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Petronas Lubricants International’s regional managing director for Asia, Giuseppe Pedretti says the company is strengthening its distribution channel in India to make further inroads into the country's automobile lubricant sector.
Petronas Lubricants International’s regional managing director for Asia, Giuseppe Pedretti says the company is strengthening its distribution channel in India to make further inroads into the country's automobile lubricant sector.

'Despite Covid-19 impact India remains a promising market'

  • Giuseppe Pedretti, regional managing director for Asia at Petronas Lubricants International says that after a couple of months' low, the company saw quick recovery
  • The government’s focus on construction, agriculture and industrial sectors augurs well for the lubricants industry, says Pedretti

Mumbai: Covid-19 may have put a spanner in the works for lubricant companies in India but with rise in preference for personal mobility, companies continue to bet on the India growth story. Petronas Lubricants International’s regional managing director for Asia, Giuseppe Pedretti says the company, which commissioned its lubricants blending plant in Patalganga, Maharashtra, last year, is strengthening its distribution channel in India to make further inroads into the sector. Edited excerpts:

Has covid-19 had any impact on your lubricant facility and market in India?

Absolutely. We have not been spared and like other manufacturers, we are equally impacted by this pandemic. Our team in India have shown great resilience despite the challenging circumstances. We have been back in business with eased restrictions from the government, and with full compliance to strict standard operating procedures, and health and safety precautions at our facility to protect the wellbeing of our employees and the community. While the market was low for couple of months, and we saw quick recovery particularly in the agriculture industry.

How do you see the Indian lubricants markets performing for your company over the next few years?

PLI notices the bright future of the Indian lubricants market especially with the government’s focus and effort to accelerate the country’s construction, agriculture and industrial sectors. In automotive, India is the world’s largest 2-wheel market so we see a lot of opportunity that complements our growth strategy in this area, as well as in the passenger and commercial vehicle segments. The adoption of electric vehicles in the country and the complimenting government policies towards reducing CO2 emissions from transportation is also opportunity for PLI to leverage our technological expertise in developing fluids that promote a more sustainable future for mobility.

The commencement of our lubricant blending plant in Patalganga, Maharashtra last year further reinforces our commitment and belief towards India’s growth story. It has pushed us to step up on our expansion game to become the leading provider of sustainable solutions in the country. The plant, has a capacity of 97,000 mt annually. It also hosts a full-fledged technical laboratory to meet the increasing demand of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in India and provide best in class products and services to our customers.

Barring a few organized players, the lubes market is largely a fragmented sector in India. Does that interfere with your growth and volume/ sales projections?

We plan to be the top five lubricant companies globally in the next five years and India is one of our key markets for growth. With the recent launch of our lubricant blending plant in Patalganga, we are in a strong position to expand our operations as well as our brand reach in India. Along with this, we are focusing on digitising the go-to-market value chain for better service as this will be a key differentiator between PLI and other market players in India. The digitisation of process will not only better our service offering, but it will also improve direct engagement with our customers. We have also started our social media journey and have exciting plans lined up for consumers to know and experience our brands.

Certainly, with the prolonged impact of covid-19, there is some shift in the timeline. Nevertheless, we are keeping a close watch on the recovery pattern and responding to market needs accordingly towards achieving our goal.

Are your plans to scale up in India in place, or would they be put on the backburner?

India has always been an important market for PLI and the investment we have made in production and our facility is testimony of our commitment here. As mentioned earlier, covid-19 has affected our business and our timelines. However, the digitization of our value chain—a journey we had embarked on before the pandemic hit, will serve as a strong backbone supporting our progress strategy.

What is your strategy to expand distribution to increase your touchpoints?

In highstreet, we are strengthening our presence with dedicated distributor channels and focusing our effort to increase our presence from current 15,000 to 35,000 retail outlets. With Covid-19, the digital landscape has become even more critical in ensuring product accessibility. We’ve also got a full-fledged digital app for our secondary market (retail/dealers) and influencers (mechanics). [The PETRONAS India App can be accessed via Google Play Store]. We have a dedicated route-to-arket team looking after this initiative, and a large portion of work is completed. The channel is well in place to increase touchpoints to realize our objective.

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