L to R - Pranay Thapa (Managing Partner at Blue Bird Automotive), Rajiv Kumar Sharma (Managing Partner at Blue Bird Automotive), Sharad Malhotra (President, Automotive Refinish, Nippon Paint (India)) and Amit Sharma (Managing Partner at Blue Bird Automotive)
Nippon, the Japanese paint manufacturer which is a key supplier to Toyota in India, has set up its state-of-the-art facility for car enthusiasts and vehicle owners in Gurgaon.
A first of its initiatives in India, OEM paint supplier Nippon has tied up with Gurgaon-based Blue Bird Automotive to come up with a body repair and paint workshop in the millennium city.
The company's facility, christened Nippon Paint X'press, is located in Sector-52A in Gurgaon and is spread over 22,000 square feet. It has the capacity to accommodate 15 cars at any given moment, with the intent of offering quick and qualitative repair within 12 hours of the vehicle coming in.
Nippon will be using its range of environment-friendly paints, primers and clear coats, which are all being initially imported from Japan and Europe, and the company says that it strives to offer better quality than what is offered at the authorised outlets or small neighbourhood garages, and at a fraction (three-fourth) of the cost.
While Blue Bird Automotive has done the groundwork with establishing the facility, Nippon has partnered by supplying equipment, consumables, trained manpower and also bringing in its colour robot - a first of its kind to be installed in India.
“The robot runs our software and is machine learning enabled. It will scan the surface of the vehicle to know the colour and will automatically formulate the exact paint shade without any manual intervention,” explained Sharad Malhotra, president, Automotive Refinish, Nippon Paint India.
Malhotra tells that the company has plans to establish the Paint X'press brand in the market before running on an expansion spree through a franchise model. “This will require us to run these centres ourselves over the next two years at least where we are targeting four more centres in the main catchment areas across the country. However, bringing cost viability with these imported paint products will remain a challenge on our profits. This is a flagship project and a lot would depend upon the response we receive for it,” he added.
The company is majorly looking at a lot of premium car owners in Gurgaon, who are pressed for time coming to the workshop, and also enthusiasts who are keen on getting a top-notch repair job done. A stable inflow also lies in the form of fleet operators such as Zoomcar and LeasePlan, which cannot afford high downtime of the vehicles.
Blue Bird Automotive is also tying up with various insurance companies for cashless facility and will offer ‘Cera-Bond’ ceramic coatings and other car maintenance facilities available at the workshop as well.
A growing India business
Nippon Paint entered the Indian market in 2011 and offers products both at the OE and aftermarket level. While the company operates its three plants, one each in Chennai, Mumbai and Bawal, its automotive business clocked overall revenue of around Rs 227 crore in FY2018 between January and December, registering a growth rate of 28 percent. Toyota Kirloskar Motor remains one of its key customers under the Berger-Nippon JV.
In the aftermarket, the company is growing at a year-on-year rate of 30 percent and retails products in 1,300 cities across the country through over 3,000 distributors. “We expect to reach 20 percent of the market size over the next five years at this growth rate,” Malhotra said.
CVs are another focus area for the company and in the passenger carrier space, Ashok Leyland and SML Isuzu are its key customers, with Tata Motors being the leader in the goods carrier space. It has a 12 percent market share in the passenger carrier segment within the CV space, with a new product line being introduced for goods carriers.
Nippon also contributes to training manpower in the form of skilling garage owners through its two training centres located in Manesar and Mumbai, with a third one coming up in Coimbatore over the next few months.
Robust R&D initiatives in India
It's international R&D centre in Manesar is developing world-class technologies such as direct-to-metal (DTM) and wet-on-wet paint systems, including paint protection coatings. “Our R&D in India is very robust and we are creating new technologies and not just making me too products”, Malhotra said.
“A lot of our efforts are also collaborative wiith our global R&D centres in Japan, Thailand, China and Europe. We believe that India is a huge market for us and needs dedicated developments and investments in innovation,” he added.
“We are also working on UV coatings, and trying to make them easier to be applied. Moreover, there are contemporary technologies such as gas-infrared and air drying technologies in the pipeline. While their acceptability might not be that good in the lower segments of the market, but, our new Paint X'press concept is going to help create a new platform to showcase our latest products,” Malhotra concluded.