There are relatively few leading suppliers of quality retreading equipment active in Asia. Outside of small local equipment makers and a certain amount of direct sales imported into the region from various parts of the world, the market is serviced by two or three main players. One of these is Italmatic Asia, the 50/50 joint venture established in 1984 by Lily Yeo together with Italian equipment maker, Ital matic .
Lily Yeo is one of a few women entrepreneurs in the global retreading industry and possibly the only woman running an equipment company. Prior to setting up Italmatic Asia, she had been employed as an administrator by Newera but had to rapidly educate herself on technical issues when the new company was setup. “Initially it was very difficult”, says Lily. “Italmatic equipment had been previously been sold by an agent who had cherry picked certain machines, so at first our customers didn’t believe that Italmatic had a full range. We had to work hard to convince the market”. Now, however, the company is active across the whole of Asia with exception of India and is particularly strong in Malaysia, where the customers has 100 customers. Other key markets include Thailand, Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan and also Australia. China is also a major growth area and the company now has a representative office in Beijing in addition to two other overseas branches in Kuala Lumpur and Hongkong. The company follows a strict policy of not getting directly involved in retreading says Lily. “It is important to us to retain our impartiality in the eyes of the customer so unlike others we do not get involved in any retreading joint ventures.”. Italmatic Asia does, however, work in co-operation with compounders (the company did have an arrangement with Goodway Rubber) and also supplies some local producers who are attemting to set up franchise systems in specific markets. Asccording to lily’s son, Parry Yeo who is now heavily involved in the business, one of the key challenges facing the company is convincing customers that they have an advantage if they buy better equipment, as many people still think that cheapest is best. However, Italmatic do supply a range of equipment at a variety of prices including a range of those who are on a budget. However, Parry stresses that the company does not simply give a price. “We talk to the customers and recommend technology that is relevant to their requirements and their budget. We don’t try to sell from something they don’t need. That’s a sure way to make the customer doesn’t come back”. Italmatic Asia’s marketing strategy is focused heavily on technical support indeed. Italmatic is the only machinery manufacturer with offices located around the world.
Italmatic uses a number of engineers contracted to the company to provide long term service on relative short notice. This is used primarily for major overhauls installations or major problems. Customers are encouraged to carry out a self maintenance programme for day to day service. The company claims to have a good e-mail service for response to technical problems and also trains local agents to do simple machine servicing. Spare parts are stocked in Singapore with response time for consumable items being usually 2-3 days. “A key point”, says Parry, “is that we have a competitive and reliable list of parts. Parts don’t change and are standardized, which means there is no difficulty in finding the right part.”
“For us it is important to emphasize that we are not just selling machines.” says Parry. :Our main aim is to help our customers to supply them with what is required backed up with excellent service. We also do not want to tie our customers down to franchise agreements”.