We want to fully embrace electrification, says Shell Lubricants CMO

Gareth Flood, Chief marketing officer, Shell Lubricants India
There is no other market in the world which can provide you the kind of opportunity that India does, Flood tells Shubhomoy Sikdar

The automobile sector is going through a prolonged slump. How does that impact your businesses here in India?

The automobile industry is going through a usual cycle in India. The Indian automobile and component sectors is among the largest in the world. India's closeness to automotive markets in Japan, Korea, Europe and members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations is also a significant influence in its growth. Considering 100 per cent foreign direct investment is granted to the automobile sector that is already contributing well to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it seems natural to expect the sector to grow. Lubricants being an essential component in this industry, has also benefited from the government’s focus on enhancing domestic production and prowess.

We expect the current fall to subside with pre-buying of vehicles due to new emission norms by the government. There is no other market in the world which can provide you this kind of an opportunity. It is one of the top three growth markets for us and we are making continuous investments in people, processes and technology accordingly.

How did the company start exploring the lubricants-as-a-service strategy? How is the lube management programme helping in serving the clients better?

With Internet of Things and AI becoming integral elements across the evolving industrial landscape, we want to be trusted partners in India’s transition to Industry 4.0. There is immense potential for lubrication and maintenance services to deliver significant business value by helping reduce costs and improve equipment productivity, thereby reducing the total cost of ownership. We are digitising our customer interface with new next-generation services for B2B sectors. The unique portfolio gives customers a comprehensive set of technologically advanced solutions to optimise performance across industry-wide value chains. Our services such as LubeAnalyst, LubeAdvisor, and LubeExpert us advanced technology; allowing customers to optimise their machinery with less downtime.

Our lubricants management programme lets users focus on their core business while reducing the overall cost and optimising operations. It is designed to provide customers with a comprehensive lubricant supply and inventory management programme. This programme consists of activities which involve detailed examination of the current activities for appropriate analysis, formulation of new lubricants management plan with a focus on cost optimisation and equipment efficiency and final implementation of the new plan. All this is done through a dedicated on-site expert team support which helps in extensive equipment monitoring to reduce equipment failures and facilitate smooth on field operations.

How have clients responded to the offering? How viable is the model given the additional infrastructural costs that may come along?

We began the lube management programme last year. The call for this service has been streaming in mainly from steel manufacturers and mining companies. For steel companies, we charge an amount for every tonne of steel produced. As for mining companies, several heavy vehicles in mines are often left unattended. We install sensors in them, lubricate them, monitor them, and ensure vehicle uptime, thereby increasing the efficiency of the operation and reducing total cost of ownership for our customers. The response from customers has exceeded our expectations and form we will be expanding our services portfolio offerings rapidly.

Tell us about your business-to-business tie ups with cab aggregators. What are the mutual gains and growth opportunity in the fleet segment?

The fleet segment is very big and important for us and it is rapidly growing. If we look at millennial trends, shared will soon become the most prevalent form of transportation. What we are thus trying to do is look at introducing oils which will be meant only for cab fleet customers. These specifically look to address how we can increase the service interval between points A and B to increase the oils’ sustenance. We have on ground tie-ups with companies such as Uber which guarantee that these cars have a ready network of quality service stations to go to. These ensure that Shell is the preferred oil partner for their directly owned fleet. We also have tie-ups with service aggregators such as CarZippy and Pitstopfor last-mile connectivity and doorstep services. Apart from this, we also work closely with commercial fleet customers in building sensor-driven data consolidation to improve operational efficiency and safety management for trucks.

The government is pushing for electric vehicles (EVs). Has the company been able to create a roadmap to leverage the opportunity?

We majorly believe that the introduction of EVs in the economy will provide us numerous opportunities to innovate. Shell Lubricants is involved in reducing friction in moving parts, and not just offering engine lubrication. We have recently launched a new range of e-transmission fluids, e-thermal fluids and e-greases that will make battery EVs perform better and be more efficiently. Apart from this, we have been working closely with automotive and component manufacturers to engineer these “first fill” fluids that effectively and efficiently meet a broad range of battery EV performance requirements. We could also be installing sensors in all parts of an electric vehicle which is able to monitor what part of the car is malfunctioning and other ways of making the EV run more efficiently. As a company, we want to fully embrace electrification, because it’s in line with our vision to provide carbon free and energy-efficient solutions.

What are the challenges that EV adoption itself brings to a global oil major such as Shell?

We’re present in 110 countries, many of which are already making this transition. We are not afraid of electrification and want to embrace it. Think of us as friction reducers. Today, for efficient machine use, we may be using engine oil lubrication. But tomorrow, we may be doing this using data analytics. We could be using telematics, sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to detect malfunctioning parts, their diagnosis, etc. Also, in EVs there is need for products like transmission fluids which present us more opportunities.

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