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BKT

SPECIAL REPORT

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Known universally as BKT, the Mumbai-based Balkrishna Industries Limited is one of the worlds top off-highway tyre-solution providers. It is growing at dizzying pace in the 115 countries it sells its products to. Its eyeing to garner 10% of the world market in this speciality tyre segment by 2015. What is noteworthy is BKTs ability to produce a mind-boggling range of tyres in 150 new sizes every year with record-beating low turnaround time of just 8 to 10 weeks - the fastest mindto-market product development in the industry. Its R&D focus and good manufacturing practices have taken it to the top of the global market, which is serviced by its excellent distribution and backup service networks

Wherever there are off-highway tyre

By KS Nayar

requirements, there will be BKT. It has presence in most parts of the world. And it is continually enlarging its global market share. Despite recession and high raw material costs, including that of rubber and carbon black, the Mumbai-based company is able to maintain healthy bottom lines because of its unassailable market leadership in all tyre segments it is in. BKTs success story revolves around innovative off-highway tyre (OHT) development that is driven by quality, competitive pricing, worldwide distribution networks and service backups. It is one of the few companies in the niche tyre segment that spends 3-5% of the revenue on research and development. BKTs ability to work from concept to manufacturing in the shortest possible time has made it the fastest productto-market industry leader. It has the R&D, technological and manufacturing capabilities to come-up with OHT solutions for markets, whose footprint criss-crosses 115 countries. And it is still growing. BKT produces 140,000 tonnes of tyres a year at its three state-of-the-art factories with 95% of the output shipped to the highly-competitive export markets. Of this 60% go to Europe and the rest to the Americas, Middle East, Asia, Africa and Oceania. With the opening of dedicated BKT-North America Operations in Akron, Ohio, it has expanded its considerable presence in the US, Canada and Mexico markets. BKTs OHTs for agriculture, industry, construction, earthmoving, all terrain, lawn and garden vehicles are the preferred choice because of its widerange, quality and price. It produces tyres from 400 grams to 1700 kgs in rim sizes of 5 inches to 51 inches. It is the preferred choice of OEMs in agriculture machinery such as John Deere, CNH, SDF, VALTRA and in the industrial and construction sector for equipment makers such as JCB, Dynapac, Volvo and SAKAI.

BKTs production flexibility has enabled it to develop incredible market agility to respond to consumer-focussed demand any time anywhere in the world. It produces conventional cross-ply tyres as well as the most sophisticated polyester radials, all-steel OTR radials and aramidebelted run-flat military application tyres. From agriculture farms to deep mines, BKT tyres are on a roll on the back of customer confidence it has built over the years. It delivers quality products to the exact customer requirements. We have the engineering skills and market sensitivity to turn out products that the customer wants, says VicePresident and Managing Director Arvind Poddar. What we have is a unique mix of market insight, in-house design studio and mould shop, management focus and resource allotment to new product developments with competent teams to carry out all these, he told Polymers & tyre Asia. BKT is a part of the Indian industrial conglomerate, Siyaram-Poddar Group with sales in excess of US$550 million. It has presence in textiles, paper, garments and tyres. BKT manufactures Off-Highway tyres (OHT) at three plants, including the newest one in Chopanki on the borders of Haryana and Rajasthan which opened in 2006. It also owns a mould shop for manufacturing its own moulds. Its fourth plant in Gujarat state is expected to come on stream in 2011.

built a powerful brand in the niche OHTs segment that is boosted through consistent delivery of quality products. BKT is a trend-setting brand that is today well-accepted globally, he said. It is its wide-range of OHTs tyres that is most appealing to different customers. The company has 1800 stock keeping units (SKUs) or tyre ranges - one of the highest in the industry. BKTs market leadership only added to its responsibility to constantly track the needs of its growing customer base, said Poddar. All its manufacturing plants are working in full capacity and the fourth one would double the capacity. These modern plants can produce complete lines of bias and radial OffHighway tyres that cater to the specific needs and standards demanded by the various geographical markets. In fact BKT is already REACH-compliant since Nov 1, 2009, two months ahead of the requirement by the European Union under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical regulations. In fact our R&D on an average works with 60 different compounds on a regular

