Raahil Chopra
Aug 21, 2023

Performance is key, the personality of the player is secondary: Arnab Banerjee on Ceat's endorsers

The MD and CEO of Ceat chats with us about how its cricket ratings have evolved, how 'made in India' is helping it globally, and more...

Performance is key, the personality of the player is secondary: Arnab Banerjee on Ceat's endorsers
Ceat Tyres will be hosting its annual 'Cricket Ratings Awards Night' in Mumbai on 21 August. 
Ahead of the event, we caught up with Arnab Banerjee, managing director and chief executive officer, Ceat, to learn more about how the property has evolved since 1995, the impact of the ICC ratings on the property, challenges in the tyre space in India, and more...
Edited excerpts:
The Ceat Cricket Ratings have been an annual property since 1995. How has the rating evolved?
It's a heritage rating. It used to be judged by Clive Lloyd, Ian Chappell and Sunil Gavaskar back in the day. Now, Gavaskar continues to be the judge.
It's part of how we use cricket as a platform to reach out to consumers. We have bat associations, cricket gear sales, and media spends like the strategic time out (during the Indian Premier League). All the cricket associations started with the Ceat Cricket Ratings in 1995. We have retained this property as one of the pegs in this whole association with cricket as a game and do many things around it. 
The awards night is one such event. It's not just a social event, where we just see the prize winners attend, but a lot of past cricketers also make it to the event. The event is quite well accepted and people look forward to getting an invite for this. In these days of social media, we amplify it through social media channels.
We’ve seen the Ceat Cricket Ratings as part of the broadcast coverage in the past. Now, with the ICC ratings, this doesn’t happen anymore. So how do you plan to connect with the cricket fan now?
Yes, ICC has its ratings now and that’s why it can’t be a part of the broadcast now. Ceat Cricket Rating has grown beyond just ratings and who is the best bowler or batsman. Of course, it's of interest, but it's more of a get-together of the cricketing fraternity in Mumbai once a year. We had a break because of the Covid pandemic, but we’re back now. 
The event is more about giving back to the cricketing fraternity. We also end up having some interesting conversations with existing and former cricketers. It is a bit of entertainment and it's part of a whole strategy of association with cricket.
For the rating specifically, if you have to talk about connecting to Gen Z, how do you do that? 
When it comes to Gen Z, we’re looking to reach out to them through social media. That generation isn’t interested in watching a two-hour programme on the mobile. So we amplify the interesting aspects of the whole event in a byte-sized manner which will attract the attention span of anybody who is using a mobile. That's how it will attract the attention of Gen Z, those who are interested in cricket.
Gen Z is a curious lot and they’re not just interested in cricket. To connect with them, our association with motorsport helps. They would want to explore many new things as they go along.
With the upcoming Cricket World Cup coinciding with the festive season, what kind of activities would Ceat be doing for the same? Is there going to be an increase in spending during this time?
Right now we are on air with the monsoon film, which is, 'change soon, it's monsoon' which is a call to action for changing tyres because it's the monsoon season. 
During the festive season, we have plans. We will definitely try to get into the media for the World Cup; digital or TV or both, depending on the resources available.
We would like to contemporise the brand from where we are today to where the customer is moving, which is on the highways, on high-speed applications, going there with family and exploring new worlds. Today it's not just about commuting. It's about moving out. People are travelling on routes like Mumbai to Bengaluru and Mumbai to Jaipur. More and more people are on the roads and that's where the brand will shift to. We will try to use the World Cup to talk about it.
It's a great opportunity that the festive season and the World Cup are coming together. We're looking forward to having a strong marketing plan then.
What do you look out for when you're associating with these cricketers for the bat sponsorship, whether they're male or female?
First of all, its performance across formats including the IPL and Ranji Trophy. We look to see if the player is versatile because when a person performs, then he's of a certain stature and we want to build a long-term relationship with a cricketer. Only then does a relationship become meaningful.
So, performance is key. Then the kind of personality that the cricketer is, is secondary. That should not be a detractor and as long as it is neutral to positive, we are all right.
You've been with the company for more than two decades now. So how has the category evolved over the time that you've been with the company?
People are travelling long distances and are exploring new areas. We are now seeing people travel outside the country too by road. As we speak there's an expedition that is going from Mumbai to Siberia on Ceat Tyres. We are passing through India, Nepal, China, Mongolia, and then Siberia. 
We are also seeing people more interested in off-roading. 
Regaring two-wheelers, people are indulging in long-distance cruising and adventure. We are seeing motorsports also in India now. So there are a lot of different ways in which people are enjoying mobility today and this is going to evolve. 
India has a vast population of middle-class and rich people and car and two-wheeler ownership is still going to increase and usage of those vehicles is going to increase. I see exciting times for the tyre industry and the tyre brands in India.
Also, ‘made in India’ is a strong positive for tyre brands globally too. Indian tyres are looked upon as of high quality at a good value pricing. Ceat is going to play a big role in being globally competitive in global markets like Europe and the US. We are in competition with global majors, which will enhance our skills and make us better. That's an opportunity that is going to unfold in the next 5-10 years.
What are the challenges that you foresee?
Challenges are cyclical. Every three to five years we have a hyperinflation of raw material, which puts a squeeze on our margins. We have just come out of it and in the next three to five years at least, we hope to see a stable raw material scenario and strong margins. 
Also, there is a lot of stress on fighting climate change by using sustainable materials in the tyre.
We use some chemicals which need to be more recycled and may be changed into more green materials. It's a challenge in the short term but we have to make the transition. 
Could you share what Ceat is doing towards sustainability? 
We have a sustainability manager and we are looking at sustainability from various points of view.
In our factory, more than a third of our power is now sourced from renewable sources, which are solar and wind. 
We have adopted industry 4.0 practices to drastically reduce energy consumption. We have drastically reduced water consumption too and we are also looking at reducing plastic consumption. So these are some efforts and we have a goal of reducing our carbon footprint. We want to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030. 
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