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Tyre safety and maintenance protocols have always been on our priority, says Satish Sharma, President, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, Apollo Tyres

We plan to invest more in the simulation capabilities to minimise our reliance on field testing in OHT segment, says Satish Sharma, President, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, Apollo Tyres

How are the increasing roads & highway construction and favourable mining policies benefitting your organization?
The increase in roads and highway construction has significantly increased the demand for industrial tyres in India. And amidst the pandemic induced uncertainties, we have been able to steadily ramp up our production and make the most of the opportunity. We have seen a 100% increase in our sales to road and construction customers. Mining policy is another step in the right direction. The increased capex of Coal India and their preference to India produced tyres has given confidence to domestic manufacturers to invest further in the off-highway tyre technology and bring their products to international standards. Apollo has also witnessed increase in sales to mining sector and is actively working on investment in upgrading the product offerings.

What are your offerings for both these sectors that you have introduced in the market in the last two years?
In the construction space, we have revamped our complete line up for the largest volume segments like backhoe loaders, cranes, graders, wheel loaders under a new product line called “Terra”. The Terra range of tyres promise purpose-built design for minimum down time and the most optimum cost of operation to the customer. Another peculiar aspect of Terra range is aesthetics. This is something not many brands focus upon. Along with the delivery of purpose, each Terra design is unique and differentiated, and adds to the visual appeal of machine. We want every eye in the business to know that it is an Apollo tyre at the first glance.
We also have also launched a product line for port equipments called HarborPro. The HarborPro range of tyres are today available for reachstackers and RTGs. This is a performance driven segment. And we aim to be the performance leader in this category. We are currently testing our second generation reachstacker tyre called “HarborPro II IND 4” which will be the most premium performance tyre in the market when launched in the next few months. In addition, we have developed a new SKU for cement/limestone industry called ALT 188 HD. With this SKU we aim to achieve the lowest cost of operation in the market.

During the lockdown many organizations have shifted their focus on R&D, digitalization and innovation to streamline operation and to come up with more customized products. Please share with us your R&D, digitalization activities and innovations during the Pandemic?
The pandemic significantly changed the route we will now take towards development of new tyres. Until the pandemic, tyres would undergo a stringent field testing for determining tyre characteristics under different road and climate conditions. But during the pandemic, the record keeping at all our test sites were not meeting our standards and many of the tests had to be repeated again from scratch. This delayed launch of many of our new products. This event pushed us to look at various technological solutions to simulate the testing conditions and evaluate tyre characteristics without relying on field. We plan to invest more in the simulation capabilities to minimise our reliance on field testing in off-highway tyre (OHT) segment.

R&D in OTR tyres is a continuous process. How is your product portfolio shaping up? Which are the new products lined-up?
Coal mining and limestone mining are the two largest applications by tyre volumes in India. The requirement from a tyre for the two, are complete opposite ends of the spectrum. We take proud in saying that we have developed dedicated 35” SKUs for each of the applications. The Coal SKU is called ALT 188 and has a proven presence in the market of almost a decade now. In 2020, we developed a new SKU specifically for Limestone mining called ALT 188 HD. This new SKU is designed for delivering the lowest cost per hour to our cement customers. We have been testing this tyre in various part of India and expect to launch it within the next 2-3 months.

Technology enabled tires embedded with sensors and IoTs are firmly gaining footholds worldwide. How is India progressing on this front? Are you planning to launch technology enabled tyres in India?
Yes. We have also been working aggressively on this front, and have collaborated with multiple organisations on the journey to develop IoT based solutions for our tyres. Our new ALT 188 HD tyre will be our first offering in OTR space to come with various sensors and an app where the tyre usage pattern will be summarized for our customers. This solution is still in development and will be commercially available only by end 2022.

Manufacturing is slowly moving towards sustainability, eco-friendly and energy efficiency products. How are you embracing these to reduce CO2 emission and to manufacture tyres of the future?
One way how tyres can directly impact CO2 emissions holistically is how much it can contribute to fuel efficiency of the vehicle. A radial tyre is much more fuel efficient than a bias tyre, and in construction segment, radialisation as a concept has not taken off, yet. We want to be pioneers in radial in construction tyres as well and are developing a radial tyre for backhoe loaders which will improve the haulage fuel efficiency significantly.

Covid-19 protocol such as ‘minimum contact’ has further expedited Digital initiatives to be in contact with the dealers and end users. What are the digital initiatives you have taken in this regard?
The current times have made every business, small or large, more receptive towards digital medium. Keeping the safety of our employees and our customers in mind, we promoted digital interactions and it was well received as well. Our field teams ensure that every customer is touched at a regular frequency through digital mediums. In OHT space, physical inspections cannot be done away with, but in today’s environment, some part of the process was migrated. Our annual events also took a digital route this year. This also enabled a much larger audience to be a part of such events.

 

Please share with us the after sales services you offer and the awareness campaign for tyre safety you have launched?

Tyre safety and maintenance protocols have always been on our priority. Speaking about the OHT segment, our field teams regularly impart trainings to the customer organisations and educate them about the importance of tyre maintenance for lower cost of operations as well as personal safety of people around the tyre.

 

In view of ever increasing roads & highway construction and favourable mining policies, are there any plans to increase production capacity, to set up new plants or new.

We are already exploring possible routes to increase our capacity in short term and in long term. Some investments are already in progress in this direction.

 




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