Company Description: Autoform
is the leading provider of car seat covers in India which has a presence of
over 25 years. It is the largest OEM supplier of PU/PVC accessory seat covers
to all major OEMs in India like Honda, M&M, Hyundai, General Motors, Fiat,
Nissan, Volkswagen, Yamaha, Skoda, Mahindra Renault, along with automotive
retailers like Carnation, Reliance and Car Plus. The homegrown firm’s plant at
Dehradun, Uttarakhand is equipped with German CNC auto cutters and Japanese
automatic stitching machines. The company also develops a wide variety of
innovative and attractive designs at its in-house design studio.
It’s a known fact that Autoform
India is the largest OEM supplier of PU/PVC accessory seat covers to all major
automobile manufacturers in India. However, could you run us through the
genesis of the company?
Autoform India is about 25 years
old. We started with car seat covers sometime back in 1987 and ever since then
we have been only into this business. And these are the products that we felt
would have a big market potential. This is because there is a need for Indian
customers to dress up their interiors.
This was realised by us way back in 1990s when people started putting
seat covers in their cars. This is how the journey had begun because the need
to have nicely dressed seat covers became an integral part in the car owners’
lives. This is because the environment over here is quite dusty and polluted.
As a result, the car seats tend to get shabby after three months of purchase.
So what we realised was that we can really protect these seats (from dust) by
putting seat covers. Gradually, we also focussed on the styling and comfort
elements with the covers. This is how we went a level up with our product
You have established a plant at
Dehradun, Uttarakhand which is spread over an area of 100,000 square feet. What
is the current capacity of this plant? Do you have any plans to enhance the
Infact, we have enhanced the size of
the facility to 1.5 lakh square feet and are now producing 20,000 seat covers
per month. Depending on the market demand, we can ramp up this further to
38,000 seat covers per month.
Where exactly is Autoform designing
and developing its products? Do you have a technical tie-up with any overseas
No, we are not having a technical
collaboration with any partner. We have an in-house design team which looks
after all these operations and usually it is looked after by the plant heads
who try to figure out the kind of elements which will appeal to the end
customer. Moreover, we travel across the country and abroad to seek design
inputs. Interestingly, the source of inspiration for a lot of our designs has
been shoes. You can see a lot of design patterns in the shoes. We try to
replicate that with our seat covers. And in the end, it all boils down to the end user. Although we may come up
with multiple designs, only those ones are handpicked that are approved by the
end customers. And the designs are chosen based on the survey that we do across
our network of dealers.
Besides running your own
distribution network, you are also selling your products through Carnation,
Reliance and Car Plus. Does that mean the aftermarket vertical is more
important to you than the direct one? And are you open to the idea of selling
your products through multi-brand retailers?
We are open to the idea of selling
our products through Large Format Retailers (LFR), which is gaining a lot of
momentum. This is because they have the brand, service, podium and people will
have that trust developed more for them than the aftermarket.
You are delivering your products to
a number of marquee clients. As the market is witnessing a slowdown, is your
business getting impacted?
Yes, we have already been supplying
to Honda, Hyundai, Volkswagen, General Motors, Fiat, Nissan, Toyota, Tata
Motors, Skoda, and have also started with the two-wheeler segment with Honda
and Yamaha motorcycles. The slowdown
that you are talking about is majorly because of the sunfilm business going
down. Earlier, when the customers used to go to the retailers for sunfilms,
they used to go for other products like seat covers. But with car manufacturers
looking to connect with the end customer (during slowdown) by doling out
freebies, we have the upper hand. Even
though there is a decline in the aftermarket vertical for us, we have got an
additional opportunity as OEMs are looking for seat covers from us. This is
because they want to bundle up with freebies in order to aggressively push
sales. So in the direct market, there is still an upward swing. Additionally,
we are also looking for enhanced business opportunities with more car players
expanding their operations here.
You are primarily catering to the
passenger car segment. Going forward, do you have any plans to diversify into
CV, two-wheeler, three-wheeler or construction equipment segments? If yes, can you share the timeline with us?
As I just mentioned, we have started
serving Honda and Yamaha for their motorbikes. Going forward, we would also be
dispatching our products to Hero MotoCorp and Bajaj Auto. Maybe TVS may also follow soon. We would also
be looking at Suzuki (bikes) at some point of time. As you are aware, we are
basically a stitching company whether it is for two-wheelers or four-wheelers.
So we are into anything that requires stitching PUC material. We can make
different kinds of products at voluminous levels. Apart from this, CV segment
is something we have not yet focussed on. But we are going to supply something
to Ashok Leyland for their CVs.
Was there any set of challenges in
your business before? And are there any new challenges that have come up?
Naturally, there were a lot of
challenges in the beginning. As we are running a mega facility at Dehradun, it
was a bit difficult for us to supply our products across the nation. There were
other local manufacturers too who are present in the unorganised sector selling
their products to the end retailers. There are about 2,000 seat cover
manufacturers in India who are running some corner shops that have around four people
are who stitchers, fitters, masters and cutters. Currently, out of 100 seat
covers that get sold in the country, we manage to sell 8. With this penetration
figure (of 8pc), we call us the market leader in that space. All our products
are genuine and are offered at reasonable rates. We will never devalue our products by
downgrading our product’s quality.
As the market evolves, do your
customers seek any sort of customisation? If yes, can you run me through it?
The car buyers will definitely seek
a lot of customisation. That is the only reason we keep on changing the designs
of our products after every six months. Even though the products’ chemical
composition remains the same, we either tweak the existing design or add some
material while developing it. For
example, we came up with jute seat covers. We also try to make our seat
heat-resistant. A lot of our customers are multiple car owners. So if they are
happy with a particular customisation, they will look forward to approach us
for their second or third cars.
Do you get a major chunk of your
business from premium car buyers?
Majorly, our customers are from the
B+, C and D segments. But the A segment buyers have also started opting for our
products. The quality that we will offer in these segments will be on par with
what you have seen with the high-end categories.
Are you also exporting your products
anywhere? If yes, can you mention the countries?
We have started exporting our
products to the UK. But now we have stopped that. We will be targeting Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC) countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, etc. We are
also considering Turkey for that matter.
How do you see the car upholstery
industry evolving in India in the next few years? And what is your vision for
The car upholstery industry will be
evolved to a great extent as people are increasingly looking to redefine their
vehicle’s interiors. This is because a car is like a second home for a
consumer. The maturity levels of the upholstery buyers will also improve a few
years down the line. The vision that we have with this company is that we want
to propagate the significance of seat covers in the market along with the USPs
of our products. We want to do it at the mass level so that our customers
atleast register our brand in their minds when it comes to seat covers. With
this we want to connect directly with the end customer and probably set up
online operations wherein we can deal with them directly. The seat cover
industry will be worth 500 crore by 2015 and Autoform should account for 20pc
(100 crore) of that amount.