Total Oil’s R&D centre in Mumbai accelerates its India growth story

Total Oil’s India innings began 25 years ago, in 1993, when it introduced lubricants for automotive and industrial applications.

By Nilesh Wadhwa calendar 20 Oct 2017 Views icon18217 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Total Oil’s R&D centre in Mumbai accelerates its India growth story

APAC R&D centre housed in Mahape, Mumbai, is the driving force for the global energy major, which is betting big on India for sales of its automotive lubricants, oil exploration and also to increase the level of contribution to the parent company. 

When it comes to growth on a global scale, any multinational worth its brand today necessarily has to focus on emerging markets, of which India (and China) is the one with huge potential. One of the fastest growing economies with one of the youngest populations and a vehicle parc – both on four and two wheels – that’s growing at a steady clip, India is a market on which companies which are betting big on the future. The Paris-headquartered Total Oil, the fourth largest global oil and gas major, is also bullish on the India growth story and it comes as a no surprise that it is looking at more than just selling its existing products.

This company comes with scale to match its ambition: In 2016, it posted a sales revenue of Rs 945,654 crore, netted an income of Rs 52,431 crore, and allocated Rs 6,317 crore for its global R&D. Total Oil’s global revenue comes from three major streams – oil drilling (50 percent), automotive (30-35 percent) and the textile sector (15-20 percent).

Total Oil’s India innings began 25 years ago, in 1993, when it introduced lubricants for automotive and industrial applications. In 1998, it forayed into the LPG market with its fully integrated LPG import terminal in Mangalore. The company markets its LPG under the TotalGaz brand and caters to demand in the domestic, commercial, industrial and automotive segments. But lubes is where the real action is. The company’s lubricants division currently has a 1,000-strong automotive and industrial products range markete under the Total and Elf brands. Other than engine oils, it also sells  coolants, greases, brake fluids and gear oil.

Speaking to Autocar Professional on the company’s presence in the domestic lubricant market, Karoly Repas, senior VP (Sales, Marketing and Technical), Total Oil India, says, “The lubricants division also offers industrial lubricants for sectors like auto components, steel, power, infrastructure, cement, chemical, textile and food processing. The lubricants market in India is estimated to be at 2.25 million tonnes and is expected to grow at 2.5 percent CAGR by 2020.” With the automobile industry currently posting 9.26 year-on-year growth (April-August 2017), demand for the automotive lubes sector can only get stronger.


Foreseeing speedier growth in the Asia-Pacific region, its third-largest volume driver, the oil and energy major, which has two research centres in France, was keen to set up its first overseas research centre there purely to facilitate a faster market response. India, China, Singapore and South Korea were the shortlisted countries where the first overseas Total ANAC Lab outside Europe was to be set up. 



What helped swing the deal in India’s favour was the country being home to some of the best engineering and research talent in the world. Thus, it was not long before Technical Centre Asia Pacific (TCAP) was set up in Mhape, Mumbai.

While the initial plan was to provide technical assistance to its product lines and scientific support to its subsidiaries and customers in the APAC and Middle East markets, TCAP has now interlaced these skills and expertise in R&D as well. The company now actively collaborates with leading institutes in the country for its workforce and researchers, among others.

TCAP, which is spread over 600 square metres, is equipped with more than 80 state-of-the-art equipment that facilitates over 130 different methods of evaluation, along with giving value-added technical support to its partners and customers in product development, analysis, product training and field testing. This is in synergy with its main R&D centres in Europe that currently are staffed with around 220 researchers.

The India research centre mainly conducts activities in lubricants (automotive transmission, off-road, industry), special fluids (hydrocarbon solvents) and fuel additives, while it also responsible for the evaluation and homologation of the Group I and Group II base oils for Total lubricants globally. TCAP has today evolved into a global competence research centre within the R&D organisation for the energy major for its expansive product portfolio.



The India R&D centre, which began operations with only four staffers, now has 30 highly skilled researchers working on different verticals. TCAP aims to increase its researcher strength to 60 in a bid to increase its contribution from the existing level of 20 percent to the parent company.

While the numbers may seem modest, Total Oil has a stringent scrutinisation policy in place when it comes to recruiting researchers.

While most of the researchers or engineers have PhD degrees along with international working experience, 90 percent of the technicians have a Masters in Science with the remainder being engineering graduates.

Speaking to Autocar Professional on TCAP’s focus, Franck Eydoux, MD, Technical Center Asia Pacific, Total Oil India, says, “TCAP works on engine oil developments such as MCO, HDDO and PCMO as well as on UTTO (Universal Tractor Transmission Oil), off-road and industrial lubricants. The products formulated at TCAP are designed with the selection of the right base oil with the best additives. This has helped us meet success with OEMs like Honda Cars India, Maruti Suzuki India and Royal Enfield, among others.“

Eydoux further states, “Our goal for TCAP is to be recognised as an excellent research centre not only internally within the Total organisation but externally as well and to be active in the development of crucial new products for business lines. We are working on developing partnerships with universities, IITs and other companies. Currently, our aim is to contribute 25 percent towards global R&D for business solutions. ”


Talking about synthetic fuels and its development, Eydoux says, “We are looking for any kind of solution product. Synthetic fuel is part of the portfolio that we are working on. TCAP and our research centre in France have regular joint meetings and workshops, and work together.”

Commenting on the global phenomenon of electric vehicles (EVs), Eydoux says, “For EVs, there are very specific technology needs, and we are working internally on evolution of new technologies. We will be ready on time when the new technology will be in the markets. One of the aims of research is to anticipate. We are working on all of this new technology and programmes to be ready on time and have the answers for customers in the market.”

India recently opened its doors to opportunities for private entities for exploration and production of hydrocarbons. It is learnt that Total Oil is one of the international majors keen to commercialise on this opportunity. Autocar Professional also learns that Total Oil India, which currently has 32 key products in the automotive lubricants market under the Total and Elf brands, is in advanced plan mode to launch a brand-new lubricant called ‘Hi-Perf’ which has been developed and manufactured at TCAP for two-wheelers.

Going forward, expect more news to emanate from this innovation factory. 


(This article was first published in the October 1, 2017 print edition of Autocar Professional) 


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