Driving Innovation
Going back in time, a gamut of Indian tyre manufacturers was focused on highway tyres for mass consumption. But the late 80s brought a change in this mindset, and with the passage of time, the shift towards OTR tyres became the need of the hour. Today, we have ushered into an era where India has emerged as one of the leading manufacturing and consumption hubs of OTR tires primarily in the agriculture and mining segments. In order to meet the growing demand, manufacturers are complimenting their production capacities with rigorous R&D and innovation, a telling example of which is the gradual shift to radialisation.

The driving force behind constant innovation is the rate at which OEMs are technologically upgrading their offerings for mining and infrastructure sectors. Be they backhoe loaders, forklifts, tipper trucks, dumpers, cranes, or excavators, all equipment’s go through frequent technological upgradations these days, with respect to diversity of applications and hauling loads. And since OEMs are the major consumers of OTR tyres, it’s imperative that tire manufacturers periodically tailor their products in accordance with the clients’ requirements. 

Apart from this, OTR tyres of the modern age comply with the international standards and score high on abrasion resistance, fuel economy, and energy efficiency. Undoubtedly, innovation has emerged as the key to success. Today, the domestic OTR tyre market is quite competitive and highly concentrated and is catered by top notch players. There has been a noticeable change in the technological upgradations that the Indian industry has adopted.

In the Indian landscape, the market is highly competitive and dominated by MRF Ltd, Apollo, Tyres, Bridgestone Company, CEAT Tyres, Goodyear Tyre & Rubber Company, TVS Eurogrip, and JK Tyre & Industries. In 2023, JK Tyres developed India’s largest OTR tyre, bagging a spot in the Limca Book of Records.

Market trends
“The OTR tyre industry in India is benefiting from the increasing infrastructural developments and the government's focus on expanding and modernising the transportation and logistics sectors. This has led to a surge in demand for high-performance OTR tyres. Additionally, the push towards self-reliance and the ‘Make in India’ initiative has further bolstered domestic production capabilities, reducing dependence on imports and fostering innovation and competitiveness among local manufacturers,” said Ashok P Chhajer, Sr. General Manager – OE Sales, (Domestic), Balkrishna Industries. BKT as a key player in this sector, is optimistic about the future, is committed to contributing to the industry’s growth, and has continuously invested in state-of-the-art technology and research and development to stay ahead of the curve. “Our focus on sustainability and efficiency in manufacturing processes aligns with global best practices, ensuring that we produce world-class tyres that cater to both domestic and international markets.”

According to Rajiv Budhraja, Director General, Automotive Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (ATMA), the global anti-China sentiment and the ‘China Plus One’ factor have greatly helped Indian players. Further, with passenger car radial (PCR) tyres providing better returns in the European and North American markets, Michelin and Pirelli are moving into the US and European regions. This has opened avenues for local innovation to be scaled for the domestic market and exports.

“India is going through a boon period as far as infrastructure growth is concerned. The government increased the infrastructure outlay for FY2024-25 to Rs 11.11 billion and this has given a reciprocal boost to spending on equipment to develop infrastructure. The increased demand for construction and mining equipment has correspondingly resulted in a higher demand for tyres, both from OEs as well as from the after-market. As part of the Atmanirbhar movement from the government, there is a push for the power sector, which is also significantly dependent on coal mining. As this focus enhances, we can expect to see the demand go further up,” said Rohit Mathur, Head Strategy, OTR and Communications, Bridgestone India.

Shyam Gyanani, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Trident International, said, “Our focus has been to develop a deep understanding of customers application and tyre related problems and develop application specific tyres and services that reduce machine downtime by eliminating punctures, improve safety, increase tyre life and reduce tyre maintenance.”

Product mix
The mining industry is slowly moving towards radialisation in tyres. This is growing at approximately 20 per cent for the industry and even OEMs are preferring radial tyres especially in the mining segment. “We play almost exclusively in the radial segment as such we are geared up to meet the expected increased demand for radials by the infrastructure sector,” said Mathur.

Bridgestone is known for superior quality right across our product offerings and this holds true for our OTR tyres as well. “We focus on mining- both underground and open cast and dumpers for construction use. Our latest product in the OTR segment is called “Mastercore”. This has longer life, better grip and has better durability. Bridgestone’s global R&D has developed a compound for that enables to be cut resistant—a very important feature where the OTR is usually deployed in rough and rugged terrains.”

Says Chhajer, “Radial tyres offer several advantages such as improved durability, better fuel efficiency, and enhanced traction to name a few. These benefits are driving the adoption of radial technology in various applications within the construction, mining, and agricultural sectors. However, the adoption is very slow and still at its nascent stage.”

“At BKT, we offer a product mix as per the market demand. While bias tyres still hold a significant share due to their robustness and cost-effectiveness in certain applications, we have been expanding our range of radial tyres to meet the growing demand. Our radial tyres are designed with advanced technology to provide superior performance, longer life, and increased comfort for operators, and have gained huge acceptability.”

“Certain categories of equipment such as high-speed cranes, long distance haul trucks lend themselves more easily to radicalisation than others. There is equipment such as port equipment, forklifts, skid steers, backhoes, where the use case of bias tyres is more compelling. Currently our product mix is predominantly solid and bias, but this is expected to evolve in times to come,” said Gyanani.

“Our offering includes ready to fit foam-filled tyres as well as solid tyres that deliver a low total cost of ownership coupled with peace of mind. Trident has taken a proactive long-term approach to drive business growth and is making substantial investments in design, engineering manufacturing and testing capabilities.”

Tech drives tyre
Said Gyanani, “Innovation, be in in product or process is one of the key pillars of our company. Some noteworthy mentions include; development of a unique non directional tread pattern (that has been granted a patent in the US), which reduces wear and the need for a left and right fitment. A patented solid tyre performance monitoring system (SMARTIRE) that monitors various parameters critical to tyre safety and longevity. A reinforced foam filling compound that reduces the carbon footprint by over 35 per cent.”

Says Mathur, “We believe in the principles of Kaizen, which essentially means incremental innovation and Genbutsu Genba, which translates to decision making based on verified, on-site observations. This has resulted in Bridgestone giving products that are sustainable, have a longer life and do not compromise on quality.”

Despite robust growth, the Indian OTR tyre market faces challenges related to economic fluctuations, a need for continuous innovation, and unprecedented supply chain-related disruptions as raw materials account for nearly 70 per cent of the manufacturing cost of a tyre.

Poised for growth
That said, the Indian OTR tyre market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 8.4 per cent by 2028, according to a Blueweave Consulting report. The industry is poised to grow by integrating emerging relevant technology such as smart tyres, with sensors and monitoring systems enabling real-time monitoring of tyre conditions, performance data collection and predictive maintenance; developing eco-friendly tyre solutions with a reduced carbon footprint; improving recyclability to address environmental concerns; and continuing optimisation of tyre construction while offering stability, traction and efficiency.

The continued push towards capital expenditure provided by the 2024 Budget and schemes like the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) provide the OTR industry with a rich scope to exploit mining and construction opportunities.