Europe, Australia or even to Middle East, South East Asia/Far East, you will witness as to how the vehicles’ tyres are maintained. You will find well laid out, proper roads/highways. Vehicles are maintained spic and span, no overloading, no abuse and for them, not only speed, but safety is also equally important.
Compare this scenario with Indian vehicles and roads!
Overloading and abuse of vehicles and tyres is taken for granted here. Roads, whether urban or rural, are a potential threat to the vehicles, tyres and their safety.
Whenever I held a Tyre Care Seminar for end users (I have done hundreds of such seminars for both Commercial tyre users and users of the OTR – Off the road tyres), I used to ask a simple question
“What do you want from your tyres?”
Almost always the answers were “Low cost,” “High Mileage,” “Long Life,” “More load carrying capacity,” “Best mileage at low price” etc.
Not a single customer so far has asked for “Safety” in his tyres!
Don’t you need “safety” for your vehicles, your passengers and goods carried by you? Is it not of prime importance, even more than mileage, long life, low cost etc.?
The retread industry in India, unlike other advanced and developed nations, is highly fragmented. Customers are willing to entrust the quality and safety of their tyres to even road side repairers and retreaders whose technical competency and the quality of machineries and materials used for retreading / repairs are highly suspect.
It is an “Enigma” – How can one compromise the safety of vehicles, passengers and the goods by overloading and by abuse of the vehicles and the tryes?
It is an “Enigma” – How can one entrust the safety and life of the tyres into the hands of unqualified, incompetent road side vendors?
It is a “Myth”
– How vehicles are overloaded much against the rated, recommended loads and specifications of their manufacturers?
– How vehicles are used in such bad road conditions?
– How tyres can perform under such abuses of overload, over/under inflation, bad roads, inexperienced driving methods?It is common knowledge that when a vehicle runs, heat is generated in the tyres due to various factors, like friction , load , road surface condition, the ambient temperature and more than all these , more heat is generated because of the “flexing” of the side walls of the tyres during the run. Then how to run them “Cool “or “Less Hotter” is the question. This needs a little more elaboration and discussion on the proper Tyre use (or shall we say “less abuse) and recommended Tyre care.
The typical commercial Truck / Bus tyre is manufactured to withstand high pressure and high operating temperature. The main component in the manufacture of tyre is Rubber (Natural rubber). The worst enemy for rubber – life of rubber – is “heat.” The “hotter” it runs the lesser is its life. Cooler the tyre runs, longer is its life.”
It is common knowledge that when a vehicle runs, heat is generated in the tyres due to various factors, like friction, load, road surface condition, the ambient temperature and more than all these, more heat is generated because of the “flexing” of the side walls of the tyres during the run. Then how to run them “cool “or “less hot” is the question. This needs a little more elaboration and discussion on the proper tyre use (or shall we say “less abuse) and recommended tyre care.
There is a crying need to understand the basics of tyre maintenance and timely repair and retreads. To augment this, end users and vendors of repairs / retreads must also understand the concept of “cost per kilometer” – CPKM (in the case of OTR tyres it will be cost per hour or CPH).
Finally, the most important and relevant topic is “Proper Tyre Care Tips,” which will be of prime importance for end users, whether you are a single vehicle owner or a small / medium / large fleet owner. This can be achieved only by rigorous and continuous training and education by experts in the field.
This article touches upon only the periphery – there is a lot to be discussed on the retread industry in India – the numbers, the methodology, “organised vs. unorganised sectors,” radialisation, need to update our practices to international standards etc.
* VN Ramamoorthy is former CEO of TVS TREAD, the retreading arm of the renowned TVS Group. TVS is a major player in the retread industry in India and probably the single largest tyre retreader for over seven decades.