A well-defined safe product will have considerable performance- Ranjan Lamba
Falken- the brand from Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Japan is arguably the fastest growing tyre brand in the country today. The brand which was launched just about an year back has surpassed many major rivals such as Continental, Pirelli, Hankook , Kumho and is now knocking at the doors of Yokohama in terms of sales made in the Indian market. The quality of the product also plays an important role and undoubtedly Falken today offers great quality products at competitive price points. Falken is also helped by the fact that it is backed up by an experienced team of professionals from Stamford tyres, Sumitomo and some very experienced tyre industry professionals from India.
Mr. Ranjan Lamba, who is the Country Head for Falken Tyre India was the first person to join the Falken team. He has steadfastly and successfully steered Falken tyre sales in India. Mr. Lamba, an old hand in the tyre industry, has tirelessly worked to set up a dealer channel for this brand and make it work. While working on this piece Tyre Times team met with tyre dealers to understand more about the phenomenon called Ranjan Lamba. Dealers were appreciative of the fact that he is very approachable and praised his hands-on approach towards the market. He has a deep insight into what works best with the customer and also the dealer. Tyre Times caught up with Mr. Lamba in his busy schedule to talk to him and gather some insight as to how he succeeded in the market where the others have struggled.
1. Tell us something about your experience in this field. How did you enter the tyre industry?
I started my career with Goodyear, following which I spent a number of years with JK Tyre and subsequently at Apollo International. I have also spent many of my learning years with Metro tyres. Over the course of this career, I am indeed very fortunate to have worked at almost all verticals of the tyre industry. However, I must admit here that despite having worked at very senior levels, learning never ends.
I strongly feel that all activities in the tyre industry do have various cross-links with marketing activities. In fact, my marketing skills that have been honed since the beginning of this career have actually been responsible for my growth in this industry. I truly am lucky to have worked with the best of industries and the best of people who guided me towards the right path to growth and success.
2. What kind of learning and experiences has Falken provided to you, which may be different from others?
I have been with Falken Tyre India since its beginning and I am thankful to the top management of Sumitomo Rubber Industries (SRI) and Stamford tyres for having put their trust in me in order to formulate and execute various policies and procedures. Their unmatched vision was tuned to the Indian market structure and their support was extended to each and every individual of the sales force. My learning in Falken has been tremendous as I receive support and guidance from two of the world’s best rubber giants SRI and Stamford. They in turn have the best brains in India to support and guide.
3. Why did it take so long for Falken to venture into India?
Falken entered at a time when many other MNCs were building their bases in the country. We needed to conduct adequate Research & Development in order to build our product portfolio in India. The demands of Indian customers are quite different from those in other parts of the world. Since surveying and understanding the market takes time, we entered in April 2013.
4. As per the company website, 3 models of Azenis, 1 of Sincera, 2 of Wildpeak, 1 Linam and 1 Ziex are available. Any plans of having some more tyres in the current year?
We have a complete range of high end tyres which shall be launched very soon. However, we are studying the performances of our current products and shall accordingly bring in variants either in new sizes, or make some additions to the present range.
5. What are the overall plans that you have outlined for the year 2014? Any specific plans to increase sales and outlets?
We have been in the market since April 2013 and the outcome till now has been very encouraging for us. Our strengths are our team and dealer network, towards which we continue to increase investments. We first wanted to have a considerable presence across India, which we have now. Thus we are now looking to expand into new untapped areas and others where we are not present till date. We also have considerable marketing support to push B2C sales.
6. Do you plan to stick to multi-brand outlets, which are currently doing well, or would you consider moving to single-brand ones?
Our brand and our presence in the market at present do not call for single-brand outlets. Though we do have exclusive Falken outlets in some parts of India, our main focus is still on multi-brand outlets.
7. What kind of brand promotion activities do you have in mind (like the Falken draw, for example)?
We started with many small but effective promotional activities and they have paid off well. We are small compared to the overall size of the Indian market and therefore do not see any worth in going to Mass Print or Electronic Media. I would rather want that we build up our brand with the support of the dealers and that we continue to support them.
8. Globally Falken is into motorsports such as drifting and Le Mans. Do you plan to use Falken tyres for Indian motorsports as well, such as the Polo GT Cup or rallying?
We have lots of activities around the world but at present we don’t foresee any similar possibilities in India. These things will come up automatically as the brand becomes stronger. First we want to have a strong base and then we would venture into other activities.
9. At present you are selling only Car & SUV tyres. Do you have plans of getting into the truck/bus segment as well?
No, we do not have any plan to get into the truck/bus segment at the moment. We are concentrating on the Passenger Car Radial (PCR) and SUV segments. However, we continue to analyse and see newer sizes and if required different patterns could be introduced into the Indian market.
10. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How do you like to spend free time?
I am inclined towards learning and trying to learn every small thing that helps to do my work better and live better. I spend my free time in reading and writing. I also like travelling and meeting different kinds of people from various fields. Apart from the above, I am a strong believer of God and therefore like to spend some time in spiritual reading and knowing more about it.
11. What according to you is the top priority- performance or safety (with respect to tyres)?
The following are all equally important criteria with respect to tyres- Mileage, Value (Cost per km.), Performance (Comfort, Steering, and Braking) and Safety Rating (V, H etc.). In fact, one cannot exist without another- a well-defined safe product will have considerable performance and a high performing product would, in turn, provide good safety features. Safety is a key characteristic for rating the performance of a tyre.
12. Where do you wish to see yourself post retirement?
I see retirement as something totally different from most (re-try-man) and I believe that one never retires. However, I do think and believe that I wish to share all my knowledge and experience (whatever little I have) with the industry and my colleagues. I wish I could retire but I actually would love to continue with my work till I can.
13. What according to you is the key to success in this tyre industry?
At the moment, there are too many products in the market and there is tough competition. However, just selling the products really has no meaning. It is important to put the product in the right place for the right people, and educating customers about various technological features and advantages is a must.
In totality, the sales force has to focus on techno-commercial aspects rather than commercial selling, which would display their competitive edge over other competitors. For this the sales team has to acquire adequate knowledge about the product and they should be able to share this knowledge with dealers in order to be successful.
Mr. Ranjan Lamba’s thoughts on imparting knowledge to dealers and customers totally make sense to us, in today’s mad world of commercial selling. Today’s customer is smart, price-sensitive and does not wish to compromise on quality at the same time. Tyre Times feels that Mr. Lamba’s knowledge will certainly help Falken meet customer needs through its tyres for a long time to come.