Could you provide an overview of 3M’s entrance into the Indian automotive market and the products and services you offer to the Indian automotive repair market?
We entered the automotive aftermarket in the 1990s with wet or dry sandpapers, rubbing compounds and waxes for collision repair. Over the last 2.5 decades, our teams have progressively launched many new products and business models to address the customer’s requirements across different segments of the auto aftermarket in India. To start with, in collision repair, 3M proactively upgraded customers from the conventional wet sanding & manual process to automated dry sanding Systems, mechanised rubbing and polishing systems, paint application systems etc. Deep customer insights to improve efficiency has been the cornerstone of all new launches in India.
Beyond collision repair, we saw the growing customer need for vehicle appearance which resulted in the launch of the 3M Car Care Detailing Services, first, through the Automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (AOEM) car dealerships and eventually through the franchise stores network across India.
What is 3Ms niche and standing in the Indian automotive aftermarket?
Our strength in the auto aftermarket industry lies in our commitment to providing innovative solutions that improve the efficiency and productivity of the aftermarket processes and provide high-quality products and solutions to enhance the value.
Our solutions span across the entire pre & post paint process in the refinish, some aspects of mechanical service and the wide array of professional Do It For Me (DIFM) car care services like ceramic coating and paint protection films, interior cleaning/anti-microbial, vehicle exteriors, under chassis protective coating, custom body wraps, waterless car wash solutions etc.
The professionally trained sales & technical teams work closely with dealerships, AOEMs, paint companies, franchises etc., that form the Indian auto aftermarket ecosystem.
How have automotive aftermarket requirements changed over time and how has 3M adapted its offering in response?
The increasing disposable incomes, awareness & demand for better automobiles, increasing safety standards, influx of new brands into the country etc., have resulted in better cars on road, quality-conscious customers, need for faster repair & service processes etc.
We have pre-empted these requirements with solutions that cater to the rapidly changing landscape in the country. Continuous customer insights form the basis of the development of new and innovative products. We have not only launched new technology products from our global portfolio basket but have also developed ‘In India for India’ products & services along with new & differentiated Go-To-Market models as well.
How much of an impact do environmental concerns have on 3M’s product development?
3M is known globally for its commitment to environmental sensitivity and stewardship. Our focus is not only on producing smarter and more efficient products but also products that are environmentally safe. Our dust-free sanding systems comprising abrasives, extraction machines etc., facilitate easy collection & disposal of dust generated in body shops; our paint application systems reduce the usage of VOC products by more than 70% and also aid in reduced wastage of paints & coatings.
How potential is the EV market for you?
EV is an emerging and rapidly growing trend. From the aftermarket perspective, we are closely monitoring this space for new opportunities. With reducing the cost of ownership of EVs, we expect customers to focus more on vehicle upkeep and appearance which would add to the potential.
What are the latest trends we witness in the automotive tools and equipment space?
Need for connected devices, semi-automation or full automation needs, equipment that ensures worker safety and productivity etc. are some of the latest trends that we see in the Indian market.
In fact, 3M is pioneering the era of connected body shops. From our products that have touchpoints throughout the shop, to training and education and digital connectivity that aligns inventory management with OEM repair specifications. We are piloting the 3M RepairStack solution in the United States, an integrated and automated solution offering universal inventory management, streamlined blueprinting and billing, and real-time business performance analysis.
Tell us more about 3M’s focus and innovative approach to technology development.
3M is one of the most innovative companies. Our focus is always on continuous improvement and upgradation of products. An example is the performance spray gun. After 10 years of relentless research and development, we introduced the Performance Spray Gun designed specifically to deliver top-of-the-line performance with revolutionary technology that saves time. This offers the best of 3M Science, all packed into the ‘smartest’ and the ‘lightest’ spray gun in the world. The secret lies in the advanced interchangeable nozzle technology optimised for consistent atomization and superior transfer efficiency.
Another latest addition to our line-up of offerings is the 3M ceramic coating, a silicone and siloxane-based protection layer that can be applied to a variety of different substrates.
We are also equally excited about our slew of new launches planned for 2023 which you will hear about soon.
How do you interpret the concept of the automotive ecosystem?
In our view, compared to other countries, India has a very involved and evolved automotive aftermarket ecosystem. The AOEMs in India are very strongly engaged in defining and managing the aftermarket quality and process standards which guarantee enhanced service standards for car owners. They work closely with equipment, consumables’ and accessories’ brands to define standards & approve processes. A strong emphasis is given to the continuous training of technicians and painters, for which the entire gamut of companies plays a key role.
What role does academia-industry-government cooperation play in building a sustainable automotive ecosystem?
As mentioned earlier, the AOEMs invest significantly in training & development and we have seen many of them partner with Govt. Industrial Training Institutes, private institutes, equipment & consumables suppliers etc., to ensure that the aftermarket’s need for trained and experienced staffing needs are fulfilled.
We have been actively engaged with most of the AOEMs, paint companies, and Industrial Training Institutes in imparting training programmes in addition to the highest number of programmes we independently conduct at dealerships across India. We constantly endeavor to upgrade the training content to meet dynamic requirements and pre-empt market trends and needs.
What opportunities and challenges lie ahead for 3M in 2023?
We believe that with opportunities come challenges and vice versa.
Challenges help us to evolve and get more robust. In the present situation, with the easing of chip shortage, we see a steadying supply from AOEMs. Increasing demand for higherend vehicles, and discerning customers all add up to a robust market. The growing car parc and entry of new AOEMs offer immense opportunities to grow.
We are very excited about 2023.