Samir Gupta is the Managing Director of Continental Tires India &Head of Central Asia Region - BA Tires APAC. Before taking over the reins of his current role, he led Continental Tires Malaysia as Managing Director. During his tenure he worked as the market manager (India market head) and built a technical sales force for truck tyres. He has been instrumental in ramping up the production of radial truck tyres at Continental for the Indian market.
How was the calendar 2023?
We continue focusing on the premium tyre segment - where the demand is growing in India, taking into consideration the growing segment within the PV segment, SUVs.
From a global perspective, we have made significant strides in innovation and sustainability. We announced UltraContact NXT, the most sustainable production tyre currently on the market, featuring up to 65% renewable, recycled, and mass balance-certified materials. Additionally, we successfully implemented a new driving simulator for virtual tyre testing globally, which reduces raw material usage and shortens development times.
In India, 2023 was a good year. We expanded our network of Continental Premium Drive (CPD) stores to over 200 and implemented a collaboration with Indag Rubber to offer retreading solutions for truck and bus tyres - which is important for sustainability. We also introduced Cross Contact H/T which is an SUV tyre and Ultra Mileage tyres over the previous Generation even in Truck Tyres in rated load.
Barring 2Ws, all the segments recovered well and grew beyond pre-COVID level. How has it been reflected for Continental Tires?
As per the PV segment growth, which is concentrated more towards SUVs, we are growing in sync with the market trends in passenger vehicles.
Similarly, the Truck & Bus tyre segment, which has seen good growth due to better infrastructure supported by the Government’s initiative, the respective segment of the rated load has also been growing in double digits.
What are the key drivers for growth in 2024?
We focus on safety and comfort for the consumers. We are very positive in 2024. In TBR tyres, we have a new range of ultra-mileage tyres in rated load, new technology tyres in other load segment. For passenger cars, we have a new launch of SUV tyres like H/T, and the upcoming PC6 range for premium cars.
As the market is maturing and growing, we are moving along in the right direction and making its mark in the premium segment.
EVs are picking up; can you talk about the solutions that you offer to EVs?
The EV sector is a big market for us. Continental has been involved in extensive R&D for the EV sector for several years. We have a range of products that are already tailored for EVs, and our entire current range is EV-compatible.
Compared to vehicles with ICE, electric drive technology lowers engine noise, emissions, maintenance and running costs. However, there is also a significant increase in weight due to batteries. The heavier weight and increased inertia mean longer braking distance, so any tyre used on an EV needs to have an optimal grip. They also need to have minimal rolling resistance.
Our tyres are suited to handle the weight of the batteries, are cost-effective and of course, as always, focus on ensuring safety and comfort as well.
With affordability increasing and consumers becoming tech-savvy, they expect safety systems like ADAS. And tyre plays a key role. How is Continental Tires supporting OEMs in the development of new technologies?
We, as a tyre company, stand for safety and comfort for our consumers. The three main areas of technology, safety, and sustainability are where Continental Tires sets itself apart. We make significant R&D investments in developing cutting-edge technologies that improve tyres' performance, safety, and comfort.
For example, we created the ContiSeal technology, a unique sealant layer inside the tyre that seals a puncture, lowering the risk of flat tyres and enhancing road safety.
The ContiSilent technology, a special foam layer lining the inner surface of the tyre tread that reduces tyre noise, improves driving comfort, and lowers noise pollution, is another option we have. Our manufacturing procedures and products are held to the highest standards of quality and dependability.
We provide customer-centric solutions in the Indian market, including Conti 360 Fleet Solution for fleet optimisation, cost-effective truck tyre products with excellent re-treadability, and premium sedan and SUV tyres with safety and comfort innovations like ContiSeal and ContiSilent.
A few Indian tyre companies are working on embedded sensors in tyres to communicate even with ECUs of vehicles, unlike the conventional TPMS having a dedicated ECU. Are you working on these lines? Elaborate.
This is something we already have implemented. We have Conti360 Fleet solution in the Truck and Bus tyres segment. ContiAPAC focuses on the replacement market currently.
For now, we are focusing on establishing the products in hand in the replacement market. And our existing TPMS have the capabilities with dashboard displays on a different device.
Sustainability initiatives taken in products and your manufacturing facility.
Sustainability is an integral part of Continental’s ‘Vision 2030’ strategy programme for the tyres business area and is anchored in the foundation of our values. Globally, we continually invest in research and development to drive innovative technologies, alternative and sustainable materials, and environmentally friendly production processes.
Other than rubber made of dandelion, which we announced a few years ago, we have also begun using recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles in tyre production since 2022.
This will involve the extraction of sustainable polyester yarn from the PET bottles using a mechanical process, completely replacing conventional polyester. Our modified manufacturing process enables us to obtain polyester yarn for tyre construction from PET bottles without any polymerization process from monomers.
We also have ContiNXT tyre which is made of 65 percent recyclable material. Through our sustainability initiatives, we also work to lessen the negative effects on the environment and support social causes. We have implemented several measures to reduce the use of energy, water, waste, and carbon emission emissions in our operations.Additionally, we provide funding for numerous initiatives in India that focus on skill development, community welfare, and road safety education.
Can you talk about the initiatives taken for your aftermarket business?
We have introduced ContiSure and ContiBharosa as an extended warranty in our truck tyres and passenger car tyres. We also provide a warranty on first retread casing on our truck tyres. We also have an online complaint addressal mode, which helps in quicker resolutions for the customer.
How many numbers of SKUs you handle now and what are your plans to increase the same?
Keeping in mind the changing market trends and dynamics and changing consumer preferences, we are continuously adding and increasing our portfolio in truck tyre and passenger vehicle tyres with new sizes and our new launches.
We have been following a ‘In the Market, For the Market’ approach, which means we are constantly expanding our retail footprint in India to reach more customers and provide better services. We are also continuously investing in R&D and expanding our product capabilities.We plan to introduce new products and technologies that cater to the diverse segments and needs of the Indian market. We plan to continue our ongoing investments in the market and continue our efforts toward plant expansion. We aim to increase our production capacity, further enhance our quality standards, and diversify our product portfolio in India while maintaining our sustainability goals. India is a crucial market for our growth and success, and we are committed to delivering value and satisfaction to our customers.
What are your short-term and long-term plans?
Our continuous effort is to expand network and penetrate further to tap the market. Our immediate focus is on the growing SUV segment with our new launch which is our strength; as the market matures we will keep evaluating our global technologies as long-term proposition to be introduced in India.
Several factors would impact our plans - we’ll have to watch how the market grows in 2024, and align accordingly. From a sustainability perspective, we aim to align with India's sustainability, digitisation, and connectivity goals. By 2030, the company plans to reduce waste, water, and energy use by 20% compared to 2019 levels. By 2050, we aim for 100% carbon neutrality, emission-free mobility and industry, circular economy practices, and a responsible value chain in collaboration with partners.
Our GreenConcept tyre incorporates recycled and renewable materials like dandelion rubber, rice husk silicate, and recycled PET bottles. It also features a lightweight design, reducing rolling resistance by up to 25% and potentially increasing electric vehicle range by 6%. The tyre has a renewable tread that can be retreaded up to three times, aligning with our goal of using sustainable materials in all tyre production by 2050.