The Mumbai headquartered Balkrishna Industries Limited, popularly known as BKT Tyres, a leading manufacturer of off-highway tyres (OHT) may never face a flat tyre in production. Its portfolio of tyres, now clock 2300 different SKUs, a build-up of producing a huge variety of tyres tirelessly since inception in 1987.
A specialist in tyres manufactured to run vehicles in segments such as agricultural, construction and industry, BKT is a known player internationally with a respectable share in the worldwide OHT market. Currently it has an enviable sales volume of $712 million a sustained increase over the last five years with four subsidiaries in Europe and North America. Exports are happening to 130 countries worldwide through a network of national distributors from five state-of-the-art production sites in Aurangabad, Bhiwadi, Chopanki, Dombivali and Bhuj in India, thus employing over 7,000 personnel across the globe. With its core competency being in the OHT market dishing out over 2,300 products here, targeting both the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and replacement market; it also caters to manufacturing of earthmoving, construction, port, mining, and gardening applications. BKT is famous for its tyres for tractors and vehicles employed in road cleaning and maintenance works; for material loading and handling trucks including cranes; for All Terrain Vehicles (ATV); for municipality services trucks; for lawn & garden equipment, go karts and golf carts; and many more.
Commenting on BKT’s spectacular growth story; Rajiv Poddar, Joint Managing Director, BKT, says, “We are firm believers in the inherent potential of India. Whether it is IT, services, or manufacturing, there is no dearth of talent in India. We can do better than the best. For us at BKT, the first key factor that has contributed to our shining growth story has been our unflinching commitment to quality. We have benchmarked our standards with the best in the world and have constantly striven to be at par with them or better. Secondly, we have always had firm policies. We have never believed in taking erratic decisions. Another key factor has been undoubtedly our team. We have been able to retain quality human resources and take immense pride in our team. Our USP is that we offer our customers a wide range of tyres at value prices with superior sales & service support. This makes us very competitive vis-à-vis other global competitors. Finally, we owe it to the excellent goodwill, confidence and trust that we have built with our suppliers and customers over all the years.”
“We are firm believers in the inherent potential of India. Whether it is IT, services, or manufacturing, there is no dearth of talent in India” – Rajiv Poddar
Aptitude for Technology
BKT’s soul is in its Research and Development (R&D) Division; a key factor in its success in global markets. No wonder, the company invests a substantial per cent of its annual sales into R&D which is earmarked for development of technical products development, designing of new tyres, developing new compounds innovatively to improve product performance and implementing more efficient production processes. The R&D division consists of more than 90 staff members including researchers, engineers and technicians working in different teams and departments across various production sites. The R&D Center in Chopanki hosts several laboratories like the analysis laboratory, chemical laboratory and physical laboratory along with tyre testing facilities; all in sync with different stages of manufacturing till completion of the product. The central R&D department at Mumbai has modern workstations for design and advanced software simulations. The extensive R&D activities result in the design and production of 60-80 new BKT tyres every year, with the average time to market a new BKT tyre at the global level being 6-8 weeks only. Backed by strong product innovation and a stringent quality control process, every tyre produced is put through over 450 rigorous tests.
Commenting on BKT’s R&D prowess, Dilip Vaidya, President & Director – Technology, BKT, voices, “Our latest launch – the 27.00 R49, which is the largest all steel radial tyre produced in India, is yet another testimonial to our R&D capability. BKT is the only tyre company in India to manufacture the 27.00 R49 model. We are going to launch 33.00 R51 model shortly for mining purposes. With this new launch we have raised the benchmark from 35 inch to 49 inch sized tyres. We have even developed an exclusive 3 stage machine for the manufacture of this tyre which could set new standards in the mining sector. BKT also offers customization which may vary from one mining site to other. Similarly, we are now also developing snow tyres. As the name suggests it will be used in loaders and graders that work in extremely cold conditions, at about-30 Degrees Celsius. This is another market segment where BKT is poised to forge ahead. We are also doing a lot of research on the sustainability front. We know that nano materials are going to be the future and are trying out various different compounds. You can expect some significant breakthroughs from BKT in this field soon.” The hard work has produced results with recognition coming from the Indian government through the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR) and the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
However the R&D activities do not stop with the launch of new tyre products. There are facilities built for continuous monitoring processes to control product performance. This includes taking progressive action through the analysis of feedback from distributors and customers from India and abroad. The technical support team for the different regions in the world work in tandem with on-site technicians, who regularly visit customers in the U.S., Canada and Europe to check tyre conditions, pressure, wear and the product life-cycle status. With BKT in the process of adding one more R&D center at its new plant in Bhuj, Vaidya explains, “Of course, the highlight of the center will be our own testing track. No one in India has got something like this. The facility will consist of 6 tracks for testing different factors, including a concrete track, an asphalt track, and a circular track. To sum it up every kind of test can be done at this facility. Other OEMs might also bring their loaders, backhoes, and cranes and use our testing facility. The testing track helps in compound development and new product development.” Poddar pitches in, “Earlier we used to send our tyres to Italy for testing. Now at our center at Bhuj we can do vibration testing and noise level decibel testing too.”
All sites of BKT operate in full compliance with environmental standards thus earning it the ISO 14001:2004 certification standard for Environmental Management Systems and also complying with the European Directive of Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) towards regulating and controlling the use of chemicals. The bid to use renewable energy sources in manufacturing has meant that near the Bhiwadi and Chopanki sites, a plant for the production of wind energy has been built which meets 40 per cent of the energy needs in their plants in North India. These green friendly initiatives have translated into the company winning the National Energy Conservation Award for the last three years consecutively. There is an air of positivity around BKT persisting from the past to the future.
At Excon 2015, that concluded recently in Bengaluru, BKT being the Event & Technology Partner of the show, was a key participant and showcased its marquee products. It has been doing so since 2005. Reveals Poddar, “Our new promotional campaign, “We Experience Being Part of Your World” was the underlying theme here. With India emerging as a key global market for construction equipment, Excon is among the most keenly watched trade shows globally. Definitely Excon has helped BKT in further strengthening and consolidating its brand presence over the years.”
Overall, BKT Tyres has over the years moved mountains to reach where it is today.