Emerging technologies in electric vehicles are reshaping lubricant needs

  • Interviews
  • Jan 29,24
In this interview, Ravi Chawla, MD & CEO, Gulf Oil Lubricants India Ltd, highlights how his company is developing innovative, biodegradable products to meet the evolving needs of industrial customers.
Emerging technologies in electric vehicles are reshaping lubricant needs

India is expected to be a bright spot in the global lubricants market with anticipated high growth due to a resilient automotive industry and fast-developing infrastructure sector. Besides, with sustainability taking center stage, industries are demanding eco-friendly products and processes. In this interview, Ravi Chawla, Managing Director & CEO, Gulf Oil Lubricants India Ltd, highlights how his company is navigating these trends by developing innovative, biodegradable products to meet the evolving needs of industrial customers.

How is Gulf Oil Lubricants supporting the growth of end-user industries? 
At Gulf Oil Lubricants, we are strategically spearheading the growth of user industries in multiple ways. Our commitment to innovation and customer-centricity is evident through our relentless focus on research and development, resulting in the successful launch of 31 new products. In the B2C retail markets, we have proactively addressed challenges, introducing cost-effective products like Gulf Zipp Smart and Gulf Zipp Plus to stimulate consumption amid rising prices. Our initiatives extend beyond traditional segments, exemplified by the introduction of an industry-leading tractor engine oil with a 1,000-hour drain interval, demonstrating our commitment to providing value-added solutions for farmers. 

Furthermore, our robust presence in the B2B segment is underscored by strategic partnerships and high double-digit growth in the OEM segment, solidifying our position with prominent entities like Bajaj Auto and Mahindra. The success of Formula SUV, our advanced synthetic engine oil tailored for SUVs, highlights our focus on delivering technologically advanced products that guarantee peak performance. As a leading supplier of AdBlue, we are actively contributing to reducing hazardous NOx emissions from vehicles, aligning with BS-IV and BS-VI standards, and promoting a cleaner, greener future. Embracing the shift towards electric vehicles (EVs), we are leveraging our brand, robust relationships, and expansive distribution channels to tap into this emerging market, aligning with India's gradual transition and global trends. Our dedication to technological advancement, superior products, and environmental responsibility positions us as industry leaders, fostering not just our growth but also supporting the prosperity and sustainability of the user industries we serve.

What kinds of opportunities are opening up in the end-user industries like automotive, electronics, railways, defense, renewable energy, etc?
In the dynamic landscape of the lubricants industry, we are witnessing a surge in demand driven by a multitude of industries, particularly automotive, construction, steel and cement, wind energy, agriculture, mining, oil drilling, marine, and aerospace. Our specialised lubricants tailored for sectors such as mining, manufacturing, power generation, and infrastructure industries are experiencing heightened demands. Our commercial vehicle segment, growing at an impressive rate of 34 per cent in FY 2022-23, is fueled by robust activities in infrastructure and construction. The industrial sector's increasing reliance on lubricants is notable, bolstered by government initiatives like Atmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India, as well as the global strategy of China Plus One. 

The ongoing solid infrastructure development in India, encompassing roads, bridges, railways, and buildings, is a pivotal factor, further accentuated by a 33 per cent increase in capital expenditure on infrastructure investment for 2023-24, amounting to Rs 10 lakh crore. Notably, Gulf Oil India is strategically positioned to capitalise on these opportunities, offering a range of technologically advanced products and lubricants for both on-highway vehicles and off-highway construction equipment. Gulf has been actively involved in landmark projects like Atal Setu, Mumbai High-Speed Rail Project (Bullet Train), Yashobhoomi and the Centra Vista project. 

Amid the rise of electric vehicles, our foresight includes the development of specialised fluids, known as EV fluids or e-fluids, ensuring our continued relevance in the evolving market. With the lubricant consumption in India set to grow in the next decade, we are well-prepared to navigate this evolving landscape, providing innovative solutions and supporting the diverse needs of industries that form the backbone of our nation's economy.

Could you please highlight some of the emerging developments in the lubricants industry? 
There are quite a few key trends that are poised to shape the future of the lubricants industry. Increasing domestic production and sales are set to uplift the demand for industrial lubricants, particularly with a surge in specialized lubricants tailored to meet complex industrial needs. The higher adoption of automation and advanced technologies presents new opportunities for lubricant manufacturers, aligning with the Industry 4.0 paradigm that is fundamentally changing how lubricants are selected, consumed, and evaluated. The growing usage of heavy construction machinery further fuels industrial lubricant sales. 

