By Sharad Matade:
Autoform, one of the largest premium car seat cover makers in India, will set up its eighth manufacturing plant in Gujarat. The plant is expected to start in a year with an initial annual capacity of 12,000 -15,000 seat covers. “Many OEMs are setting up their base in Gujarat. The new plant will help us serve them faster and tap the other western India markets, where we see a great scope for our business, more efficiently,” Rajan Gandhi, Managing Director, RP Group, the parent company of Autoform, said.
RP Group is expecting to clock revenue of Rs250 crore in 2018-19. The group may close 2017-18 with revenues between Rs160 crore and Rs170 crore. Seat cover business contributes around 70 percent of the group’s revenues.
The company has six other plants in Uttarakhand and one in Chennai, with a production capacity of 60,000 to 65,000 seat covers a month. According to Gandhi, Autoform has eight to ten percent share in the Indian seat cover market. Out of its OEM clients, six are two-wheeler companies and 14 are car companies. They include Honda, M&M, Hyundai, General Motors, Fiat, Nissan, Volkswagen, Yamaha, Skoda, Mahindra Renault, Tata, Suzuki and others.
“Our business segment is mostly fragmented, but we don’t want to be part of the rat-race and to compromise on quality and price. We will continue to focus on medium and high range,” he said. On the revenue front, around 65 percent business comes from OEMs and the rest from aftermarket. The company is currently exporting to Dubai and Saudi Arabia and will venture into Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Vietnam soon, Gandhi said.
The company makes seat covers according to OEM specifications in the areas of abrasion, fading, strength and colour fastness and bleeding, which is carcinogen-free. Focusing on product durability, comfort and attractiveness, raw material selection has been a stringent process at Autoform. The company uses four-five types of PU/PVC and artificial leathers to make seat covers. “Before selecting raw materials, we run tests for abrasion, colour fastness, and tear- resistance,” he said. The density of seat covers varies between 0.8 mm and 1.2 mm. “Thickness of the artificial leather does not define the quality. Density of foam can be compressed, and the density could be 32 mm in very high quality. The company uses nylon threads which are AZO-free,” Gandhi said.
The company has a dedicated designing team, led by Gandhi, which works on different patterns and designs. Today, it has over 500 designs in its shelf. Having over three decades of experience, the company boasts of highly-skilled employees and well-equipped manufacturing process with German CNC auto cutter and Japanese automatic stitching machines. “We conduct training programmes for our employees to enhance their skill level in cutting and stitching. Traditional stitching machines need skilled hands. Since our stitching and cutting machines are computerized, we need skilled persons who can handle computers,” added Gandhi.
The company has also started importing from Caska, which is one of the largest providers of car multimedia and GPS navigation to the automobile industry in India. “Our company has a mission to enhance the interior of the cars. We thought of following the same mission in communication and entertainment systems,” he said. The company is an exclusive importer of Caska products for the aftermarket for the time being. “It is a limited contract but an exclusive one. We will also see how we can tap OEMs with the supply of Caska,” Gandhi said.
The company has also adopted green manufacturing processes. “Our production processes do not generate air, water or noise pollution,” he said. Autoform’s solid waste is fully recycled by the small-toy manufacturers. “We have genuine concern for our environment and ensure there is no wastage of water and electricity. We have insulated our factory working area to avoid air-conditioning and to save on precious electric power,” Gandhi added.