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Customer driven
BKTs greatest growth comes from its best-selling tractor radial tyres Agrimax that are in high demand as they cater to modern farming practices. We offer a complete range of farm radials in different series and aspect ratios, Poddar said. In fact it has tyres for almost all conceivable OHT applications that are developed in line with customer demand. He explained that the company has

innovaTion
noRTh ameRica foRay pays off
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BKTs success story
revolves around innovative off-highway tyre (OHT) development that is driven by quality, competitive pricing, worldwide distribution networks and service backups. It is one of the few companies in the niche tyre segment that spends 3-5% of the revenue on research and development
success as the company is using its flexible manufacturing prowess to produce products to meet changing demand patterns within short time. When BKT set up Indias first OTR Radial Tyre plant at its Chopanki manufacturing location, it was a reflection of its incessant obsession to become the market leader in all segments of the product portfolio. It also closely studies the geographies where it wants to enter. As about 95% of its tyre production is exported--of which 70% is sold in Europe--BKT has tied up with reputed tyre testing firms for indoor and outdoor testing to ensure that the products cater to local regulations. It, therefore, was no surprise when BKT won the prestigious innovative product certification by Unione Nazionale Costruttori Macchine Agricola (UNACOMA). The Italy-based organisation, known as the National Union of Agricultural Machine Manufacturers, founded in 1945. It represents Italian makers of tractors, agricultural and gardening machinery, components and, through COMAMOTER, earth-moving machinery.
Executive Director Rajiv Poddar

basis that are all in compliance with global standards and regulations, says Dilip Vaidya, BKTs Director Technology (see accompanying story). It is relentlessly working in close coordination with the marketing department to get customer feedback so that products could be tailored and manufactured at blistering speed to cater to the emerging demand. BKT has its ears to the ground. In order to ensure high standard of quality, BKT has set up a sophisticated test centre with modern equipment, including those that are used for endurance-testing. Besides in-house testing, BKT regularly conducts tests under international regulations outside India as well. As BKTs engineering and development centres constantly draw on customer feedback, these are reflected in product improvement on a continuing basis. This has also helped in its commercial

With its expertise in radial industrial tractor tyres, it has launched a series of all steel radial OTR tyres sub-branded as Earthmax. Along with agriculture topper Agrimax and forestry tyres, BKT Earthmax enjoys a unique marketing edge. As Poddar said BKTs growth graph is continually moving up because it has built strong customer trust based on its quality products and services. This is reflected in its sales turnover of over US$ 300 million in the year 2009-10. Adding to the market acceptability, besides timely delivery, is BKTs powerful brand appeal. Its a brand thats been well-accepted by global OEMs, which has ensured that BKTs sales will cross its target of US$400 million in the current financial year ending March 2011. BKTs stupendous achievements have been possible because of the managements vision to leverage its cost-competitive product-development capabilities to make OHT ranges to every segment of the market. The company relies on intensive market research to satisfy customers demand. Innovation is in our corporate culture, said Poddar. Both marketing and technology teams have been specifically trained to remain open for continuous learning, he said. All the data and information gathered from the market are exchanged among marketing, production and R&D teams. These inputs go into product development, improvement of existing lines and evolve new niches. There is no wonder for BKTs phenomenal growth in its chosen market segment.

Segment leadership
Over the years, BKT has strived to leave its tread imprint in all the segments it has entered. It is in the agriculture segment that the company remains on the top as its products dominate this sector, where it offers tyres for tractors, trailers, implements and other farm equipments. Although BKT is a relatively new entrant in the tractor radial segment, its Agrimax range of radial tyres has become a runaway success in all markets it has entered. Market research has shown that it is on top of customer recall in a very short period. Its radial tractor tyres are available in different series catering to every tyre operations from the most sophisticated row crop tyres for vineyard tractors to forestry segments. With the world recovering from recession, BKT is looking at sectors where growth is set to come back quickly. In the infrastructure development sectors, BKT sees good growth and is already there to serve the surging market for construction, industrial and earthmover applications. They already constitute almost 40% of BKTs turnover. Seizing growth opportunities BKT has also substantially expanded product range to include OHT for heavy earthmovers, compactor, graders and underground mines.

