ITTAC Agenda: Awareness, technology

ITTAC Agenda:  Awareness, technology

The Indian Tyre Technical Advisory Committee (ITTAC), the technical wing of Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association (ATMA), has been conducting regular tyre care and safety campaigns but feels unhappy that motorists still ignore safety issues by neglecting proper tyre care. On the positive side, it has been successful in contributing to continually upgrade the technical and product quality of indigenously-made tyres. ITTAC has been liaising with its international counterparts and standards organisations on technical issues. Following its persistent efforts, there has been a perceptible positive shift in the image and quality of Indian manufactured tyres globally, says ITTAC Chairman Tom Thomas, who is also Executive Director (Technology & Projects) of CEAT, the flagship company of the Rs 210 billion RPG Enterprises. In this interview he speaks about a range of issues on the Indian tyre industry and the steps taken to improve the quality and standards of indigenously made tyres that are now in high demand globally

Even India’s software companies are doing the hard sell telling motorists not to neglect regular care of tyres. India’s top IT firm Infosys, the $9.5 billion high-tech conglomerate with footprints across 50 countries, has joined several tyre manufacturers to educate motorists on the need to take care of tyres, which are highly engineered products designed for safe ride.

The Indian Tyre Technical Advisory Committee (ITTAC) chairman Tom Thomas told motorists at a recently organised Infosys’ awareness programme that small precautionary measures such as regular inspection of tyres, inflation pressure, wheel alignment etc could go a long way in ensuring safe journeys.

“The need for tyre care and safety is far greater today than it was ever before,” he told Tyre Asia in an interview.  India is in the threshold of an automobile revolution with many new highways and expressways boosting greater mobility.

What ITTAC is doing is to create awareness among people and enhance the technical quality of India-made tyres, he said.

Tyre, a safe and performance-enhancing component on the vehicle, also needs regular care and maintenance. But this concept is yet to find wide acceptance, regretted Thomas who is also Executive Director (Technology & Projects) of CEAT, the flagship company of the Rs 210 billion RPG Enterprises.

“ITTAC has taken upon itself the task to increase awareness about tyre care and safety. The managing committee of Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association (ATMA), the highest decision-making body comprising tyre companies, has also accorded it the highest priority,” he explains.

In the last three years, ITTAC/ATMA have held comprehensive tyre care and safety campaigns where thousands of motorists were sensitised on tyre maintenance.  Following such large campaigns, a need was felt to have focused campaigns at some of the key corporate campuses so that the message of tyre safety could be delivered in a far more personal and engaging manner.

ITTAC has also made several contributions such as offering specialised technical resources to the Indian tyre industry to continually upgrade the technical and product quality of indigenously-made tyres.

The results of such efforts are discernible as the Indian tyre industry is able to take on the challenges in terms of quality, technology edge and consumer acceptance.

“There has been a perceptible positive shift in the image and quality of Indian manufactured tyres globally,” the ITTAC Chairman said. The new greenfield facilities set up by Indian tyre manufacturers are vying with the best in the world.

“Earlier, most Indian tyre companies had technology tie-ups with international majors. Today, these companies have developed robust in-house R&D facilities and are not dependent on sourced technology,” he said.

Global quality

As a country India offers one of the most challenging terrains for a tyre maker, says Thomas. In the course of one journey itself, a commercial vehicle may pass through hilly mountains to expressways to potholed rural roads in the process passing through extremely cold to hot temperatures with rains in between.

“Tyres need to be developed for optimum performance in all such conditions, a skill that has been perfected by tyre manufacturers in India,” he asserts.  Almost all the multinational automobile manufacturers are now present in India and most of the new vehicles being launched are being rolled out on Indian manufactured tyres.

“That says a lot about the technological superiority of Indian tyres.   The R&D spent by Indian tyre manufacturers is rapidly going up indicates that the industry is gearing up to face the technology challenges of the future.”

Besides offering technical support to Indian tyre companies sustain its global competitiveness, ITTAC is also helping manufacturers produce quality tubes, rims and valves used in automotive vehicles.

“ITTAC’s role is more of a facilitator. We glean the best practices from the world and present the same to the members. Standards Manual, a volume prepared by ITTAC, holds the stature of a prized possession and it is a much sought-after reference source of tyre, tube, rim and valve manufacturers,” says Thomas.

More than providing training, ITTAC liaises with a wide range of organisations articulating tyre industry’s views. These include international counterparts such as ETRTO, JATMA etc.

Policy making on tyre technical issues is an emerging field in India requiring a lot of deliberations with regulatory and semi-government bodies, including Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI). ITTAC is involved in all these activities.

Level-playing field

On the growing challenge from Chinese tyre makers that are blunting the competitive edge of Indian tyre manufacturers, Thomas affirmed that indigenous tyre manufacturers have the capability to compete with their counterparts from any country in the world provided they are given a level- playing field.

“The technology and quality of Indian tyres is also proven. Actually it is unfair practices – for instance the dumping of tyres – that are the biggest concern for the tyre industry in India.”

It is proven that tyres are being dumped in India in large numbers from China. Illegal practices such as under-invoicing have also come to light. Independent private operators are selling imported tyres in cash without any invoice, thus avoiding value added taxes.

Even when the quality of Indian tyres is much better, it is tempting for a buyer to go for Chinese tyres which are 30-40 cheaper. ATMA has, therefore, taken the case of such dumping to the government.

ITTAC, as part of its Golden Jubilee Celebrations in November, is organising Technology, Environment, Safety & Standards (TESS) conference with the theme ‘Trends and Challenges in Mobility’ where experts from the entire auto space and not just tyre companies would be attending.

“We have Vinod Dasari, who is currently the President of Society of Indian Automobile Manufactures and Dr. Wilfried G. Aulbur, Managing Partner of Roland Berger in India and formerly Managing Director and CEO of Mercedes-Benz India, will be addressing the meet.

Issues such as environment and safety etc. can be far better managed collectively through discussions where industry, makers and civil society are present, Thomas said.

“The idea is not to share any proprietary technology through this conference. But no one can deny that if India is to emerge as a superpower, technological excellence is the way to go. What direction the auto industry will take and what kind of technologies are required for India is a subject that needs deliberations,” the ITTAC chief said.

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