Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dunlop : Always Ahead ?

Corporate Brand : Dunlop

Brand Analysis Count : 353


Dunlop is a failed brand. It was a brand that pioneered automobile tyres . But the brand failed miserably for reasons not of its own making.

Dunlop is a British brand that have a rich heritage and history. The brand has its origin dating back to 1889. Infact the brand is named after John Dunlop who patented the technology for making pneumatic tyres.

The brand has a fragmented ownership across the world. Dunlop tyre is sold in Europe and US by Goodyear. Recently Apollo Tyres acquired the brand in South Africa and the Japanese company Sumitomo is selling this brand in other countries . In India, the brand is owned by the Pawan Ruia Group.

Dunlop set shop in India in 1926. This is the brand that pioneered tires in India. Even after 82 years, the brand is still living in the minds of the Indian consumers.

Dunlop had been ruling the Indian market for a while . Being a pioneer and also being a British brand had its own advantage. After our Independence, the brand continued to thrive. At one point of time, even RP Goenka was on the board of Dunlop India.

But the brand was moving into rough patch. There were strikes and lockouts which hampered the smooth operations and in 1988 Manu Chhabria's Jumbo group acquired the controlling stake in Dunlop India.

The situation in the company went from bad to worse. The company was virtually bankrupt and was referred to the BIFR ( Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction ) in 1997. Much of the company's problem was attributed to the mismanagement .

Dunlop is a heritage brand in the tyre industry . Despite being the pioneer in tyres, the company had invested in developing the Dunlop brand. The brand offered excellent quality tyres and even in a category which belongs to slow-moving consumer goods ( SMCG), Dunlop made customers ask for this specific brand.

The brand started as a cycle tyre then became the generic brand for all tyres be it for commercial or passenger vehicles.
Dunlop was heavily promoted in the media. The brand had the memorable tagline " Dunlop is Dunlop, Always Ahead ".

Another interesting fact about the brand is that , although Dunlop is known for its tyres, the term ' Softness ' comes to my mind when I hear Dunlop . The reason is that the brand is famous for its pillows. The company diversified into manufacturing pillows which was branded as Dunlopillow. The pillow was famous for its softness and still Dunlop brand is associated with softness .

This brand went into trouble not because of marketing problems but for mismanagement of company operations. After a long while, almost ten years since referred to BIFR, the brand found its saviour in a maverick entrepreneur Mr Pawan Ruia who heads the Ruia Group.

Pawan Ruia took over this brand along with another tyre brand Falcon Tyres in 2005. Within a short span of three years, he has managed to turn the company around. According to reports, the company is set to make a notional profit in 2008.

But things are different now. Indian tyre market is crowded with Who is Who. All the major international brands are here fighting it out with Indian brands like MRF, JK and Apollo. The dynamics of the market also has changed.

Dunlop still has its brand equity intact in the consumer's mind. Although the consumers remember this brand, its not enough to make them opt for this brand in the new avataar. That may be the reason why the brand is now concentrating on OEM and other industrial markets.

Dunlop is a sad story of a heritage brand biting the dust. But the silver lining is that the brand is trying to make a comeback.