The tyre industry is ‘treading new paths’ for our society, with an increasing focus on sustainable raw materials, technologies and processes !
Albin Antony, our next pathbreaker, AGM Research and Development, Ralson India Limited, works on sustainable mobility challenges with an eye on customer requirements, materials and their chemistry.
Albin talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his journey in the world of tyre compounding and new product development for OEMs, two-wheelers, tractors, OTR, aerospace tyre industries with leading tyre companies such as MRF & CEAT.
For students, innovation is no longer about better technologies, its more about sustainable and clean technologies that will shape an exciting future for the tyre industry !
Albin, Your background?
I was born in Muvattupuzha, Kerala & brought up in Idukki, Kerala. I completed my schooling from Government VHSS Maniyarankudy Idukki until 10th & 12th from SGHSS Vazhathope. My parents are from a farming based family. Both my parents encouraged me to study along with my sister. I was an average student, who used to just pass in subjects.
My initial interests were in science (chemistry, Biology) & literature. I loved to read as many books as possible, whether it was fiction or literature. Based on my interest in science after plus two, I continued in the chemistry stream, and after graduation and post-graduation, further narrowed down my career interest in polymers and rubber technology.
What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?
I completed graduation in Agro Chemistry from Govt. College Manimalakunnu, Koothattukulam, Kerala & my post-graduation from CMS College Kottayam, Kerala in Analytical Chemistry in 2007. Both are under MG University Kottayam.
After that, I completed my postgraduate diploma in Rubber Technology from IIT Kharagpur & IRI (Indian Rubber Institute) in 2013.
In 2015, I attended a certificate course in Intellectual Property Rights provided by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Currently I am pursuing my Doctorate in Sustainable Materials for the tyre Industry from SSBM Geneva, Switzerland.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
My teachers were my influencers; they really helped me in molding my career. My reading habit also really helped me in my career decisions.
If I mention a few names, it would be injustice to those who all helped me in my journey. My teachers from primary school to present helped me directly or indirectly.
I ensured that I did not miss any seminars /symposiums /lecturers/inter college programs in college. Whenever I attended any of these events, I was excited to boost my knowledge about various technologies. In addition, it helped me in building my network.
The spark for being employed during the last semester of my PG was the turning point. Kottayam CMS College has a very active campus placement drive. I cleared more than three interviews in the campus placement drive in my last semester of PG. The deciding factor for me to join the company was the location and the reputation of my first company, MRF Tyres.
Tell us about your career path
As I mentioned above, my first job was through campus placement. I prepared for the campus interview from the third semester of my PG itself. I worked on sharpening my communication skills as the first step and as a secondary measure, mastered the projects, important reactions, and reagents in Organic, Inorganic Chemistry as well as details of equipment and spectroscopic techniques in Analytical Chemistry. In 2007, I joined MRF Tyres as Production Supervisor.
With a learning mindset, I continued my journey and moved to the technical R&D department in 2013, as Executive, Compound Development. During this time, I was taking care of rubber formulation / compound development for 2/3 wheeler, Farm, OTR (Off the road) & Aerospace tyres.
In 2015, I upgraded my knowledge in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and took an additional responsibility of IPR in the company on the R & D front. It was an opportunity given by the company to take on additional responsibility in IPR. I coordinated on drafting and application process of patents for the company. This really helped me in my next organization as well.
In 2016, I made my first move to a new company as Manager, Raw Material Development (RMD) in CEAT tyres. I established the RMD department in a short span of 11 months & through internal role change, moved to the product development department, taking care of 2/3 wheeler tyre development for OEM & Replacement tyres. At CEAT, I applied for two patents as inventor for CEAT tyres which are under the process of approval. The activities in IPR were really a value addition to the organization and myself from a learning perspective. During my tenure with CEAT tyres, my IPR knowledge really helped me, because the management was keen to strengthen their IPR & hence I could apply for two patents on behalf of the company.
The work I did at MRF & CEAT were different. In the compound development role at MRF, I was more into the technical aspects of compounds & products, whereas in CEAT I was leading the Raw Material Development activities, which was more oriented towards supplier interactions and developments.
After ~3 years, I made the second move in my career to the next company as AMG R&D, Assistant General Manager Research and Development with Ralson tyres.
My approach to my career was to do the activities, which I loved to do, while also upgrading my educational qualifications and certifications to compete among my peers.
