AKRON—BKT-Tires (USA) Inc. is looking to expand its presence in construction and off-the-road tires following an especially strong year in North America in 2008.
Buoyed by that success, farm and OTR tire marketer BKT moved into larger quarters Aug. 15 in Akron—a 1,400-sq.-ft. office.
The wholly owned subsidiary of Mumbai, India's Balkrishna Industries Ltd. had been working out of a much smaller facility in the city, but based on last year's success the firm decided it needed a more permanent office in a more prominent location.
BKT accounted for 16 percent, or $52 million, of Balkrishna's $325 million in tire-related sales last year, said Bill Haney, who manages BKT's sales in North America.
Overall, Balkrishna, part of India industrial conglomerate Siyaram-Poddar Group, reported sales of $550 million. It manufactures tires at three plants in India, including the newest one in Chopanki, which opened in 2006.
The Chopanki factory, which has capacity to produce 50,000 tons yearly of radial farm, OTR and industrial tires, helped fuel the recent growth of BKT, especially in larger-sized tires, Haney said. The company also owns a mold shop for construction and OTR tires and has plans to build a fourth tire plant in India, scheduled to come on stream in 2011.
Altogether, Balkrishna produces 140,000 tons of tires yearly at the three factories. Ninety-five percent of the output is destined for export, with 70 percent of that going to Europe. The rest is sold in the U.S., the Middle East and, overall, in more than 100 countries.
BKT has five employees in the U.S., led by Rami Bitran, manager of the North American team, and Haney.
The other employees are Jack Fenner, who handles OTR sales out of Charlotte, N.C.; Ken Martin, regional sales, based in Memphis, Tenn.; and Kathy Hartong, logistics manager, based in Akron.
Bitran and Haney joined the company in March 2008 after leaving Trelleborg Wheel Systems Americas Inc., a farm and industrial tire marketer based in Hartville, Ohio.
Fenner is an industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience with Continental Tire North America Inc. and more recently American Pacific Industries Inc.
Together, Bitran and Haney relaunched BKT in the U.S., introducing what Haney described as a “unique marketing plan and pricing model.”
“Rami has good vision when it comes to the marketing program,” he said. The pricing structure, he added, is simple. “We maintain limited exclusive arrangements as appropriate for marketing to supplement distribution efforts, and we've partnered with people who are progressive in OTR and farm tire distribution.”
In the U.S., BKT has no warehouses but instead does business primarily through large importers.
BKT offers more than 1,700 stock-keeping units in the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Mexico, where the company is starting to make inroads, Haney said.
Products include complete lines of bias and radial farm tires, implement tires in U.S. and European standards, flotation metric radials and U.S. standard, industrial pneumatic forklift tires, ATV tires, seven skid steer sizes, construction tires, lawn and garden styles, underground mining and forestry skidder tires, bias OTR tires up to 51 inches in rim diameter, and four sizes of steel radial OTR tires.
The company's newest offerings are high-speed farm tires capable of speeds up to 45 mph.
Ag tires account for 60 percent of the company's sales in North America, with OTR and construction tires accounting for 40 percent.
“We're doing everything we can to expand our OTR presence here,” Haney said.
BKT also is eyeing more distribution. While the distribution model is mostly filled, he said the company is “looking for arrangements that make sense, especially for construction and OTR.”
As for BKT and Balkrishna's long-term goals, Haney describes them as ambitious, while Bitran is more specific.
“We want to claim a position among the leading three (brands) Firestone, Titan and Goodyear,” he said.