Taking rides to a newer level
The wheels of fortune turn again for Dunlop
The wheels of fortune turn again for Dunlop

HYDERABAD, 27/03/2012: Dunlop Tyres is an American Inc owned by Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company which sells Dunlop brand tyres across the world. It started in Belfast, Ireland, in 1888. The frist step for the invention of tyre started in a interesting way, when John Boyd Dunlop's son suffered with chronic chest cold, treated by a Doctor advised him to do cycling. To make the child's ride more comfortable, Boyd fits his tricycle with tyres made of canvas bonded with liquid rubber. Boyd patents what turns out to be a very big idea.1889 Cyclist Willie Hume is the first to adopt Boyd's invention for racing, winning a slew of events. It's the start of Dunlop's legendary run of racing success, with an idea that forever changed the way the world rides, has led from the race tracks of Europe to America's most sophisticated tyre-making labs. Photo:Mohammed Yousuf.

Reminiscent of its “Let’s take the road together again” ad campaign, Dunlop is coming back to India. The tyre brand, which rolled out of the country nearly 10 years ago, will be hitting the road with Ludhiana-based Ralson India.

From Calcutta to Madras, the international tyre brand Dunlop has well travelled Indian roads over the last 100 years, with different owners. At one point liquor baron Manu Chhabria controlled it before it was acquired by the Pawan Ruia Group.

Marketing rights

In the new arrangement, Ralson has acquired the branding and marketing rights to the Dunlop brand and will sell super-premium tyres for two- and three-wheelers. Currently, Ralson India manufactures and sells Ralco motorcycle, scooter, moped, three-wheeler, e-vehicle and tractor tyres through a 2,000-plus pan India dealership network.

Ralson intends to roll out Dunlop tyres from its state-of-the-art plant in Kot Panech, Ludhiana, it said. The company has two plants in Ludhiana (the other one is in Doraha) which together have a capacity of five-million tyres per annum.

After gauging the demand for Dunlop two-wheeler tyres, the company will expand the brand capacity to other categories.

Legacy of Dunlop brand

The Indian legacy of the Dunlop brand dates back to 1896, when it started marketing cycle tyres in the country. In 1926, it incorporated Dunlop Rubber Company (India) Limited with an authorised capital of ₹50 lakh.

In 1928, it was renamed Dunlop India Ltd (DIL) and in 1936 opened its headquarters, the sprawling Dunlop House on Calcutta’s Free School Street. In the same year, DIL set up the first tyre manufacturing plant in Asia on a 239-acre plot of land at Sahaganj, near Calcutta. A measure of its standing came in 1980, when Prince Charles, on a State visit, visited the Sahaganj unit.

In 2005, the Ruia Group, led by Pawan Kumar Ruia, took control of DIL, which at this point had accumulated liabilities in excess of ₹650 crore. In 2006 DIL plants at Ambattur (near Chennai) and Sahaganj re-opened their gates. The next year, Dunlop came out of the BIFR (Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction) purview.

But labour issues soon erupted disrupting operations, and then came the closure, in March 2008, as power supply was cut owing to accumulated dues. Then on, it was downhill till Dunlop shut shop in 2012.

Can it now wipe off the smirk its 2014 ad campaign, ‘Dunlop is Dunlop. Always Ahead’, had caused?