Since I was already working in the industry, I tried to utilize management provided educational opportunities (from CEAT tyres & MRF Tyres for the IPR study). CEAT is one of the best companies to work, with good systems and policies.
After joining Ralson India Limited in 2021, I decided to do my doctoral studies, and finally found an institute, which allowed part-time doctoral programs for professionals. I started my doctoral journey in 2021 June with SSBM Geneva and expect to complete by 2024.
During my professional journey, I learned one thing , “we all are commodities in the job market”. Therefore, we need to create our own value, so that those who are going to hire us should grab us. In addition, we should try to expand our professional contacts.
We also need to have a vision to prepare for the most advanced next generation upgrades in technologies & learnings. Whoever is able to lead the change, will be rewarded the most.
Always remember to have a good work life balance, which is equally important to the career.
How did you get your first break?
My first job was through campus interviews. The name of the institution and university can give an advantage in such a scenario along with your preparedness and attitude. Once you start your journey as a professional, networking is an important tool for the next move. In a corporate scenario, employee referral carries a lot of value, as management thought process is, ‘if somebody is referring a person, at least the professional wavelength will be similar, which makes it easier for the new organization to integrate a new-hire faster.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Challenge 1: In the first 6 years, the major challenge was the lack of knowledge itself.
Challenge 2: Once I made my first move, there were a new set of challenges, like a new place, new culture etc. Integrating with the new culture was a big challenge.
Challenge 3: Similarly in the third organization as well, I faced similar challenges of integrating with the culture.
In all the cases, I tried my level best to upgrade myself with respect to knowledge and certifications on the educational front. With respect to the cultural front, I tried to integrate with the team on the basis of technical knowledge and interpersonal relations.
Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?
Currently I am working with Ralson India Limited, as AGM Research and Development for India’s largest bicycle tyre manufacturing company and fastest growing 2/3 wheeler tyre company in India, who have ventured into the TBR (Truck, Bus and Radial tyres) segment.
We at Ralson are working towards making life healthier and easier through sustainable mobility. Our job demands knowing about customer requirements, materials and their chemistry.
What are the skills required for your role? How did you acquire them?
I learned the majority of the skills through experience. When I started my career, I had very little technical knowledge, which I learned from theory and books. In reality, the knowledge I learned from college is not enough to lead the show. My technical experience in the industry enabled me to face the new sets of challenges arising every day.
Sustainability is one of the fastest growing areas around the the world. I realized that sustainability in the tyre industry is shaping up differently in different areas of the world. I divided the geographies into one of the biggest tyre producing regions and tyre consuming regions. That is why I selected sustainable materials in the tyre industry for my PhD, a comparative study of European and Asian markets. I do strongly believe that sustainability will be one of the most emerging topics in the world, as the awareness is increasing day by day. All the major global manufacturers are focusing on sustainability and setting several targets to meet sustainability goals.
What’s a typical day at work?
A typical day at work is like a follow up of the previous days & major events and activities, which is important for management planning, followed by technical discussions and interactions with peers, vendors, OEMs and other cross functional teams (CFTs).
The one factor I love about my work is that I am doing the work I love to do, like developing RM (Raw Materials) suppliers, leading CFT interactions and developing new products, which makes me proud of my contributions in the abovementioned role.
How does your work benefit society?
The present work is the most beneficial to humankind, as it is related to mobility. We at Ralson are trying to ‘tread new paths’ for humanity in a sustainable way.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
Well, I can recollect the last assignment in my previous role, which was catering an OEM at our R&D. I tried to look into all the minute things to ensure that not only meet the expectations but to exceed them in all the minute aspects.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
You should have a career aspiration; you should decide the career you like to work in, not the one others are guiding or pushing you to do. You have to learn some necessary certifications in addition to your degree to be on top of the interview requirements, which is your gateway to a career. Always have a habit of learning, even after you get into an organisation.
It may not be an advice to the students, but a guideline for the direction in which they should proceed. Try to work for the things you love to do, in other words, if you are feeling this is not your cup of tea, try to find the right path, which suits you. Not every person can be successful in every job; similarly, if you are not able to succeed in a particular role, it does not mean that you are incapable; you may be better in another role. Do not hesitate to take the decision on changing your career path at that moment.
Focusing on my doctoral studies now, which I am planning to complete by 2023~2024. Once the doctoral studies are over, my plan is to learn a new language, which can be beneficial for me personally as well as professionally.