In 2018GRI entered the US market adopting a hands-on approach to expanding its business in the agricultural tire segment by working with the wholesale and retail tire dealer, Dunlap & Kyle. Mr. Rick Harris, Regional Manager of GRIUS, joins us in this segment to share his experiences.
At the inception, developing an unknown brand with an incomplete line in the US was Ricki’s challenge. In 2018, Rick visited Sri Lanka to get up-to-speed with the GRIteam, the factory, the brand, and lay hands on the products. “Having worked for Dunlap & Kyle for over 19 years, I quickly recognized GRI tires are high quality, well supported, and a profitable line for the US tire market,” explained Mr. Harris.
FollowingRick’s visit, 11 Dunlap and Kyle locations in the US signed up to sell GRI agricultural and industrial tires. GRI’s principle to not create competition in the same territory was an advantage that helped convince Dunlap & Kyle to begin a relationship with GRI. Pricing was a crucial factor and GRI tweaked pricing to position the product correctly and remain competitive in the US market. Dunlap& Kyle promoted GRI tires as GREEN EX, which is the sub-brand for its agriculture tires.
Cordrey, Madison, TN answered the phone with ‘It’s GREENEX Rick’ to which Rick responded,‘that’s right Ty it’s GREENEX and a Ham’. That exchange developed into a marketing promotion called GREENEX& Ham Try em’ you’ll like em’ – 4 GREEN EX tires for an Easter Ham. The promotion provided the sales team of Dunlap & Kyle a reason to boost the brand on the phone and their online store. This promotional campaign returned a noteworthy increase in sales in all locations. In addition, ‘Planting Confidence’ tours were completed in 12states over a period of nine months. Rick visited with many of Dunlap &Kyle’s dealers making the ‘Planting Confidence’ tour a great success. GRI launched another promotional program with the GRI tagline ‘We will get you there!’, which produced a 30% increase in business. These campaigns provided the Dunlap& Kyle sales team opportunities to discuss and promote the GRI brand with their customers.
Customer’sresponse to GRI tires has been very positive as Mr. Harris explains, “The aesthetics of the agriculture tires are appealing. The build of the tire is sturdy, the bead area wedge cut-out, the tread design is robust, and the inner liner is substantial, which are appreciated by customers. The 45-degree bar angle with5° center overlap smoothly the ride which lasts longer and provides stability in hilly terrains.” He further explained, “A Fall 2020 test of dual650/85R38 on the front of a 300-bushel harvester was very successful. Both the farmer and Dunlap & Kyle spoke highly of the tire’s stubble & stalk resistance, roadability, flat footprint, and weight carrying capacity.”
The theCOVID-19 pandemic limited the ability of GRI to visit customers. However, Dunlap & Kyle continued providing exceptional service, tire availability and developed relationships with new as well as old dealers and their customers. Robert Dunlap told Rick early on ‘the secret to selling tires is buying them and buying them right’. The Dunlap & Kyle team did exactly that and their business has grown exponentially.
Sri Lankan natural rubber is the key raw material used in GRI tires. Thus, natural rubber farmers are important stakeholders in the GRI ecosystem. This ecosystem focuses on sustainability and aims to inspire the farming communities by recognizing their work as well as providing knowledge and skills for their development and optimizing the yields from their natural rubber farms.
GRI works with about1,800 natural rubber farmers from Monaragala, Rathnapura, Kalutara, and Kegalledistricts in Sri Lanka. Rubber collection centers have been established by GRI in numerous locations in these regions so that natural rubber farmers have easy access to trade their rubber collections on a weekly basis.
GRIcontinuously supports natural rubber farmers through various programs. The three focus areas are enhancing productivity, social empowerment, and industry sustainability. GRI finds solutions to enhance the lives of the farming families as well as enrich each other with technical tools, products, and services. This includes training programs to enhance productivity and yield, leadership training as well as access to markets. “We also provide rubber tapping tools and farmer supplies. We train them on new technologies and distribute reading materials to enhance their knowledge,” explained Mr. NilukaKarunaratne, Procurement Manager of GRI.
It is not only the rubber farmer that receives support, as GRI takes on an overall perspective and focuses on the social development of the family and the entire community. School children are provided with educational materials and schools are provided with sports equipment. GRI hopes to continue with other initiatives such as building libraries and IT facilities for these schools in the future. Through such endeavors, it is not only the rubber farmer that benefits but the entire community.
“We have also introduced industry best practices to the rubber farmers, focusing on sustainability through GRI’s GREEN X Circle initiative where we nurture a global farmer ecosystem connecting natural rubber farmers, and crop farmers whose GRI agricultural tires to sustain their livelihoods and produce food. We focus not only on the present but also on future generations,” explained DrMahesha Ranasoma, CEO of GRI.
With theCOVID-19 pandemic and the resultant travel restrictions, GRI did not abandon the Sri Lankan natural rubber farmers but continued to collect their harvest by directly going to them. Thus, the farmers were able to continue with their livelihood even during challenging times. GRI was the first tire manufacturer to implement such a system.
“We ensure that we pay our natural rubber farmers a fair and competitive price so that they can take care of their families. We encourage and support them to develop their rubber plantations, and we enable social upliftment,” explained Dr. MaheshaRanasoma.
GRI produces high-grade specialty tires that are built sustainably using pure natural rubber in Sri Lanka. Founded in 2002, the company produces material handling solid tires, radial agriculture tires, and construction tires. GRI has operations in9 countries, and a business presence in more than 50 countries worldwide. Since2018 GRI has been advancing in the rapid expansion of its specialty tire plants in Sri Lanka and its operations in key countries. GRI ensures its commitment to sustainability and environmental protection throughout its operations locally and globally.