Apollo Tyres, the India-based multinational that exports tyres in all automotive segments to more than 70 countries, announced on Tuesday its entry into Sri Lanka.

Partnering Ideal Wheels and Tyres, a part of Sri Lanka's automotive major Ideal group, the $2 billion Apollo Tyres will focus initially on passenger vehicle and cross-ply truck and light truck tyres. This will be expanded in a phased manner to include Apollo's entire range that is sold in India, said Rajesh Kumar, Head, International Sales, Apollo Tyres.

He said that the decision to enter Sri Lanka was taken because the country's economy was growing at a healthy rate and Apollo was in a position to cater to Sri Lanka's evolving transportation needs. He admitted that the volumes here would not compare favourably with most markets that Apollo had a presence, but the reason to establish a presence here went beyond numbers for now. “In Sri Lanka we are not looking at large volumes now. We are looking at qualitative sales…In times to come, may be, we will think of numbers,” he said.

Sri Lankans bought as many as 1.3 million tyres a year across segments on an average, according to industry insiders. Of this, CEAT, which had established a factory here, produced 4.5 lakh. The remaining had to be imported.

“CEAT alone will not be able to provide tyres for everyone…such is the rate at which we are growing,” said Nalin Welgama, Chairman, Ideal Motors. “In the next few days, we will have the first Apollo zone operational near Colombo. This will add a new dimension to the tyre industry in Sri Lanka which has shown steady growth following the end of the war in May 2009.

Former Sri Lanka cricket captain Aravinda de Silva is the Deputy Chairman of Ideal Motors. “We aim to bring the best in the world to Sri Lanka. We have done that in this sphere by bringing in Apollo,” he said.

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