There’s a new leader in the Indian tyre market. Raghupati Singhania, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, JK Tyres, recently acquired Tornel, a Mexican tyre maker with an installed capacity of 6.6 million tyres, for Rs 270 crore. This will take JK Tyres’ annual capacity to 15 million units and make it India’s numero uno tyre maker. Apollo Tyres, which was #1 till now, has a capacity of 8-10 million tyres.Singhania has almost single-handedly pulled his company out of the mess it had got into in the 1990s, when it sank deep into debt of several hundred crores. Of course, he was helped in no small measure by the boom in the Indian automobile sector. But to his credit, he was among the first to identify and focus on new and profitable niches such as truck and tractor radials.
The Tornel acquisition will not only give JK Tyres additional capacity but also an entry in the lucrative Latin and North American markets. Singhania has said that he will utilise Tornel’s 282 sales outlets in the Western Hemisphere to distribute the JK Tyres brand as well. Then, he plans to invest Rs 430 crore to expand domestic capacity, too. Rising rubber prices notwithstanding, things are looking good for him.
However, despite his recent successes, Singhania’s greatest contribution lies elsewhere—in JK Tyres’ determined support of Indian motor sport. Every successful Indian racing driver today, including Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandok, has been groomed and supported by JK Tyres. And that has been in no small part due to Singhania’s own interest in motor sport.
— Kushan Mitra