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By TA News Bureau:

Apollo Tyres Vice Chairman & Managing Director Neeraj Kanwar always has a global outlook. Since he joined his father Chairman Onkar Kanwar, he has been nursing his ambition to turn the company into a truly multinational business. He knew that it required high product quality, technology and brand recall. Working out of his London office, he sees before him the entire competitive field of Europe to take up the challenge to make Apollo a globally known brand. At the same time he is also emphasising the need for continuing modernisation of India operations. In this interview to Tyre Asia he speaks about his strategy to make Apollo and Vredestein brands customers’ top choice

What are your strategies in building and sustaining Apollo and Vredestein brands amid rising competition from other European players?

The two key pillars for us have always been R&D and Marketing. We have been investing heavily in R&D to come up with better quality products under both Apollo and Vredestein brands. Our products have been rated highly on several occasions by leading auto/testing magazines in Europe, which is the single largest influencing factor for tyre purchase for European customers.
In addition, as you would be aware, we have tied up with Premiere League teams, Manchester United and Crystal Palace football clubs, as their global tyre partner, and with Borussia Monchengladbach in the German Bundesliga. We are leveraging these associations, along with our relationship with premium OEMs in Europe, to build both the brands in Europe and beyond.

Amid the continuing disruption in tyre technologies, how do you plan to make product differentiation as a key factor for growth?

Apollo’s R&D Team, with relevant inputs from the Product and Customer Services, always strives to come up with technologically advanced products for all product categories. Towards this, the R&D team is working with various research institutes and universities towards development of technology which will be a key to our better quality products.

Do you think that with your stronger manufacturing facilities in Netherlands and Hungary, you can take on other players in the competitive European market?

We have been competing with the global tyre majors, first in India, and now in Europe and other parts of the world. With the increasing demand for both Apollo and Vredestein brand of tyres, we first increased the capacity of our Dutch facility by more than 20-25%, and then set-up a Greenfield facility in Hungary to complement that.

With the Hungary facility coming on stream, we have recently started supplies to some of the leading OEMs in Europe, which is again a positive for our growth and presence in the European market.

Do you believe that budget tyres and dumping from low-cost manufactures are a cause of concern for your European growth strategies?

The low cost tyres or the dumping of tyres, both of which are mostly of low quality, does not stand a chance in Europe. The consumers here are very much aware of the kind of product they want, and rely on quality products which receive high ratings from auto magazines and similar organisations. This is the reason Europe is considered to be one of the most challenging markets for automotive industry, where a low quality product will not survive.

With your strong R&D base in Europe and India, are you confident that Apollo can continually enhance its competitive advantage?

Most definitely. Our unique capability is in understanding the customer requirements and translating them into value added products in the shortest possible time. In order to meet the faster time to market needs, our Global R&D Centres adopt a synergistic approach towards research through collaboration with premium research centres, R&D centres of material/equipment suppliers and universities on topics which need intensive focus. The Advanced Engineering Centre in Bangalore conducts research on enabling technologies leading to intelligent tyre development, while the one in Raunheim works closely with OEMs to develop products suited to their stringent requirements.
We have set up several laboratories for material characterisation, forensic analysis, testing and evaluation, design, simulation and modelling and reconstruction of formulation and design under one roof to meet all the requirements of R&D. Both our R&D Centres, in Asia and in Europe, are comparable to the best R&D Centres across the world for tyres.

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