The auto component industry in India is hopeful for a comeback after the pandemic paralysed the industry. Component manufacturers are gearing up to launch new products as the government has also launched Scrappage Policy which is expected to bring cheer to the auto industry. Manav Kapur, Executive Director, Steelbird International talks about new product launches, tyres for EVs and counterfeiting menace in a telephonic interaction with Pushkar Oak.
SteelBird launched tyres for 2-wheelers last year. How has been the year?
SteelBird ventured into tyres around three years ago. Being a 50-year-old-brand, SteelBird International, has knowhow of the rubber industry due to the presence in the rubber moulded components. The idea behind launching new tyres were to aid a marriage between our brand and the knowhow and serve the industry with a better product.
Prior to the market, the demand was normal. Towards lockdown, there was exponential growth. Even during the lockdown, the industry experienced demand for tyres in the personal mobility space. Due to fear of the virus, people preferred to avoid public transport and have their own two-wheelers. This has definitely helped manufacturers like us to benefit from the demand.
What is SteelBird’s agenda on new product launches?
We are in the process of researching and developing various products. Our team is currently engaged in the viability study. There will be a lot of new launches in the coming months from SteelBird. It is a regular practice that our team looks for developing variants but this year we will explore other categories too.
How different are EVs against ICE vehicles?
EVs are a lot different than ICE vehicles. In ICE vehicles, the engine will be the differentiating factor. We have 3 major things to look at for rubber components–NVH or noise, vibration, and harshness from the rubber’s perspective. This has a significant role to play, especially in the compounding of the rubber. There will be newer designs for EV products.
Among EVs, the NVH will come down drastically. We at SteelBird have designed tyres for EV three-wheelers, considering its tread patters. Earlier, these three-wheelers were using two-wheeler tyres.
How has been the response of EV segment?
EV segment is in a very nascent stage. There are no big numbers there. Only three-wheelers have depicted some market worthiness. Meanwhile, there are many small players in the three-wheelers and suppliers like us are awaiting market consolidation. Once that happens, the EV industry will mature to move towards quality and even will benefit us to be more cost-effective.
How severe is the counterfeiting menace, how does SteelBird International deals with this?
Sadly, this is the biggest problem in the country today. We have a dedicated team to work on this. In the auto sector, some components play a vital role in imparting safety. Such components being counterfeited is not only catastrophic to the brand name but also to end the consumer’s life. The amount of loss the auto industry incurs due to counterfeiting is tremendous.
Thus, many brands educate their downline to buy genuine parts. At SteelBird International, we try to deal with this menace with innovation on the product packaging and technology, simultaneously making consumers aware about buying genuine products. Further, mechanic-level campaigns are also executed in a timely manner to educate downlines about changes, variants, validations, etc.
Do you think that the auto component industry benefitted due to the Chinese absence in the market?
Today, there is a huge demand in the market. There has been a lot of talks about the China+One strategy. Every company globally is now looking at this strategy to build another supplier base. India should have ideally tapped this but globally companies have preferred countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Bangladesh. India was unable to capitalise on Chinese absence due to lack of infrastructure, issues pertaining to land acquisition. Policies play a major role in such activities to attract foreign investment. However, we are positive that the industry will see some better policies being implemented as many ground-breaking policies are in the pipeline and at various stages of implementation.
Do you feel that some of these issues have been addressed in the recent Budget?
The recent budget has addressed some key areas that needed attention but there is so much more to be done. Some reforms like recent import bans are just a temporary measure to boost the domestic manufacturing industry. Such bans should be effective only for a short duration. In order to grow, the economy shall open imports and exports which facilitates knowhow on technology, material, and financial fronts.
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