Executive Director Anurag Poddar

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With almost 30% compounded annual
growth rate, BKT is expanding at considerable pace globally. What do you think are the key factors for such growth? The main reason for our tremendous growth has been our focussed strategy on product range. We have today a wide-range of off-highway products. We continue to focus on this segment where we offer consistently high quality products. We have built strong customer trust because of our products and services. What are the products that you think have been showing considerable growth geography-wise? portfolio demonstrates. How do you ramp up production to cater to specific demands as I understand that you have developed the technological ability to change moulds quickly? It is made possible because BKT has capable teams at all plants in production and technical departments. We have developed efficient and trustworthy production systems that are enormously flexible. We also make continuous investments in capacity augmentation. We also have an ingenious system that is evolved for running small lot productions. In terms of technology, BKT is known as a great innovator with your R&D keeping its research programmes that are closely knit with the marketing department. How has this seamless connection evolved and how it is being leveraged for product development? Its in our corporate culture. Both marketing and technology teams have been specifically trained to remain open for continuous learning. All information gathered from the market is duly exchanged between both teams resulting in product improvements as well new developments. What are the major technology trends in the OHT sector globally? What are the future trends that you foresee, say in a five-10 year time-frame? We believe that markets are moving towards radialisation due to its obvious benefits in terms of tyre life, fuelefficiency, more productivity, less soil compaction etc, I see end users getting more concerned not only about their vehicles but also for tyres. And they will choose a tyre that offers good value for money. BKT meets all these market demands. One of your major thrusts is the north American geography, where you have built full-fledged operations with veteran marketers. What are the key initiatives

One of the worlds fastest growing off-highway solution providers, Balkrishna Industries Limited, known globally as BKT, continues to surge ahead enlarging its worldwide market share. In order to cater to its widening consumer base, it is expanding its OTR portfolio to live its dream to become the largest and comprehensive makers of speciality tyres for a wide-range of applications from agriculture, mining to construction and forestry segments in the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific. In this interview Managing Director Arvind Poddar unveils the growth strategy of the consumer-centric company. Excerpts from the interview

Arvind Poddar

that they have taken to further deepen BKTs market penetration? Do you see any variations in market preferences there compared to the Asian trend? Definitely our investments in North America have been at right time and its yielding results. Our team there is well experienced in this territory and we are expanding our footprints gradually. Of course the demand patterns are different in North America compared to Asia as farm sizes there are too large demanding larger equipment with bigger tyres. What do you think are the role of distributors in widening BKTs reach in Europe and the Americas? We at BKT believe that distributors are integral to our existence as they are our first connection with the market. Our all time intent and objective is to grow along with our distributors in respective markets. And we have been successful in this endeavour. As you look at emerging market trends, do you think the world has come out of recession? Do you think there will be a

The greatest growth comes from BKTs tractor radial tyre sub-branded AGRIMAX. We offer a complete range of Farm Radials in different series and aspect ratios that find varied applications. Adding to the market acceptability, besides quality, is BKTs brand appeal. Its a brand thats been well-accepted by global OEMs also. One factor that the markets consider as your forte is your ability to respond quickly to customer needs as your product