Sustainability efforts are taking center stage, driven by stringent European legislation and the rise of alternative fuels like hydrogen, natural gas, and biofuels, each posing unique challenges to lubricant formulations. Additionally, emerging technologies in electric vehicles and the electrification of the automotive industry are reshaping lubricant requirements, with a focus on specially developed fluids such as EV fluids or e-fluids. India, being a bright spot in the global lubricants market, anticipates significant growth, driven by a resilient automotive industry and ongoing infrastructure development.

As one of India's leading lubricant provider, Gulf Oil is poised to navigate these trends, emphasising the development of ester-based lubricants, biodegradable products, and innovative solutions catering to the evolving needs of industrial customers. Our commitment to performance, sustainability, and technological advancements positions us to lead in a dynamic and transformative lubricants industry landscape.

What are key challenges before the lubricant industry at present?
In the current landscape of the lubricant industry, we acknowledge some pivotal challenges that demand strategic foresight and adept management. Furthermore, the macroeconomic challenge of fluctuating crude oil prices and inflation impacting the cost dynamics of lubricant manufacturing. There is a need for vigilant monitoring of oil price volatility, considering its potential to influence operational costs, maintenance practices, and overall market demand. The commitment to adaptability and proactive management stands as Gulf Oil India's response to these challenges, ensuring resilience and sustained growth in the face of industry complexities.

How is Gulf Oil gearing up to tap the opportunities as sustainability gains traction across the end-user industries?
In the push for a greener future, Gulf Oil India is set to contribute towards the opportunities that sustainability brings to our company. We understand the importance of eco-friendly practices and have taken steps for a greener future. We have taken big steps by creating advanced fluids for electric vehicles in partnership with top companies like Piaggio and Switch Mobility. Our collaborations with Omega Seiki Mobility, Altigreen, and Virya Mobility highlight our commitment to lead in the EV fluids market. We are also working closely with Indra Renewable Technologies and ElectreeFi to drive innovation in sustainability. 

Gulf Oil is not just about cutting-edge products; we are at the forefront of eco-friendly practices, offering green lubricants and advanced engine oils. At this year’s Excon, we also introduced a new product for heavy machinery called the “Gulf Harmony Bio-Synth Super 68” which is biodegradable and has low toxicity. It is aimed at hydraulic systems located in environmentally sensitive areas and unattended outdoor equipment. Our commitment goes beyond products, including initiatives like rainwater harvesting, solar power, and waste reduction. As one of the leaders in the lubricants industry, we actively seek partnerships, making a significant impact on both our market position and the global sustainability effort.

What are your growth plans for Gulf Oil Lubricants in India?
In the next 2-3 years, Gulf Oil Lubricants aims for robust growth in India by capitalising on the immense potential within the industry. With a projected industry volume growth of at least 2-3 per cent, and higher value growth, we see significant opportunities to increase our market share. We are strategically positioned to explore emerging segments such as core lubricants, EV fluids, AdBlue, and e-Mobility. Leveraging our strong brand, expansive distribution network, and a resilient business model, we are confident in venturing into new frontiers. Our commitment to digital transformation is evident through the introduction of cutting-edge EV fluids and the acquisition of ElectreeFi. Additionally, our recent investments in AdBlue manufacturing and specialised metalworking fluids facilities showcase our commitment to driving transformative growth. 

In the dynamic and competitive business environment, we are keen on understanding and adapting to market trends, regulatory frameworks, and technological advancements, enabling us to seize opportunities and ensure sustainable growth. Amidst the significant growth in the automotive industry, particularly in passenger vehicles and two-wheelers, we anticipate a thriving lubricant sales volume. Moreover, with the transitioning lubricants market towards premium-quality products, our focus on synthetic lubricants aligns with consumer preferences and stricter emission standards. 

Our acquisition of Tirex, the EV charger maker is expected to bolster the company's presence in the electric vehicle segment. The acquisition is a part of the company's global ambition towards being a leader in the EV charging ecosystem. Furthermore, the surge in agricultural activities and tractor sales in the rural economy presents a promising avenue, and we are geared to meet the increasing demand for tractor lubricants. Our growth plans encompass a comprehensive approach, from core lubricants to innovative segments and we are targeting 2-3x of industry growth, ensuring Gulf Oil Lubricants continues to be a leading player in the industry.

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