As the Bridgestone Sales Director in charge of the Middle East and Africa (MEA), Mr. Stefano Sanchini has been bringing to bear on the tyre maker’s business.
Recently, Sanchini visited Nigeria where he strategised with the local representative, Asahi Brands Limited, on the task of sustaining growth in the competitive premium tyre market, even as it expanded a network of innovative retail outlets and technical services to enhance consumer experience.
Before returning to base, the Bridgestone Sales Director took time off to speak exclusively to Daily Sun on the challenges in the tyre industry, the realities of marketing tyres in Nigeria and other developing countries, the rising preference of the Nigerian tyre buyers “for better products, better services, especially when it concerns safety and comfort.”
Sanchini is also glad that with the good news about Nigeria exiting recession and recording a positive growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), “the economy is on an upward trend.”
Presence in Nigeria
Bridgestone and Asahi have been partners for more than three decades. We, as Bridgestone Corporation, are extremely proud of coupling our brand with such a serious and reputable company as Asahi
Our partnership, combination of two leading brands as Bridgestone and Asahi, has been successful over all these years and we are now revamping it with new energy and passion to further consolidate our leadership role in the country. Bridgestone and Asahi share the same values for quality, excellence, end-user focus, service and long-term mind set.
Global tyre market in 2018
2017 presented a particular set of challenges for tyre manufacturers and other related segments. Political unrest and conflicts in certain parts of MEA (Middle East & Africa) has made it difficult to conduct business and logistical operations in these areas, which, as a result, has directly impacted the commercial vehicles sales in these areas.
In 2018, however, a resolution in the conflicts that have plagued the Middle East region is expected to be seen, which will have a positive effect on the tyre market.
Increasing population in emerging markets such as Asia and Africa and resultant increase in demand for vehicles in these regions are expected to further drive the tyre markets in these regions.
The influence of changes in Europe will also be felt in this region, especially those concerning sustainability, recycling and fuel efficiency. We expect regional governments to take the initiative and increase regulations in these areas, particularly as a global trend for tyres that are both more efficient and manufactured in a sustainable way grows.
Customer needs are getting more complex and varied everyday. Supplying only tyres to the market is possible only for low end budget segments. To be the leader, brands need to diversify their product and services portfolio to meet consumer requirements.
Bridgestone has a diverse product portfolio, as well as strong expertise in the services business. Therefore our offerings are tailored to the unique needs of customers. We have evolved into a ‘solution provider’ – delivering high performance products with quality services in line with our mission of ‘serving society with superior quality’.
Cost of raw materials and profitability
An increase in raw material prices has hampered the profitability of some brands in 2017. While overall raw material price level was still high compared to 2016, normalisation in prices was witnessed in the second half of last year. Competition in the African continent has always been high and the increase in the number of budget brands launched has made it even more fierce. Hence, market prices remain stable and in some markets there is even a decreasing price trend initiated by important market players to recover their volume losses.
An optimised product portfolio and increase in sales volume has helped Bridgestone manage profit margins. We recorded double-digit growth in overall sales volume in MEA, while Firestone, a Bridgestone family brand, saw a strong increase in demand across the region.
We expanded our reach to Iran, which is a huge and growing market. Our sales volume also doubled in East Africa following a restructure, while double-digit growth was recorded in the Gulf, Levant and Egypt.
Raw material prices are expected to remain relatively stable in 2018; a slow increasing movement is foreseen in the medium term. Bridgestone will continue growing in the markets in all segments and as a global leader, we will continue providing best suited products and services for our consumers’ needs.
Competition in premium segment
We do look with respect at any player in the tyres industry in Nigeria, those being a well-established worldwide known brand or a recently new comer. As Bridgestone/Asahi, we see as healthy competition any tyre company that will bring into Nigeria high quality product, best-in-class after sales service and a long-term project.
As said, we aspire to offer the best for our customers and to society, not only in terms of our products, services and technology, but in all of our corporate activities. Our commitment to quality stems out of a passion for improving the safety and lives of people in Nigeria and everywhere else Bridgestone does business.
In the specific of Nigeria, the products line-up we offer has been designed specifically for the region, in order to best perform with the local road conditions, weather, etc. Our technical team is always on the ground to monitor our products and continuously improving it to meet the constantly growing customer expectations. We believe in not just supplying tyres but in offering our end user best in class mobility solutions both in the passenger tyre or in truck and bus tyre segment.
At the same time, Asahi network of family dealers is capable to ensure a proper coverage of the country for both delivering new products and properly assisting our existing customers. The opening up of Victoria Island’s Tyre Service Centre is a step in this direction.
How strategic is Nigeria in tyre business?
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country by a long way with approximately 186 million inhabitants, is a priority market for Bridgestone in the MEA region. The strong focus will only grow in the future, considering that the number of Nigerians is set to rise rapidly, with experts predicting that it will be the world’s third most populous country by 2050.
We look at Nigeria with strong interest as a country where to deploy a long term strategy aiming to be the number one brand in both truck and passenger tyres segments – both as quality of our products, size of the sales and efficiency of our after sales services.
Foreseeable growth in tyre business
Displaying a positive growth in GDP, the Nigerian economy is on an upward trend. We are confident of increasing our business and our market share with new products and new service centres.