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Chairman & Managing Director Onkar S Kanwar is the chief architect of Apollo Tyre’s vision. He is the leading figure guiding the company’s operations and sets its business philosophy.

Under his leadership in the 1980s and 90s, Apollo became a professionally run and competitive tyre manufacturer. Innovation, quality and exclusivity are his guiding principals, which have helped the company scale pioneering heights.

Kanwar is a former member of the Government of India’s National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council and the Kerala Development and Poverty Alleviation Advisory Council. He is also the Past President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Automotive Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (ATMA), Director of the Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India and the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation.

A science and business administration graduate from the University of California, Kanwar is a widely travelled individual and a keen student of modern management practices and their successful application in business.

He says as an organisation, Apollo Tyres’ vision is crystal clear: To be a signifi cant player in the global tyre industry and a brand of choice, providing customer delight and continuously enhancing stakeholder value.

“For Apollo, growth has been a matter of strategic planning and intelligent execution,” he told Polymers & Tyre Asia in an exclusive interview. While its previous fi ve-year plan saw it grow from a revenue base of less than US$500 million to US$2 billion, the current five year plan is targeted towards securing a place for Apollo in the top 10 global tyre manufacturers.

“We have identifi ed the four pillars on which the company would work to achieve the goals,” he said. He explained this as: 1 Common Apollo culture that is an amalgamation of the very best practices from across the globe; 2 Quality which goes beyond product performance to ensure the safety of its customers at all times; 3 Innovation that enables Apollo to cater to the varying needs of its customers across segments by providing lasting solutions – delighting them at
all times; and 4) Focus on sustainability to ensure resource optimisation and safeguard the future of generations that will follow.

The strategy that Apollo follows in a fiercely competitive global market is the focus on quality. “We have always believed that there can be no substitute for quality – be it about product performance, customer safety or service delivery – when it comes to establishing a market presence,” Kanwar said.

“Having said that, across the globe we are looking at a number of ways for growing our market share and sustain growth,” he said.

He explained four major strategies. First is strengthening presence in categories/ sizes which offer higher volumes and higher margins. Second is to move tyres from a grudge purchase to an engaging zone by courting consumers with eye-catching tread designs, a full bouquet of product benefits and at competitive price in a customerfriendly
retail environment.

The third element in the strategy is building capacities and deploying advanced manufacturing technology to ensure the highest level of standardisation.

Fourth is collaboration with OEMs, technical institutions, testing centres and business partners to come out with the best product. Apollo is also actively pursuing opportunities which can add strategic value to the company.

Commenting on how Apollo is tackling supply uncertainties in natural rubber in order to meet the challenges of tomorrow, Kanwar said that it is an issue all tyre companies are currently faced with. He thinks there really is no quick and easy solution.

“While we have made a small beginning in securing some of our natural rubber supplies through the plantation route, this is clearly not adequate. We are working in the areas of replacement of natural rubber with synthetic rubber and allied worthy substitutes,” he said.

Apollo is also working with the Indian government to see how through public private partnership, NR supply issue could be addressed in India. One way could be
by bringing in new areas under rubber cultivation, increasing productivity of the current crop and so on. “Work is on in multiple levels and we hope all of this together would be able to address the

Commenting on the major consumer perceptions that he sees evolving that will have a defining impact on the tyre industry, Kanwar said that consumers across markets are today as aware on
service aspects as they are on the product itself.

“Product performance, modern technology and right value are now hygiene factors; what really makes a difference is the softer benefi ts like after sales service,” he explained.

In a nutshell, the consumers are more discerning and aware of the various options available to them; they are more or less know their brands and what they want out of the same.

“I would like to believe that this is a positive trend which will go a long way towards ensuring that consumers understand the true importance of tyres in a vehicle; while for the manufacturers it is an opportunity to make tyre retail an engaging and educational experience. He thinks branding is a very important and critical factor in market acceptance. “Branding has always been a critical factor. As tyres shed the commodity image and more and more customers get involved in the tyre buying decision, the need now for tyre manufacturers is to try and register their brand in the minds of the consumer in a manner in which they understand it,” he said.

For long, the tyre industry has thrown jargon at customers, it’s time now to demystify tyres as a product and enable the customer to understand the high level  of engineering that goes in to manufacture a safety product like a tyre, Kanwar emphasised.

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