NEW DELHI, India — Known principally for the past five decades as a producer of bicycle and scooter tires, Ralson India Ltd. is making the jump to a full-fledged tire company with the opening of a state-of-the-art truck/bus tire factory in west-central India.
Ralson's decision to enter the U.S. market, disclosed at this year's SEMA Show, was made roughly three and half years earlier, when the owners of the company approved investing $350 million in a greenfield factory in Indore, Madya Pradesh, in west-central India.
Ralson, which claims to be one of the world's top five two-wheeler tire manufacturers, began producing automotive tires in 2000 at a plant opened near the firm's headquarters in Ludhiana.
To get the truck tire project off the ground, Ralson Group set up a new company, Ralson Tyres Ltd.
The new plant was built over a period of about 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Manjul Pawha, managing director of the new company. Ralson acquired the land near Indore, a city of 2 million-plus residents in Madyah Pradesh, in January 2020; construction started in October 2020.
The plant went into trial production this past June, with an annual production capacity of over 1 million tires, Pahwa said.
The plant spans 750,000 square feet with production occupying only about 20% of that at startup, Pawha said. Expanding capacity to 2 million units will be accommodated in the short term within the factory's existing space.
The plant uses a nitrogen-cure system instead of the hot water cure system which allows better control of the curing process, company execs said, leading to greater tire uniformity. The nitrogen process, which conserves water, is one of many environmental protection initiatives deployed at the plant.