Balkrishna Industries (BKT), one of India’s leading off-highway tire manufacturers, has begun a $100 million project to establish a manufacturing presence in the U.S. It will be BKT’s sixth production plant and the group’s first outside India, with annual production capacity of 20,000 metric tonnes intended to serve agriculture, construction and all other elements of the off-highway sector while also providing a springboard to markets throughout the Americas.
Rajiv Poddar, joint managing director, said, “At present, Europe represents BKT’s largest sales market, accounting for more than half of the company’s turnover. But the Americas are becoming an increasingly interesting and expanding market. This more than positive outlook led to the decision of establishing a new wholly-owned subsidiary company in the U.S.A. to set up a greenfield project for the construction of a new tire manufacturing plant.”
BKT estimates it has around 6% of global off-highway tire business, with products for ag applications accounting for 65% of the group’s $815 million sales in 2016. The industrial sector accounts for 14% and OTR (construction, earthmoving and mining) 13% of revenues, according to the company.
Considerable gains have been made in the highly competitive European market since BKT entered the off-highway sector with bias-ply tires in the mid-1990s.
Agrimax tractor radials were introduced in 2004 and in the past 6 years or so the company has produced increasingly sophisticated high performance tires for high horsepower tractors and harvesters. It also secured factory supply contracts with several European manufacturers.
The group’s most recent major investment — the $500 million Bhuj plant in the Indian state of Gujarat — doubled the group’s production capacity when it was opened in 2015. The 300 acre site includes housing, medical facilities, a school and sports center for more than 400 families of workers at the plant.
All plants manufacturing molds and finished tires have secured ISO 9001: 2000 quality certification, says BKT. As a result of committing approximately 4.5% of revenues to research and development, they are said to introduce 60-80 new products and sizes each year.
The company hopes to identify a potential location for its new U.S. plant by the end of the year, complete land purchase by the end of the first quarter 2019 and complete the project by the end of March 2021.