JK Tyre, a leading player in the industry, rolled out its 10 millionth truck radial tyre earlier this week in Mysore, Karnataka. On the sidelines of the celebratory event, Raghupati Singhania, chairman and managing director, JK Tyre and Industries Ltd., in a conversation with media persons congratulated employees for the success of the company and announced a research and development facility in Mysore. Excerpts:

Q. JK Tyre has rolled out its 10 millionth truck radial tyre. How has been the journey so far?

A. This has been a unique milestone which only JK Tyre has achieved in India. JK Tyre pioneered the radial technology in India and was the first to introduce truck/bus radial tyres way back in 1999 and today we have become the largest producer of truck/bus radial tyres in the country. Over the years, JK Tyre has grown multi-fold by setting up greenfield plants, expansion of its existing capacities and acquisitions, including that of Vikrant tyre in Karnataka, as also a tyre company in Mexico, apart from the latest acquisition of three plants of Cavendish industries in Uttarakhand. JK Tyre is a multinational company now, with 12 plants globally with a future-ready capacity of 350 lakh tyres per annum, including Mexico plants. We export tyres to 100 countries, across six continents. We have also entered the high growth segment of 2-3 wheeler tyres that has made JK Tyre a manufacturer of the complete range of tyres i.e. from a 3 kilo scooter tyre to the 3.7 tonne ultra large OTR tyre.

Q. What are the company’s plans to push ahead its research and development facility?

A. Our R&D centres, currently spread over different locations, are now going to be brought under one roof in a world-class research centre with an investment of Rs 100 crore. It will initially have about 200 engineers and scientists and the number will double in the next one year. This will house the most modern and advanced equipment manned by highly experienced engineers and scientists with deep insight into material resource, designs, aesthetics and structures. We have one of the highest diagnostic equipment in tyre technology and we will be adding more sophisticated technology which will be the only ones to be used by any tyre or auto company in the country. The idea is to conduct some basic research in the industry which is done nowhere in India and is hardly done overseas on a large scale either. The R&D facility will be a unique centre of excellence spread across 1 lakh sq ft and will open in a couple of months.

Q. How much revenue do you expect the R&D facility will be able to create?

A. The revenue push will come from our sales and our shares. The R&D facility will act as a back-up and an enabler to us and will continue to exist and operate for years in the interest of technology.

Q. How is the Indian rubber market doing?

A. Unfortunately now, our rubber situation is going from bad to worse. We have put all kinds of restrictions on our rubber imports in terms of increasing the import duty from 20% to 25% which was done almost a year back. The additional factor is that the charge has increased “per kilo” as well. But on the plea that the domestic industries is importing rubber unduly and that is killing our rubber planters, I’d say that nobody is getting killed except the rubber industry in India; the consumer and the suppliers are getting killed here. Because the domestic rubber production is not keeping pace with the demand, this year around 40% of the rubber demand was met by imports. Also, the price of domestic rubber is 4-5% higher than the global standards and the imports are cheaper even after import duty. Nobody wants to import willfully. We have to stock our imports, but if I am buying from the domestic market, I can easily buy whenever I need. The reason why we continue to import is that we are afraid that our plants will shut down if we won’t.

Q. JK Tyre has also tried to operate in an environment-friendly manner. What has been your success on that front?

A. We have tried to become a “green company” by going greener in our manufacturing processes, plants and our products. The “Green Tyres” that we produce have low rolling resistance which helps in saving fuel. At a process level, we are constantly reducing our “carbon footprint” by reducing our energy and water consumption which are two critical resources used in tyre manufacturing. JK Tyre is the first company in India to have completed the certified “carbon footprint verification process” as per the standards set down by the British Standard Institute. This year, JK Tyre achieved total energy benchmark levels of 10.9 GJ/tonne, which stands among top five best companies in the sector worldwide. Likewise, in water consumption as well, some of our plants are world benchmarks, with all JK Tyre plants having zero water discharge.

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