Castrol South Africa has been making oil since men have been making cars.
Writer Chris Farnell
Project manager Sheridan Halls
When you're driving your car it's possible you don't spend a great deal of time thinking about the engine lubricant. It's an essential part of your engine, sure, but it's like the margarine in a sandwich - you don't tend to think of it as the most essential component.
And yet Castrol knows that for an engine to work to the absolute best of its potential you need an oil that has been developed alongside the engine itself. That's what it has been doing for over a century.
"We're a global company that's been around over 100 years and we continue to shape the whole industry," explains Castrol South Africa's marketing director, Shren Moodley. "We're about driving new technology and leading the agenda for our market sector. We work in the automotive, the industrial, aviation, marine, and mining sectors. We've got a wide portfolio and a depth of over 100 years experience. There simply aren't many businesses in the market that can match us for specialisation or longevity."
Castrol uses its experience to create a top of the line product.
"We're a premium brand and a market leader," Moodley says. "We're slightly more expensive than most products on the market, but what most people don't know is that we invest that money right back into our research and development. We continue to keep our R&D breakthroughs going forward, just as we have continued to do that consistently for the last 100 years. Our products have often been used at the forefront of world changing breakthroughs such as land speed records, marine racing and aviation."
Castrol is able to do this because of the close partnerships it has built with its customers, over the years developing products to specifically meet the needs of the products those customers are designing.
"What sets us apart is that we work very closely with our partner companies," Moodley says. "We've got a long history with firms such as BMW and Volkswagen and we've worked with them developing technology to fit their purposes. In terms of our depth of partnerships we're second to none. There are more cars on the road in Africa that are born with Castrol oil in the engine than any other oil. So we have a great relationship with those manufacturers, they're developing their technology with us, from basic cars to supercars such as Lamborghini."
Of course, you don't reach levels of recognition and success like that without having to overcome some pretty big challenges along the way.
"Everything we do is done to the very highest safety standards," Moodley points out. "Lubricant is basically oil and we know that that can have a big effect on the environment, so we have to have very high standards in terms of how it is used and how we protect the environment.
"For example, if you look at South Africa, we're on the board of the Rose Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides education and encourages for used oil to be collected and disposed of. We've been at the forefront of that foundation ensuring that lubricants are used in a safe manner.
"When we supply lubricant we have checklists and check points to help customers be aware of the safety issues. We're driving for safety measures such as extinguishers. We start every meeting talking about safety. And we try to spread that attitude to both our customers and suppliers."
Along with an increasing appreciation of the environmental issues that their industry must consider, Castrol is seeing other changing attitudes among the markets it traditionally sells to.
"We've had a very good year, within our region one of the best years ever," Moodley says. "There's a strong move towards synthetic products and synthetic oils are where our strengths are. Many manufacturers are demanding more sophisticated lubricants and oils, which plays more and more to our advantage. That's really helping us out. We're getting a really good performance out of our products; there are growth opportunities out there that we're looking at. It's been good all round.
"We're also seeing the rise of the emerging middle class in Africa," Moodley continues. "We're working to provide solutions for this rising middle class that will be the future of Africa."
To take the best possible advantage of those growth opportunities, Castrol makes a concerted effort to employ the best and brightest.
"Castrol is flexible in terms of how we recruit," Moodley says. "We will use different techniques depending on the position we have to fill. We have a solid graduate recruit programme as well as a direct entry system where we recruit the right person for the right job from other industries. We also have a strong BBBEE push to find the best black talent out there, and we're at the forefront of that."
Castrol's recruitment efforts also benefit from the company's links with its parent company, BP.
"We share a lot of resources with BP, so we enjoy a combination of the cultures of Castrol and BP so that we get a nice diversity within the company. It helps that we also pay really well, so that's one way we recruit. We also have programmes to identify high potential talent for accelerated development. Our development programme is excellent because of the breadth of BP we offer great sales, marketing and finance expertise that can give you great exposure to all kinds of skills and disciplines."
As well as recruiting the best available staff from a wide array of backgrounds, Castrol also takes measures to ensure that each and every member of its staff is up to date with the latest breakthroughs in the field. "We have a research centre in Pangbourne in the UK that is constantly developing new technologies and they let us know what the latest engine technology or lubricant technology is," Moodley says. "So right now for instance the market is demanding much more for much less, with engines getting smaller and smaller as we try to conserve fuel while still getting more power out of the engine. This means that there's demand for a stronger oil to keep up with those changes. Meanwhile, we also work very closely with our customers, so through our partnerships we get a continuous information feed regarding what the latest developments are. We're seeing a positive future with plenty of growth opportunities and we're confident we'll be able to capture those opportunities."
To learn more visit www.castrol.com.