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Interview: Hariprakash M, CEO, GP Petroleum — Repsol Lubricants And Their Strategy For India

Rahul Nagaraj

GP Petroleum Ltd. (GPPL) is a listed company in India and is part of the Gulf Petrochem Group, based in UAE. GPPL specialises in formulating, manufacturing and marketing of Industrial and Automotive lubricants, process oils, greases and other specialities under their flagship IPOL brand name.

IPOL has established itself as one of the most widely recognised brands in the Industrial and Automotive Lubricants. The brand boasts of a wide network of distributors and dealerships across the country.

Repsol Lubricants is a leading Spanish oil company, present in over 60 countries worldwide. The company has over six decades of experience and offers a comprehensive range of products for the Automotive and Industrial segment.

GP Petroleum recently introduced Repsol in the Indian market. The company has an exclusive partnership with Repsol in India, allowing them to manufacture, market and sell the premium lubricant in the country. Over the past two years, Repsol India has introduced a wide range of premium automobile lubricants for two-wheelers, passenger cars and diesel engine oils.

We recently got an opportunity to speak to Mr Hariprakash M, CEO, GP Petroleums, who explained to us about the company, its strategies for the Indian market, Repsol's role in the company going forward, as well as the future of IPOL in India.

Here are excerpts from our interview with the CEO of GP Petroleum, Mr Hariprakash M.

How has Repsol's performance been in India since its launch in 2016?

GP Petroleum will have to work hard over the next decade to compete with some of the other brands in the Indian market. Repsol's competitors have been in India for a long time and to achieve a decent market share in the segment, the brand has to grow exponentially over the next few years.

To do this, Repsol will have to learn from some of the lessons of other companies, which will help the brand cut down their own learning period and reach a significant potential volume sales.

To help the brand grow in India, Repsol first introduced motorcycle oils and lubricants, as this is the most recognised part of the business. The company then brought in other products for passenger vehicles and other diesel products to India.

Do you see Repsol In India being expanded into other segments, apart from Passenger and commercial vehicles?

GP Petroleum does have an intention to expand Repsol in the Indian market. Internationally Repsol already offers a range of products in other fields such as industrial, aviation, agricultural and a few other non-automotive fields.

However, the company is yet to document or express their interests in such directions. If the brand feels that it has an edge over the competition in other segments, it could possibly explore such opportunities. Although currently, Repsol is focussing primarily on supplying premium automotive lubricants only.

Indian Motorsports is growing and Repsol already dominates in this field. Can we expect a Repsol-sponsored motoring event in India?

Motorsport in India growing, however, there are no plans of India hosting any championships at a scale similar to MotoGP. Therefore, Repsol has not showcased any interest in any such sponsorships with any brand.

Also, the partnership between Honda MotoGP and Repsol is on a global level. The sponsorships guidelines which Repsol has with each country is different and they will be exercising it only at that level. However, Repsol India is exploring the opportunities of being a part of multiple automotive road shows. These road shows and other such events provide the company achieve visibility and recognition in the country.

How is the current distribution network of Repsol in India? And How do you plan to expand it in the future?

GP Petroleum initially offered a separate contract for sales and distribution of Repsol to their top IPOL distributors. This was also agreed to by Repsol, as they recognised the managerial talent of the Indian team. Also, the separate contract was to ensure a clear white space between the two brands; both in terms of market and technology.

However, the IPOL distributors found it difficult as the terms of the contract was completely different than that of IPOL. Therefore, GPPL opened up the distribution network to outsiders; one and a half years after its introduction in the Indian market.

Currently, GP Petroleum has 80 active distributors, combining both individual and multi-brand distributors in the Indian market. Over the next two years, the company plans aims to double this number up to 150 or 180 dealership networks across the country. Once this is done, it will give the brand a critical volume as a base to expand further.

Repsol as many competitors in India. What is your strategy to get ahead of the competition?

Yes, there are multiple competitors for the brand in the Indian market already, with space for even more. GP Petroleum inclusive of IPOL and Repsol is well recognised in India; selling 65,000 kilo-litres, which is a significant volume.

However, with a potential of over 2 million metric tonnes, Repsol's volume is too small, to begin with. To grow further among 25 or more competitor brands in the country, Repsol will have to make use of its global recognition. Although, it is a long game and to make a significant impact it will take another decade.

We are happy to state that Repsol is growing in India year-on-year, in terms of both product and brand visibility. The company is already to introduce lubricants which are BS-VI compliant. Although to grow further, we will make use of all the latest technologies, along with our partnerships with OEMs. The brand will also capitalise on the visibility and recognition of the 24-year old Repsol-Honda MotoGP collaboration.

Any plans to introduce IPOL in India's mass-market passenger vehicle segment?

IPOL is mainly recognised in the two-wheeler and commercial diesel engine segments. The brand is also known in the rubber process oil sector.

IPOL does have plans to grow to a decent market share, probably grow slightly higher than the market rate. This would be done by introducing new products in the automotive segment. However, the company will not bump up the brand as they already have Repsol in the premium market space. Mr Hariprakash stated, "We have a segment where we operate and we will play in the segment."

Any partnerships with OEMs in the future?

We already have various partnerships with multiple OEMs globally and we will leverage that in the Indian market. However, a partnership with an OEM doesn't always necessarily lead to growth in the market.

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