Hidden [Auto]Gem

In the last few years Autogem Motor Concepts LLP has grown rapidly from a faltering supplier to an influential player in the tyre and workshop consumable business. The turning point came in September 2005 when the Invicta group of companies took over the reins at Autogem. Initially, the new owners embarked on the project with a team of just 10.

The first major move the new managing partners, brothers Prashant and Adit Chopra, made was to consolidate Invicta and Autogem’s existing four warehouses into one bespoke distribution centre in Park Royal, London. They have been in their current warehouse/offices since April 2006 and closed Autogem’s inefficient old Leeds telesales operation in July 2007, after winding down the business’s dependency on this location. Here, the staff of 50 was reduced to just two, with the rest taking redundancy. This rapid reduction in headcount could be seen as harsh, but from Autogem’s management’s perspective it just demonstrates how inefficient the company they took over had become.

Following the company’s relocation south, Autogem recruited a new team in London. Despite choosing to rent a warehouse/office complex near the new Wembley stadium and taking on staff within the M25, the management was able to slash operational costs, enabling them to invest in offering customers a better service. “Leeds ended up being a very positive experience. Now we are very customer focused,” Prashant Chopra explained.

Turning point

January 2007 can be seen as something of a turning point for Autogem. This was largely due to an overhaul of the business’s tyre consumables offering. Once the new range, which includes the whole gamut of tyre shop bits and bobs (valves, exhaust fittings, WD40 – you name it) was established, the company set about pitching to some of the largest retail operations in Britain.

Maintaining product quality has, according to the company, been crucial in this process. Seeing as Autogem sources large numbers of its balancing weights, T&A asked what Autogem does to ensure its weights don’t suffer from the lead-free scandal that hit this part of the consumables business in late 2006 (some Chinese zinc weights were found to have lead and poisonous cadmium content). The answer was surprising. Through its relationship with a coin making plant in India (which makes 2 euro pieces for the French mint) Autogem has access to its own spectrometer. This allows the company to test the products it sources independently from the manufacturers that supply it. Likewise valves are tested to TUV standards. “We are dealing with national accounts, the last thing we want is dubious product,” Chopra commented. There is also the question of brand credibility for the company to consider – the Autogem name is stamped all over its products.
Securing large-scale national retail accounts has helped to establish Autogem as a major player in the UK Tyre Consumables market and the company now supplies two of the three largest tyre retail chains in Britain. Autogem are keen to continue to expand from this position.

This year, tough general market conditions – largely caused by price inflation at a raw material level – have resulted in some of Autogem’s competitors facing real difficulties. Nevertheless, in London the management remains upbeat: this means the segment is both fun and challenging, says Chopra. Despite the cost headwinds facing the wider market, Autogem continues to build steadily and is currently in the middle of growth phase, actively recruiting both new staff and customers.

‘Tough market is challenging’

In an interview with Tyres & Accessories, managing partner Prashant Chopra, paid tribute to Autogem’s revitalized team of young, dedicated staff for making all this possible. However, it would be remiss not to mention the vision and talent of the company’s management. Successfully taking on and turning around a new business and negotiating five warehouse and three office moves in less than two years says a lot about the brothers’ combined leadership skills.

“With much improved pricing and greater quality product everyone we speak to takes an interest in our tyre consumables range, be it wheel weights, chemicals or tools. This growth has helped cement the point that Autogem can offer almost anything you would require in the workshop environment, with quality in mind and at a price that is competitive,” company representatives told T&A.

Established in the 1950’s Autogem has been a market consumables supplier for over 40 years. Servicing some of the biggest names in the UK industrial sector, garage trade and automotive aftermarket, Autogem has aimed to become synonymous with quality, technical expertise and reliability. The company sends out 500 parcels a night and offers over 7500 product lines including everything from tyre soap to toilet roll, and wheel weights to washing up liquid.

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