Solution Focused – Al Dobowi Group
Formed in 1976, the Al Dobowi Group was established to serve the growing Middle East tyre management industry. From its Dubai base, Al Dobowi Group is now involved in a range of operations (from tyres to equipment) on four continents – they even produce specialized battery components at a factory in the UK. With over 1100 employees all round the world, and some very interesting expansion plans in the offing, Tyres & Accessories recently met with executive director Harjeev Kandhari and found out more about what these will mean for customers.
One of the first things Harjeev Kandhari mentioned in conversation with T&A was that group companies are increasingly focusing on solutions, rather than just products. When you consider the wide variety of related business areas Al Dobowi operates in, this corporate philosophy really makes sense. But in order to explain what this might mean for customers a little background information is required.
Founded ostensibly as a tyre business, one of the first areas Al Dobowi got involved in was retreading. The group is now responsible for the largest Bandag operation in the Middle East – having recently announced the launch of two new factories in Saudi Arabia. This makes Al Dobowi’s operation number three in the wider Europe Middle East and Africa Bandag region.
In addition, Al Dobowi has been working with Chinese tyre manufacturer Shandong Linglong in the production of its Infinity brand for between around six years now. The number and range of tyres offered under this name has grown rapidly in recent years and the potential service crossover between new tyres and retreading is where we find the next instance of ‘solution-not-just-product’ mentality. Perhaps the clearest example of this is outworked in the truck tyre segment. For some time now Al Dobowi-linked outlets in the Middle East have been retreading Infinity branded truck tyres using the Bandag process, all with reportedly good results. With some European retread manufacturers reticent to use Chinese produced casings as the foundation of their products, the news that Infinity truck tyres are already being retreaded is likely to grab the attention of the group’s target customer base. T&A understands the trials were recently expanded into Europe, with certain customers in the UK testing truck and bus retreads made using their own Infinity casings.
“The tyre is definitely retreadable – now we want to demonstrate this to customers,” Harjeev Kandhari explained, adding that it is not just the truck and bus products that are retreadable: “We said to [one of the wider group’s OE customers in China]: ‘Give us an OTR tyre and we’ll send it back to you retreaded.”
Another arrow in the group’s solution focused quiver is tyre filling. The Infinity business has been developing a tyre filling operation in China based on fill supplied by Carpenter here in the UK. This operates through one of the group’s many specialized subsidiaries, Tyrex China Ltd. Tyrex China services group customers across the People’s Republic. This particularly means providing customer service to mining customers and supporting group customers who may have sourcing requirements in the domestic Chinese market. The group is said to be increasingly looking to the development and promotion of it mining tyres.
In Europe Al Dobowi (through its Eskay Tyre Ltd and Goldspark Trading Ltd European subsidiaries) is perhaps best known for its Westlake and Infinity-branded tyres. However, Al Dobowi Group is also leading tyre distributor in Africa, having been present in Nigeria for over 25 years and Ghana for nearly 10 years, growing both the Pirelli brand and the Goodyear brand. In Nigeria and Ghana Al Dobowi has also developed Bandag factories.
Earlier in 2008, the Al Dobowi Group opened offices, warehouses and service centres in Ethiopia to cover the Ethiopian, Djiboutian and Somalian markets. From here it will distribute tyres and batteries and will also have an OTR repair facility in conjunction with another partner, Rema Tip Top. According to the company, these developments will also provide Al Dobowi’s European partners that do not have a local African presence with more avenues to increase their business in some of the fastest growing markets in the world.
In South Africa Al Dobowi acquired TyreCor, a local South African tyre distributor with offices and service facilities in Johannesburg, CapeTown, Durban and Mapumalanga. TyreCor is a preferred partner of Trelleborg in South Africa and this acquisition is seen as further strengthening Al Dobowi’s relationship with Trelleborg. Al Dobowi already has a joint venture with Trelleborg covering the Middle East and parts of Africa. Trelleborg Wheel Systems Middle East Ltd is split 49:51 Trelleborg:Al Dobowi.
It is impossible to cover all of Al-Dobowi’s labyrinthine network of interlinked businesses (the group partners with names such as Exide, General Tire, Watts, Hankook, Goodyear and Semperit, to name just a few, on various projects around the globe), suffice it to say the company is not content simply to sell products, without considering the related solutions they offer.