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pick up in the mining, construction and agriculture sectors? At BKT, we never had a recession. Rather we took last year as a period of opportunity and we actually grew our business and planned for expansion. Similarly farming was all- time high world wide. However, we did see some dip in mining as well construction but both these sectors are now bouncing back. What kind of economic growth that you expect that would boost demand for tyres for off-road applications, including agriculture, industry and construction, earthmoving equipment? could cater to the rising global demand for BKTs wide range of products? Having started with Aurangabad (in the western Indian state of Maharashtra) plant in 1988, we have added two more - Bhiwadi in 2002 and Chopanki in 2006 (Rajasthan) to cater to our customers globally. As our existing facilities are falling short due to rising demand, we are already working on a new greenfield project at Bhuj, Gujarat that will double our capacity. Does your mould shop produce moulds based on designs you develop or according to customers specific What are your strategies to become an OEM leader globally? BKT has been a preferred choice for all leading OEMs globally. Our overseas offices have been effective in catering to global OEMs and Im sure all the good work of Team BKT will bear fruits in times to come. What is your focus on developing the China market? So far we havent focussed on China. We are aware of its potential as a huge market and we will get into it also soon. Besides ISO, what are the global standards to which your products are made to conform? Besides ISO 9000, we have also been certified for ISO14000. We benchmark our products and production processes against the best in the world. How many sizes are you developing annually? We at BKT develop 120 to 150 sizes annually. We have the engineering capability to meet the exacting demands of our customers worldwide. BKT is said to have the fastest turnaround time in New Product Development, which is a world record. How are you able to accomplish such a feat? As I said earlier, we have the engineering skills and market sensitivity to turn out products the customer wants. What we have is a unique mix of market insight, in-house design studio and mould shop, management focus and resource allotment to new product developments with competent teams to carry out all these. Can you give a glimpse of your testing facilities, which are said to be world class? Besides state-of-the-art testing lab, we have also added ultra-large diameter endurance testing facilities as well contact patch pressure distributor monitoring systems. Our testing capabilities are further enhanced due to our association with outdoor testing tracks in Europe. What are your initiatives in achieving economies of scale so that product development and manufacturing costs could be pressed down? While we understand the advantages of small runs, we have never left our sight from economies of scale. Today, we draw a very fine balance between both these aspects due to our specialised software as well experienced team on planning and production.

Other than Europe, we feel all other areas are opening up new projects on infrastructure, mining, housing etc. Also more new investments are being earmarked for farming as food will see a shortage in the coming decade - so we feel there will be ample demand for BKT products. Now that you have established a base in Akron providing market and service support to BKT distributors. What are the major features of this network? The establishment of the North American office is an example of our emphasis on relationship-oriented approach in doing business. BKT is offering complete programme from A to Z based on service, integrity and quality which constitute BKTs core values. At Akron we have a sales team of five professionals and two people to take care of the administration. What are the production facilities that you have built over the years in India that

demands based on their drawings and specifications? All the mould designs are made in-house. We have all the infrastructure as well competent technical teams. At times we do coordinate with our customers for their specific requirements that need to be incorporated in our products. You produce a range of bias and radial farm tyres. Do you envision a gradual shift to radial as it is claimed to have fuel-saving advantages and better retreadability? Of course we see a gradual shift in farm tyres from bias to radial but it cannot happen overnight across the world. Many a markets, due to small farm holdings or soil conditions as well as a lack of knowledge, will continue with bias tyres. While radial tyres do offer fuel efficiency, Im not sure about retreadability as tractor tyres remain on vehicles for many years causing gradual damage to casing.

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BKT is one of the favourites of stock-pickers because of its consistently robust growth in sales and profits. Even during the recent recession, BKT has been rolling ahead with confidence reporting strong sales across 115 countries. Its marketing department has been in over-drive catering to remarkable rise in demand for its wide-range of off-road tyres from agricultural, industrial, construction, earth moving equipment to lawn and garden tyres It is all about value proposition, quality
and wide product portfolio that have made BKT a marketing success story even in times of recession. It is uniquely suited to partner with the best in tyre-trade and be an integral part of the supply chain of OEMs, says Rajesh K. Vyas, head of Marketing. We offer tyres meeting stringent specifications and take up special R&D challenges that come up. We are able to meet custom-made development needs, he told Polymers & tyre Asia. BKT offers the widest range of tyres in each segment, he said adding that good quality tyres at very competitive prices have made the company the preferred choice of customers worldwide. We make aggressive commitments to meet and adhere to all our customers specific requirements with emphasis on timely deliveries, he said. BKT has the capability to develop 150-160 new sizes every year. In fact it has the technological infrastructure to develop new sizes within 8 to10 weeks on finalisation of specifications. It is BKTs quick response time and single- point contact for all marketing and development needs that has made the companys customer-focussed marketing a runaway success, he said. The company makes continuous investment in R&D and offers complete transparency in all aspects of the business. We offer clearly-defined warranty terms and conditions for quick settlements, he said explaining the policy that has helped BKT retain its customer base. On how BKT is able to achieve economies of scale that has made it one of the worlds top competitive OHT makers, he said that there are several factors that contributed to making the company a dominant market player. BKT is meeting market demands as a single source supplier of agricultural and industrial specialty tyres, he said adding that it is well known for having one of the most extensive ranges in OHTs major categories. The main reason for the companys ability to retain customers is its commitment to work closely with them by developing new sizes and designs to quickly react to changing market. BKTs experienced team is backed up by state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities wherein it is ensured that the highest quality products are manufactured. A marketing and customer service team dedicated to offer complete marketing support further backs up its entire product portfolio. the ability to make the products globally available, he said. Adding to its advantage as a market leader is the proven performance capability of BKT products that backs up its value for money proposition. It also has the worlds fastest design and development cycle for OHTs. We have to our credit Triple A ethos, which means Agility, Accessibility and Attention, he said. We are one of the few companies in the world, which is able to quickly design and produce OHTs according to specific market demand. Elaborating that in order to address specific requirements of the markets across geographies, he said BKT remains active in the field seeking necessary information before as well as after we have launched our products there. BKTs sales as well technical teams work in tandem with global distributors to gather the necessary insight into the market so that it can come up with the right product. Due to these unique attributes and development and marketing prowess, we have been able to evolve such a large product range and keep customising products to suit specific markets. Explaining how BKT analyses the market demand from farm to mining, and different geographical regions, he said that in addition to desk researches, BKTs marketing teams gather on-hand

