Michelin’s upcoming plant near Chennai, with which the French tyre maker hopes to push radialisation in India, will be on stream by mid-2013.

“Around mid-year is [when] we would have started the production,” Prashant Prabhu, President, Michelin Group AIM (Africa, India and the Middle East), said during a brief interaction with presspersons here on Monday.

“The way our plant starts is that there is not one switch… it is a continuous process,” was his reply to a query on the status of the facility, whose launch got pushed up from November 2012. The company, whose proposed investment in the plant is Rs.4,000 crore, intends to focus on radial tyres for trucks.

Without disclosing details of the capacity, Mr. Prabhu, who earlier launched Michelin’s flagship Green Guide series in India, said the equipment at the plant had been installed.

“We are beginning to power up the equipment… run them,” he added. The Green Guide, on Chennai and Tamil Nadu, gives insight into various aspects for tourists and travellers.

On the possible impact of timing the production when market conditions are sluggish, he said: “The markets go through economic cycles. The need for radial tyres in India is very large so we are not worried about the fact that the economy in India is slowing right now.” While the company has decided to concentrate on the radial truck tyres initially, a decision on whether the focus should be the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) or replacement market would be taken as production begins at the plant.

Regarding the challenges, he said “when building a greenfield plant in a location and in a market where you have never been present there are significant challenges… everything is new and you have to do everything from scratch. So you need time to do it properly.”

The company, he added, had invested very heavily in training. “We hired people a little over two years ago and we sent them [to train] to different Michelin facilities around the world. They are trained and helping install the equipment and power up. Today we have over 600 [such] people, all of them engineers,” Mr. Prabhu said.

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