How to Win & Keep Customers with New Age Manufacturing

#Automotive #Tire #Electricvehicle #Bridgestone

Parag Satpute

While Indian automobile sector is growing rapidly and continuing on its path to becoming the third-largest automobile market. Mr. Parag Satpute, MD - Bridgestone India, shares with Pro MFGmedia, the challenges of tire industry in the Indian context, strategies, and their future plans for the electric vehicle segment.

Q: Bridgestone being a global leader in the tire industry, we would request you to walk us through Bridgestone India's manufacturing journey of over two decades?

Mr. Satpute: Bridgestone was established 90 years ago in Japan and is a global number one tire manufacturer. Bridgestone entered the Indian market over 20 years back. The organization operates on the global platform and hence understands the significance of local connect.To establish a solid foundation for our tire business, it is essential to understand the local road & weather conditions as well as the common vehicles used in the local market.

The localization factor compelled the organization to commence its manufacturing base in the local area, hence we established our first base at Pithampur, Indore, which produces passenger car tires. Indian territory welcomed high-end technology products, leading to various expansions in the following years. Due to rapid growth, the organization commenced its second plant at Chakan, Pune, which produces truck & bus radial tires. Both the plants have been designed to serve the Indian customers as we believe in local for local.

Q: Could you share with us the major strategies implemented by the organization?

Mr. Satpute: Bridgestone's vision of becoming a truly global company and Dan-Totsu in all aspects of its business has inspired the employees. Apart from that, we consider that India is a crucial market, as it is the fastest-growing automotive market, which still has low penetration. The organization maintains a strong foot in the passenger car tires and has been rapidly growing in the truck and bus radial tires segment.

The organization plans to remain a global leader in passenger car tires by introducing the latest innovative technologies & products for Indian customers. Being an organization, which is present in various countries allows us to be in sync with global trends in the automotive industry. Bridgestone prides itself in introducing innovative technologies in the Indian territory.

As concerned with truck and bus radial tires, the organization has implemented strategies such as introducing tubeless tires in the segment, which will help to improve many aspects of the industry. The tubeless tire provides better efficiency, safety, and reduces rubber consumption thus, benefitting the business and environmental aspects.Bridgestone believes that total cost of ownership is an important aspect, and hence we support the truck or bus fleets by providing them with the best tires. This helps in reducing the operational cost.

The company has formulated a unique business plan called 'tire as a solution' wherein we have partnered with select fleet manufacturers to take on the tire management. Bridgestone in India has undertaken the responsibility of tire maintenance along with the ‘Pay per KM’ model.

Q: Request you to share Bridgestone’s strategy and focus while partnering with FLEECA India?

Mr. Satpute: The primary goal of the organization is to provide world-class tires and introduce various innovations in the segment, but we realized tire maintenance is the crucial gap that needs to be addressed in the country. India's automotive sector is a huge market, and hence, we partnered with Fleeca India, which will strengthen its position in digital-based mobility solutions. This investment will further strengthen Bridgestone India's existing service infrastructure to provide quality and comprehensive tire services across national highways by leveraging Fleeca's service infrastructure. The objective is to provide the best tire management & fleet care services to Indian transportation & logistics businesses thereby, helping fleet owners to leverage the merits of advanced technology in making the businesses manageable and profitable.

Q: What role has innovation & localization played in designing the product for Indian markets? Also, recently Bridgestone India launched V-Steel M-721 for CVs, could you throw some light on its target application & advantages?

Mr. Satpute: Innovation plays an important role in designing the product whereas safety is the most essential element in the automotive sector. Any number of safety gadgets will not serve the purpose of safety unless the tires are of high - class quality. Indian road conditions are one of the most severe in the world due to the wide variances in temperature across the country and, therefore the organization focuses on the development process with a customer-centric approach. The four R&D centers collaborate with the local team to create the product suitable for respective roads. Although R&D based across countries provide high-end technologies, the team will create products suitable for Indian conditions.

We undertake rigorous testing on the Indian roads before launching them in the market. I believe the combination of global R&D support, and the presence of the local aspect is the core of our success.

Recently, we launched a new-generation drive axle tire for the commercial vehicle segment, designed specifically for the general cargo, long haul, and highway application. With an aggressive growth in e-commerce, we realized the need for a product, which will address the issues of tire fuel mileage and cut-chip resistance. Our V-Steel Mix M721 tire not only addresses both the issues but the new tire has a low-rolling-resistance compound, deeper tread depth, and tie bar for longer life.

Q: How is Bridgestone India geared up for the growing electric vehicle market in India?

Mr. Satpute: Electric vehicle technology is developing rapidly in various developed countries. Being a multinational company with immense exposure in the international market provides us with specific advantages. Bridgestone has been fortunate to collaborate with legendary brands such as BMW, Volkswagen, etc. In the Indian context, we are closely associated with major Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) in the auto industry. We have developed products that can provide 15% to 20% more mileage per charge and can withstand the initial high torque of an electric motor without compromising on grip. Apart from that, tires of an EV need to be designed for lesser noise as there is virtually no noise from the electric motor because there is no combustion like in IC engine driven vehicle.