BEACHWOOD, Ohio—An Indian materials firm has hired a rubber industry veteran to help the company introduce its line of fluoroelastomers into North America.
Brian Barkes was hired in mid-March as the North American general manager of GFL Americas L.L.C., the U.S. subsidiary of India's Gujarat Fluorochemicals Ltd.
Barkes most recently had worked for five years as business development manager for Trostel Ltd.'s compounding business, which now is owned by Preferred Compounding. He started his career as a chemist, with stints at Uniroyal Plastics, Nishakawa Standard and Gates Corp., before turning to the sales side of the business and working with FKMs and other fluoropolymers for six years at Solvay Solexis.
A recruiter contacted Barkes on GFL's behalf, and he learned that the Indian firm last October had hired his old colleague Gabriele Sanvito as global technical manager for the firm's Fluonox-brand FKMs. Sanvito has 20 years of experience with FKMs at Solvay and its predecessor firm Ausimont.
"When I heard that, that carried a lot of weight for me as a technical resource as well as someone knowing customers in the market," said Barkes, who also currently serves as assistant treasurer for the ACS Rubber Division. He discussed his new position during the spring Rubber Division meeting in Beachwood, Ohio.
Shortly after joining GFL, he made a visit to the firm's headquarters in India and was pleased with what he saw. "They had a real commitment to safety," Barkes said. "Also, many of the staff there had advanced degrees, yet they were a very young staff. The average age probably was 30, and they were very eager to learn."
Road to FKMs
GFL is part of the Inox Group, a $3 billion chemical company in India of which GFL accounts for about $450 million, he said. It started making PTFE materials a decade ago and has been selling them into the U.S. for about five or six years, according to Barkes. It has compounding for PTFEs in Rockdale, Texas, along with warehousing there and in New Jersey.
In 2015 the firm started producing FKMs at one of its two factories in Gujarat, India, with annual capacity of 2,000 metric tons. Before entering North America, GFL first looked at penetrating the Indian market and getting qualified with some of the European OEMs.
"I think they wanted to first learn and make improvements and changes based on input from those markets," Barkes said. The firm received good feedback from the large OEMs—many of those being global accounts with potential for U.S. penetration, and the decision was made to target North America, he said.