Bridgestone India eyes capacity expansion

By Sharad Matade:

Bridgestone India, under its Worldwide Olympic Partnership, expanded its Team Bridgestone by appointing four new ace athletes Mary Kom (Boxing), Sakshi Malik (Freestyle Wrestling), Lalita Babar (Long-distance Running), and Srikanth Kidambi (Badminton). Last year, Bridgestone India appointed its first Olympics Brand Ambassador PV Sindhu as a part of a global roster of more than 50 athletes on Team Bridgestone.
“This union is aimed at making one realize their true potential and have the courage to Chase Your Dream. Through this manifesto ‘Chase Your Dream’, we want to recognize and honour individuals who put in hard work, integrity and perseverance in pursuant of their dreams. In Team Bridgestone, every one of them has great stories and demonstrated the spirit ‘Chase Your Dream’, in true sense. We hope, by associating with Team Bridgestone, we can together will inspire thousands of others, who also chase their dream,” said Parag Satpute, Managing Director, Bridgestone India Pvt. Ltd.
“We have achieved many milestones in these years but one of the biggest is being associated with the Olympics. One of our missions is being truly a global company and what better sporting event to be associated with than the true leader in all sports. Olympics has bought a global image to us and it also creates unparalleled equity with consumers’ mind,” said Vaibhav Saraf, chief general manager, Consumer Tyres at Bridgestone India.
The Japanese tyre manufacturer announced its Worldwide Olympic Partnership in 2014, making a long-term commitment to the International Olympic Committee that continues through 2024. Through its business activities, Bridgestone will support this partnership by showcasing the values of community service, social responsibility, and respect for diversity that it shares with the Olympic Movement. Bridgestone also became the first Founding Partner of the Olympic Channel in August 2016, signing a four-year agreement to support the ground-breaking digital platform in its mission to celebrate the Olympic spirit and the world’s greatest athletes every day of the year.
Bridgestone India has been into the Indian market for last 20 years and growing its presence in both OE and aftermarket spaces. Today, Bridgestone India has two manufacturing plants, the first plant was opened in Kheda, Indore in 1996 and first PCR tyre of the company in India rolled out in 1998 from the Khed plant and the company started TBR production in 2010 from the same plant. Considering the growing demand, Bridgestone India opened its Chakan plant in 2013 with production of both PCR and TBR. In the same year ( 2013), Bridgestone India took a strategic decision to move its TBR production from its Kheda plant to the Chakan plant. Today, the Kheda plant produces passenger radial tyres and UV tyres, while the Chakan plant is rolling our both TBR and passenger radial tyres.
With the recent announcement of the investment of $304 million, Bridgestone India is aiming at doubling production capacity of both the plants, Pune and Indore. Talking to Tyre Asia, Satpute said “ We have been here for 20 years which is not a long time compared to domestic players and we have made significant expansions in India. The business, we expect, will continue to grow so last year we made an announcement of $304 million investment to double our manufacturing capacity of our plants over next five years. This shows we are making a good progress per our plans and India will be our focused market.”
Gaining the market share will be major task for the company and for that the company will have to continue to prove superiority of its products and expand customer reach, dealer network and technical support. “We have done these in many markets and we have developed a strong platform in India,” added Satpute. The company today has over 5000 dealers in India. “The numbers are growing,” added Satpute.
Though Bridgestone India is not seen much aggressive on product launches like its peers, it has plans to bring new ranges under its flagship brands, Ecopia and Firestone. “Going forward, you will see new product launches within each brand umbrella,” added Satpute. According to Satpute, fuel efficiency will play a key role going forward in the company’s product development for the Indian market. “ We will bring specifically designed products for the Indian market. About 90% of our sales in India is met through our local production,” added Satpute.
Attributing the company’s success to consumer-centric approach of the company, Saraf said, “In a short stint of 20 years, we are the market leader in PCR. We speak highly about customization. Customization according to roads and consumer’s expectations on both products and service is the key to succeed in the Indian tyre market. Being a global tyre leader, we have lots of expertise which is shared across the group and that helps us to customize our products for both OE and aftermarket segments,” said Saraf.
Currently, the company 53% sales come to OEs, while the rest goes to aftermarkets.
Increasing tyre sizes in passenger car tyres is another trend that the Indian market is witnessing, though a leap in bigger size is not expected owing roads, traffic, vehicles. Bridgestone India produces tyres between 12” to 17” of passenger car tyres. According to Saraf, major demand in India is hovering between 14” to 15” of car tyres and 16” car tyres will gain momentum. “ 16” car tyre segment will be looked out for in next five years,” added Saraf. 17” and above car tyre segment is growing in replacement markets. “Still above 17” tyres being imported in and sold in the replacement market or OE directly imported,” said Saraf.
In last three to four years, CUV segment is growing and finding good traction among Indian customers. “We believe that that segment will have potential and it will fuel growth for the entire automobile industry so we understand that fact very well. We will be actively participating in those segments very well both in OE and replacement space,” said Saraf
The Indian auto sector is on disruptive curve thanks to growing attention on Electric vehicles. EVs are expected to wipe out hundreds of traditional auto components from the vehicles. However, tyres will remain the core parts of the EVs, though some technical advancements are expected in tyres. Saraf thinks EVs will not be the one only trend that will drive tyre industry but the company will monitor EV developments to understand future OE trends in India.
“I would not say this (EVs) will be the single mega trend that we will have to watch out, but if you prioritize ten trends, EVs will be among them. We are in the monitoring phase as still automobile companies are not clear about the course of action. It will be closed call for a collaborative action between auto makers and auto ancillaries. Being global leader in tyres and having technology advancement and we have know- how from our global companies and good presence in developed world, we will have an upper hand. We will have close coordinal collaborations for technical and commercial fronts with automobile manufacturers.”
External factors such as economic growth and increasing highways will fuel demand for tyres. “The Indian auto industry is slated to grow at the fastest pace compared to other economies. This will be the single largest fuel for our growth. The government has also indicated that they will go very strong on highways, expressways and roads and that will encourage more people to travel on roads. These will be key drivers,” added Saraf
The company as of now does not have a R&D centre in India. Its Indian product development is jointly handled by technical centres in Thailand and Japan.
Commenting on the company’s future plan, Saraf said, “We have seen a good story for Bridgestone so far and we are one step ahead of our competitors be it in OE space or replacement. Creating an entry barrier for anybody else to follow. We can create unparalleled brand equity and that will bring more opportunities.”

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