M. Mammen Mappillai embarked on an extraordinary venture in 1946, investing Rs. 14,000 to establish The Madras Rubber Factory (MRF). Initially producing toy balloons, latex cast squeaking toys, and industrial gloves, the company has evolved into a multinational corporation renowned for manufacturing top-quality tires that are widely used across India and beyond.
MRF has consistently held the number one position in the tire industry, achieving a remarkable milestone as the first company in India to reach an annual turnover of Rs. 5,000 crores in the export market. With a strong global presence, the Madras Rubber Factory has fostered enduring brand loyalty and customer retention.
Thriving on an emerging market and the concurrent growth of the automobile industry, MRF easily ascended the ladder of success. Its primary focus has been on forging partnerships with automobile companies, predominantly targeting the B2B market.
In November 1960, The Madras Rubber Factory Limited was incorporated as a private company. Collaborating with Mansfield Tire & Rubber Company from Ohio, United States, MRF entered the tire manufacturing domain. On April 1, 1961, the company went public, establishing an office in Beirut, Lebanon, to develop the export market. It was during this period that the iconic muscleman logo was created. In 1967, MRF achieved another groundbreaking feat by becoming the first Indian company to export tires to the United States.
Throughout its journey, MRF has embraced innovation and expansion. In 1973, the company ventured into manufacturing nylon tires, and in 1978, it entered into a technical collaboration with B. F Goodrich. The Mansfield Tire & Rubber Co. sold its shares in 1979, leading to a name change to MRF Ltd. Additionally, MRF solidified a technical merger agreement with Marangoni TRS SPA, Italy, to produce pre-cured tread rubber for the re-treading industry.
Expanding its horizons, MRF joined forces with Hasbro International United States, the world’s largest toy maker, and introduced Funskool India in 1989. Collaborations with Vapocure of Australia for polyurethane paint formulations and with Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli for conveyor and elevator belt production further fortified MRF’s position in the market.
In 2004-05, MRF broadened its product range by introducing Go-kart and rally tires, as well as tires for two/three-wheelers.
MRF’s Marketing Strategy and the Secrets to its Success
In a fiercely competitive tire segment, MRF adopts a competitive pricing strategy while maintaining its commitment to high quality and perfection in the tire industry. The company offers affordable prices to end customers, ensuring a healthy profit margin. For its premium sports gear, MRF positions itself in the higher price range, leveraging endorsements from renowned sports personalities.
With seven manufacturing plants located in southern India, MRF operates through a network of approximately 2,500 stores and exports its products to over 65 countries. The company distributes its tires to factories, agents, regional centers, and dealers. While direct sales to customers are relatively limited due to tires being part of automobiles, MRF focuses on establishing strong relationships with automobile companies, stores, and service centers. Leveraging its brand equity and extensive advertising efforts, MRF finds it convenient to sell its products through dealership channels.
MRF has always embraced an extreme and aggressive promotional strategy. The company has successfully leveraged sports sponsorship to promote its brand, sponsoring cricket bats for legendary players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Steve Waugh, and Brian Lara. Currently, MRF’s campaigns feature leading cricketers like Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, and Shikhar Dhawan.
Apart from celebrity endorsements, MRF has sponsored anchored balloons during the IPL 2010 and various World Cups. The company launched the MRF Pace Foundation, a training center for pacers, which has produced renowned bowlers like Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, and Munaf Patel. Additionally, MRF’s racing competition, the MRF Motor Challenge, has become a branding sensation, utilizing television, print, online, billboards, and other media channels for its advertising and marketing campaigns.
MRF distinguishes itself through unique advertising campaigns, including:
- ‘Comfort Made More Comfortable’: This campaign highlights the MRF ZLX, a cutting-edge tire range specifically designed for sedans and hatchbacks. The campaign depicts a challenging journey where a sedan equipped with MRF ZLX tires navigates bumps and potholes, emphasizing the tire’s ability to provide a comfortable and enjoyable ride.
- ‘I Dare to Tread Anywhere’: Featuring Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli, this campaign exudes confidence and a spirit of adventure. It aims to inspire individuals to explore their limits and overcome challenges, aligning with MRF’s SUV brand, the MRF Wanderer. Designed for those who seek unique experiences, Wanderer tires enable drivers to venture off the beaten path.
MRF’s primary objective is to achieve global standards through continuous improvement in quality and services, thereby maintaining its leadership position in the market. The company’s unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction and a relentless pursuit of quality improvement has earned MRF the JD Power award 12 times to date, solidifying its status as India’s most trusted tire company.
About the author: Hemant is the Founder & CEO of branding and marketing firm ”Neeti Brand Accelerator” in Mumbai. He is a brand strategist and has worked with more than 150 brands during last two decades. He is also mentor and coach to SMEs and startups. You can visit the website www.www.neeti.biz. You can contact him at email@example.com