The market for automotive bearings is growing at a rate of almost 27 percent per annum in the year 2005 - 06. This is mainly because of multiple models in every vehicle segment entering the market.

The overall automotive industry has grown at the rate of 34 percent per annum from the year 2004. Hence, a definite increase in the demand for bearings in the OE segment is anticipated. Aftermarket demand for automotive bearings is increasing, but at a slower rate as compared to the growth in vehicle population. Manufacturers are expecting sustained growth of 15 percent in the aftermarket mainly due to increase in population of two wheelers, passenger cars, and utility vehicle segments.

Some of the restraints faced by the bearings manufacturers are longer life due to improved technology, improved fuel quality, and better maintenance of the vehicles. This reduces the replacement rate, which in turn leads to slower growth in the aftermarket demand. Increase of imports due to a 5 percent decrease in duty rates is affecting the market for the domestic participants.

Vehicle owners prefer imported bearings due to lower costs. Cost difference is almost 50 percent between the domestic bearings and the imported bearings. For example, the bearings manufactured in India are priced at Rs.25 and the bearings imported from China are priced at Rs.12 in the year 2004 - 05. There is an increase in imports from China and South Korea due to lower costs and greater demand.

There has also been increase in prices of domestic brands as the cost of production has gone up due to increase in steel prices. Indian manufacturers are also facing a threat from the spurious parts manufacturers who manufacture duplicate parts and sell them in the names of both domestic and foreign companies. This is the biggest threat to the Indian manufacturers as this eats away their share in the aftermarket and affects their growth.

Indian manufacturers are taking multiple steps to overcome the challenges facing the Indian market. Manufacturers are investing more in research to develop better technologies, which increase the life of the bearings. Companies are giving a warranty of 1 to 2 years on the bearings.

Generally, bearings have been standardised internationally i.e. the boundary dimensions of the product have been laid down.

However, with moderate modifications in the standardised designs, bearings have been manufactured and used for various applications the world over.

The manufacturing activity in the country started in the late 40's, with the production of small and standard bearings. The Indian industry today manufactures small and medium bearings mainly in five categories, i.e. ball bearings, cylindrical roller bearings, taper roller bearings, spherical roller bearings and needle roller bearings.

The popular size range is generally restricted to 140 mm OD, though larger sizes are also manufactured by some units.

Structural deficiencies

The bearing industry also suffers from structural deficiencies, which are making it less competitive in the global market. Low volumes in the domestic industry does not make it feasible to induct technology in the form of high-end automation. This ultimately affects quality. In addition, the industry is fragmented with no economies of scale. Another problem which domestic manufacturers face is that of high cost of imported equipment. Machine tools and precision measuring equipment have to be imported and they invite a custom duty of 25% thus making project costs high and un remunerative to undertake. The third problem is of cost-competitiveness due to higher import duties on raw materials (steel tubes, steel bars, grinding wheels etc).

The industry generally does not manufacture special bearings/high precision bearings. Some small scale units also manufacture bearings, but these generally cannot compare in quality or volume with those from the organised sector though a few do make some special designs. The organised sector manufacturers have generally imported the technology from internationally renowned manufacturers.

The rolling bearing manufacturers in India mostly manufacture bearings based on the original design and specifications obtained from their collaborators. Generally there is a limited facility available with the bearing manufacturers for research or development of new bearings of indigenous designs.

However, commendable efforts have been made by some units to design and develop bearings, particularly larger diameter ball and roller bearings, to suit specific customer requirements. There are also small scale units producing bearings in small quantities from imported components by assembling them. The following are the major manufacturers of bearings in India:

S.No. Manufacturing Bearings
1 Associated Bearing Company Ltd., Pune (Maharashtra)
2 Asian Bearings Company Ltd., Hosur (Tamil Nadu)
3 Karnataka Ball Bearing Corporation Ltd., Mysore (Karnataka)
4 HMT Ltd., Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh))
5 Tata Iron and Steel Company Ltd., (Bearings Division) Kharagpur (West Bengal)
6 Shriram Bearings Ltd., Ranchi (Bihar)
7 National Engineering Industries Ltd., Jaipur (Rajasthan)
8 FAG Precision Bearings Ltd., Vadodara (Gujarat)
9 Antifriction Bearing Company Ltd. Bharuch (Gujarat), Lonavala (Maharashtra)
10 Union Bearings Manufacturing Co., Porbunder (Gujarat)
11 Needle Roller Bearing Co. Ltd., Thana/Jalna (Maharashtra)
12 Shriram Needle Industries Ltd., Ranchi (Bihar)
13 Deepak Insulated Cables Ltd., Mysore (Karnataka) (Needle Bearings Division)
14 Austin Engg Company Limited Junagadh , Gujarat
15 Karnataka Ball Bearing Co Ltd., Mysore
16 Mysore Kirloskar Ltd, Harihar (Karnataka)
17 Needle Roller Bearings Ltd, Thane
18 Needle Roller Bearings Ltd., Waluj
19 SKF India Limited , Chinchwad, Pune
20 SKF India Limited, Bommasandra, Bangalore
21 Timken India Limited, Jamshedpur
22 ZKL Bearings India Pvt. Ltd., (setting up manufacturing)