The demand for bigger size radials in mining sector is increasing. As the capacity of the machine is growing, the tyre size is also growing and Balkrishna Industries Ltd (BKT) the leading radials manufacturer in OTR segment-is gearing up to introduce bigger size radials in future. Rajiv Poddar, Joint Managing Director, BKT, shares his views on the market trends in radials with Sudheer Vathiyath. Excerpts of the interview.
What are the latest trends that you witness towards application-based off-the-road (OTR) tyre segment?
In industrial applications, radialisation is still in small percentage. Internationally, equipment such as forklifts has slightly moved towards radialisation, but majority of the industry players are still driven by bias tyres. Worldwide, industry segment is predominantly driven by bias tyres, while the mining segment is driven by radials. The demand for bigger size radials in mining sector is increasing. Earlier, we used to have 25-inch size radials, but now it has gradually gone up to 33 inch and 35 inch. Similarly, people who were using 35 inch have moved on to 49 inch.
What are your R&D activities in rubber compounds/chemicals and processes?
Improvement in the compounds is a major factor in our industry. One of the important roles of our R&D is to develop different compounds. Sometimes, some compound may be suitable in one country but may not suitable in another. So we have to use different compounds for different countries. Development of different sizes is another major thing. Every year, we develop about 100 new sizes.
We supply tyres to European countries. So REACH compliance is a very important factor in our products. The chemicals we are using are all REACH compliant. We have stopped using the carcinogenic chemicals long back. Thus our product can go anywhere in the world.
We are also focusing on the sustainability of raw materials such as rubber. We are working with some American professionals to develop a product that can replace the natural rubber what we are using today.
In order to further strengthen our R&D activities, we are setting up a R&D centre in our new plant at Bhuj, Gujarat.
What are the range and sizes offered by BKT in OTR segment?
In OTRs, we have sizes ranging from 24 to 51 inch in bias tyres. In radials, we have tyres in the range of 24 to 35 inch. By the end of this financial year, we aim to increase our range to 51 inch. We are also undergoing a major expansion in Bhuj. Once that comes on stream, our OTR capacity in both bias and radials would be about 60,000 tpa, out of which about 30,000 tonne would be radials.
What is the demand-supply scenario for radial tyres?
Currently, the demand is more and supply is less, especially in the mining sector. However, the sector is gradually shifting towards radilisation. The use of radials will go up in future, but not that dramatically due to supply constraints.
What are your expansion plans?
Today, our capacity for radials is about 5,000 tonne, which we are planning to take it at 30,000 tonne. This is a big jump in terms of capacity.
As far as new products are concerned, we will be launching 49 inch tyre by the end of this year and 51 inch tyre in a year. Our next step is 57 inch, which is the biggest size in the industry. We are planning to launch this type in 2016.
In port equipment, we are coming out with new port radial tyres. High-speed crane tyres are radial crane tyres. We have already launched a few sizes while few more are being added to complete the range.
How do you look at the new government at the Centre?
We don´t know what will happen. But we are hopeful that with such a strong government certain decisions will be made much faster because it is not a coalition government. A government with a huge majority can help the country as infrastructure development is one of the key agendas of the new government. We are quite optimistic about the new government and hope things turn around.