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BKT advantage
Explaining the advantages of connecting with the BKT, he said that the company offers many value propositions over its immediate competition. We offer not only the widest range of OHTs, but also have

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As BKT has one of the widest ranges
of Off-Highway Tyre product portfolios globally, the challenge before its R&D team is to remain agile in order to cater to the specific demand of the market anywhere in the world. It has a team of specialists who are extensively trained in the US and Europe as well as in its modern R&D laboratory and development centre. Heading the team is Dilip Vaidya, Director Technology, who is credited with leading BKTs R&D initiatives and innovations. We have 45 engineers applications. BKTs current thrust areas ncludeinclude steel OTR radial tyres, radial harvester tyres and radial multipurpose truck (MPT) tyres. BKT became a dominant player in the global OHT market because of its ability to cater to a wide geographical market with varying climatic conditions. It has the capability to produce tyres that may call for specialised compounding and treads in line with region-specific requirements. Product customisation has been possible with customers feedback and field visits by BKT team, Vaidya said. This customer-focussed research based on market feedback and its ability to develop products at lesser cost compared to international brands is cited as one of the reasons for BKTs runaway success. The R&D extensively goes for simulation and finite element analyses and other innovative technological tools for the development of new products, Vaidya explained elaborating on its state of the art design and development centre.

innovaTion

For any tyre manufacturer, producing off-highway tyres presents the greatest challenge in terms of design, engineering and compounding. The tyre goes through the most punishing environment imaginable in terms of weight, surface traction and soil and weather conditions. But BKT has the research solution always on tap because of its robust research and development infrastructure, says Dilip Vaidya, Director Technology
allowed BKT to produce the entire range of tyres cost-effectively while conforming to international standards such as ETRTO, T&RA, JATMA and ITTAC. Besides ISO 9000 certification, BKT has also received ISO 14001 certificate for environmental management practices. This is in line with its commitment to corporate civic responsibility. Vaidya says the high quality of BKTs R&D work is a challenge that his engineers have undertaken in a sustainable and consistent manner as they scale new heights in product development. He believes that radial technology, where BKT has gained great expertise, would become more widespread in the years to come. There are distinct advantages for radials over bias in off-highway tyres, he said. However, Vaidya believes that all bias tyres cannot be converted to radials due to several factors. These have their own usefulness. As regards retreadability, not all the tyres are designed for retreading. But for the tyre sizes that are generally retreaded, BKT offers competent products with sufficient retreadability. Vaidya reminds that the customer must understand that retreadability of a tyre solely depends on the severity of first use as well tyre upkeep by end-users. On BKTs R&Ds prowess to design the largest size of OTRs, Vaidya said his team is willing to take up any challenge when size matters. We have already developed tyres up to 51 rim diameter, he said.

