Steel­bird ven­tures into mak­ing new prod­ucts for EVs

Auto components India - - CONTENTS - Story by: Bhar­gav TS

Steel­bird In­ter­na­tional, a lead­ing au­to­mo­tive com­po­nents and fil­ter man­u­fac­turer, has chalked out a 5-year strat­egy to meet the de­mand aris­ing out of the up­com­ing new reg­u­la­tions and the pen­e­tra­tion of electric ve­hi­cles. Re­cently, the com­pany ven­tured into the tyre and tube seg­ments. The tyre is for twowheel­ers and electric ve­hi­cles. The com­pany has started a new plant in Pant­na­gar (Ut­tarak­hand) to make wide range of fil­ters.

Steel­bird In­ter­na­tional serves many OEMs in In­dia, in­clud­ing Greaves Cot­ton Lim­ited, Tata Fi­cosa Au­to­mo­tive Sys­tems Pvt. Ltd., Lu­max Auto Tech­nolo­gies Lim­ited, and Royal En­field (A Unit of Eicher Mo­tors). From its state-of-the-art man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity in Pant­na­gar spread over 100,000 sq.ft., Steel­bird of­fers the widest range of auto fil­ters in the In­dian mar­ket.

The New Delhi-head­quar­tered com­pany plans to dou­ble profit ev­ery year for the next 5 years. “Our new smart and eco-friendly plant in Pant­na­gar has a ca­pac­ity to man­u­fac­ture 40,000 new­gen­er­a­tion fil­ters daily. The new plant com­menced op­er­a­tion from Jan­uary 2018, and 80% of the plant ca­pac­ity has al­ready been utilised.” Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Steel­bird In­ter­na­tional, Manav Ka­pur, told Auto Com­po­nents In­dia.

E-rick­shaws are the main tar­get of the com­pany’s tyre busi­ness. “We are com­po­nents man­u­fac­turer and we have been in the in­dus­try for more than 50 years. There is also a vol­ume of busi­ness that comes from rub­ber com­po­nents and we have been in the rub­ber busi­ness for more than 4 decades. Tyre and tube were the only rub­ber com­po­nents that we did not make. We make all other rub­ber com­po­nents for two-wheel­ers. These were the only 2 prod­ucts to com­plete our bas­ket in the rub­ber com­po­nents. We were ex­pect­ing a lot of tur­bu­lence in the in­dus­try with re­spect to the electric ve­hi­cles com­ing in. As a strat­egy to counter, we need to build some­thing up for the fu­ture. The strug­gle will not hap­pen to­mor­row, but it will hap­pen, say in 10 years or so. So, we looked at our core com­po­nents and that was rub­ber,” he added.

The e-rick­shaws are the only EVs that are sell­ing in good num­bers. There­fore, the com­pany sees a good de­mand from e-rick­shaws, which cur­rently use two-wheeler tyres. Be­fore ven­tur­ing into the tyre seg­ment, Steel­bird eval­u­ated the tyres that were be­ing used in e-rick­shaws and found that the two-wheeler tyres were de­signed for a pay­load of 2 peo­ple. Whereas, the e-rick­shaws have a pay­load of prob­a­bly 6 peo­ple. The speed rat­ing of a two-wheeler is 100 km, whereas for the e-rick­shaws, it does not cross 35 km. There is a lot of dif­fer­ence re­quired for the prod­uct. There­fore, the com­pany to­tally changed the de­sign and came out with a Type C tyre, which in­creases the pay­load and also re­duces the speed rat­ing.

With quite a lot of vari­ants for the two-wheeler seg­ment, Steel­bird plans to have many tyre types for the e-rick­shaws also. Ka­pur said that

the EV tyre mar­ket is slowly evolv­ing and ev­ery­body is mak­ing their own space. “None of the big­ger play­ers have made any­thing dif­fer­ent. And, no­body is very much suc­cess­ful with e-rick­shaw de­signs. I see a lot of scope there as it is new. It is eas­ier to work on a clean slate,” he said.

Steel­bird is in con­tact with some OEMs for the EV mar­ket. “From May 2018, we will be sup­ply­ing to them,” he said. About the tyre man­u­fac­tur­ing plant Ka­pur said, “It is a new plant. Prob­a­bly the small­est tyre plant you will ever see.”

In the af­ter­mar­ket, Steel­bird has the widest dis­tri­bu­tion net­work. More than 5000 dis­trib­u­tors are con­nected in dif­fer­ent States. In most of the mar­kets the com­pany is able to de­liver in 24 hours and its reach is al­ready there in the twowheeler side. Next, there is a lot of space for an­other tyre com­pany, be­cause the vol­ume is great. Most of the com­pa­nies fo­cus on the com­mer­cial side. So, Steel­bird is go­ing to be a two-wheeler spe­cial­ist. “We will be in this seg­ment and hope­fully we will not be hav­ing any dif­fi­culty as we have the brand im­age,” Ka­pur states.

About the new Pant­na­gar plant Ka­pur said that, he does not see a down­trend in the IC en­gines for the next 5 years. Speak­ing on the ne­ces­sity of in­vest­ing, he said, “Any busi­ness house wants to make money. We have com­mit­ments from some of the cus­tomers and our af­ter­mar­ket busi­ness is up and run­ning. When you look at the sales of the ve­hi­cles that are pow­ered by IC en­gines, they are still grow­ing ev­ery year. Even if there are talks re­gard­ing EVs, there is a con­stant growth ev­ery year. De-growth has just not hap­pened. Af­ter­mar­ket is the last part to be get­ting rid of. If the de­mand has grown in the last 3 years, im­pact is go­ing to be there only af­ter 7 years,” he ex­plained.

Ka­pur is very op­ti­mistic about the in­vest­ments made on the Pant­na­gar fa­cil­ity. He said “We are in a coun­try where we don’t scrap cars. We have a clear vi­sion. Even if we start to­day and run the plant for the next 5 years, we will be tak­ing out the in­vest­ment we made. We mainly man­u­fac­ture air-fil­ters for twowheel­ers and most of our busi­ness comes from that. We also make a few parts for four-wheel­ers and com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle ap­pli­ca­tions. There­fore, I do not see any threat to our busi­ness.”

An­other area that is flour­ish­ing is the cabin fil­ter and Steel­bird is ey­ing that seg­ment. “A lot of aware­ness is there with re­spect to qual­ity. We have eval­u­ated it and as of now we are stick­ing to our core com­po­nents. As for new de­vel­op­ments, we are stick­ing to tyres,” Ka­pur said.

The new Pant­na­gar fa­cil­ity man­u­fac­tures wide range of fil­ters.

The newly launched e-rick­shaw tyres.

Manav Ka­pur, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Steel­bird In­ter­na­tional

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