Quality culture
Commenting on the major trends that he sees in the design and development of OTR tyres, the R&D head said thatsaid that BKT engineers are moving towards 3D modelling and virtual applications. His team has moved away from yesteryears CAD/CAM that was once used extensively for design and development. 3-D modelling and virtual applications help us fine-tune the design as well offers complete control on specifications. BKTs global reputation for product quality stems from inculcating a unique quality culture among all teams working to produce their world-class tyres. The company zealously adheres to internationally recognised quality and standardisation processes, which have invoked confidence in its products. Quality control is carried out at every stage of the manufacturing process from raw materials to the finished products, Vaidya said. To ensure consistent high quality, BKT employs cutting-edge manufacturing tools that are operated by highly-trained personnel. This has

working with us, he told Polymers & tyre Asia. We spend about 3-5% of company turnover on R&D, he said. This investment in R&D has helped BKT pioneer many products in the OHT segments such as agricultural, industrial, construction, earthmovers, all-terrain vehicles, and lawn and garden vehicle

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Industry-leading quality product at economic price is the only constant that farm tyre veteran Rami Bitran sees in unpredictable markets. As he puts BKTs North America sales operations on overdrive from its Akron office, he is convinced that customers greatly appreciate the unique values that BKT offers that come with the advantage of high-quality technical and service backups that are consistently delivered to customers with convincing efficiency Even when off-highway tyre markets in the past 10 years, the company realised
the United States, Canada and Mexico went through debilitating recession, Rami Bitran was going places. Even through such tough times, he catered to customer demands for BKT tyres in a way they simply could not afford to ignore.

dedicated distributors. Having an intimate knowledge of the market, its logistics and dealership networks, he could build BKTs North America business quickly. Our distributors get products at competitive price points that give them good margins, Bitran said. Since the opening of the BKT office in Akron, we have built a team of seven people. We are comfortable working because of the high credibility of product excellence that BKT enjoys in the market. We are offering best in class service to customers.

Value, not price


Bitran said BKT products are sold because of its quality and value. Its not cheap, but its the value of the products that attracts the buyers, he said. The other aspect that led to BKTs early success in North America has been the flexibility and quick response of the management to the challenges of this tough market. Bitran unveiled his goals: We hope to grow into US$100 million in the next two years from US$70 million right now after just over two years of operations. There is no argument that we are able to achieve and gain a lot because of Team BKT. BKT enjoys market leadership because of the vast product segmentation it enjoys with 1800 stock keeping units (SKUs), half of which are currently sold in North America. Bitran is not after one-time sale. In the true spirit of BKT, there is an obsessive concern to build ongoing relationship with customers.

that it can leverage its unique capabilities to produce speciality tyres according to specific customers needs in the shortest possible time and deliver them to the market, Bitran told Polymers & tyre Asia. BKT, therefore, decided two-and-half years ago to set up an office in Akron, the tyre capital of the world. Soon Bitran developed a powerful network of

He always found opportunities in the farm and industrial sectors and positioned BKT in a way that would make it irresistible. The confidence that he has brought to bear on the market is derived from his decades of experience garnered through hardwork with many US-based speciality tyre manufacturers. Although BKT has been selling in North America for

experiences, be it mines or farms. We also receive valued feedback from our experienced distributors who are locally based in the respective regions. All these data are assimilated and made to use to ensure appropriate products for varied applications. About BKTs huge distribution and logistics network that ensures constant and continuous market reach, he said that the company qualifies its distributors before commencing the business. And during the process, we analyse their capabilities as regards their market reach, footprints, sales and operational team etc. And to add, in India we have created

humongous and modern warehouses to ensure efficient Supply Chain Management.

consumption, the buyer needs quality commitments from a brand before they decide. BKTs strong marketing capabilities, which have enabled it to be a world leader in all segments of the OHTs, have been built with thoroughness. He said that over the past 15 years it has gained immense experience of the international market. This has given BKT a firm footing globally. It has been made possible because of the intense efforts off the dedicated Team BKT. It nurtures excellent relations with distributors in all these countries, he said. As BKT soars as a global market leader in OHTs, it is confident that its marketing mantra is bringing in the rewards it rightly deserves.
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Market trends
Explaining the current major marketing trends and the developments in the coming five years that would have a major impact on OHT demand he said that customers are very knowledgeable and take purchase decisions based on better returns on their investment. Due to easy access to information, the end-users have become more savvy and seek better reward on their investments. Tyres being second to fuel in nature of

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