India Markets closed

Auto-driver to IIM case study: Pyare Khan’s journey on uncharted highway

Vivek Deshpande
On June 20 this year, when UAE-based investment bank Imperial Capital L.L.C. offered a loan of Rs 80 crore to Khan s transport company. (Express Photo: Monica Chaturvedi)

In 2004, when 26-year-old autorickshaw driver Pyare Khan approached the Nagpur branch of ING Vysya Bank for a loan to buy a truck, branch manager Bhushan Bais wasn t impressed since Khan had little by way of collateral. Yet, after Khan s relentless pursuit, Bais finally sanctioned a loan of Rs 11 lakh. Khan bought his truck and repaid the loan within two years, at least two years ahead of the deadline.

On June 20 this year, when UAE-based investment bank Imperial Capital L.L.C. offered a loan of Rs 80 crore to Khan s transport company, Ashmi Road Transport, leading the charge on Khan s behalf was Bais as the company s Head of Finance, a position he took up after he quit ING Vysya in 2016.

Between the story of these two loans lies the story of how Khan, now 41, scripted one of the most heartwarming entrepreneurial success stories. Registered in 2013, Khan s Ashmi Road Transport Pvt Ltd is now a Rs 400-cr-turnover company that owns a fleet of 125 trucks and hires a fleet of over 3,000 trucks a day to ferry steel and power infrastructure across the country, and even abroad. The company has 10 branch offices across the country, with about 500 employees.

Talking of his days of struggle, Khan says, My mother Raisa Khatun did odd jobs to feed the four of us my two brothers, a sister and me. We chipped in by selling oranges at the Nagpur railway station. As soon as I got a driving licence, I joined a courier company as driver but left the job after an accident in Odisha when I was 18. In the late nineties, I bought an auto-rickshaw and ran it for a while, says Khan, adding that in those days, he played the keyboard and was part of Nagpur s Melody Makers group.

I thought I should buy a bus to ferry our group to programme venues. So I bought one by selling some of my instruments and other valuables, he says. That venture, however, soon went bust and in 2004, he decided to buy a truck.

There has been no looking back since then. By 2007, Khan had a fleet of eight trucks and in 2013, he registered his company. Khan now undertakes deliveries for companies such as KEC International, JSW Steel, Tata and SAIL.

In 2016, I undertook an assignment for KEC International to transport their transformers to Bhutan. The transportation entailed laying a 30-km road by cutting trees in some of the troubled areas of the Northeast and propping up weak bridges on the way to our destination. We reached Bhutan after doing all that but our trucks were stuck at a welcome arch that was lower than the height of our consignment. I requested the Bhutan authorities to allow me to dig the ground and promised to re-lay it later. They agreed and it was done. They issued me a special commendation letter for that, he says.

Those who have known Khan vouch for his integrity.

He is gritty, confident and delivers the consignment without thinking about profit and loss. He even takes up challenging assignments that others refuse, says JSW Nagpur plant head Mukul Verma.

Says Bais, Though I had my reservations about granting him the loan in 2004, I had a gut feeling that he was perhaps an honest man. He proved me right. In 2016, after hearing of his impeccable credentials as a businessman, I accepted his offer to join him.

Khan s moment of glory came in 2018, when he won the top prize in a contest for young transport entrepreneurs, a programme organised jointly by IIM-Ahmedabad and Mahindra Truck & Bus. Unlike 18 other contestants, two of them from the US, who were equipped with laptops and PowerPoint presentations, Khan simply stood up and presented his case, in Hindi.

When the organisers of the contest asked me to take part, I wasn t sure. I didn t even know what IIM was. So I went there reluctantly, without knowing what to say, says Khan. But when he was declared winner and he received the award, tears rolled down his cheeks, Khan says.

For now, Khan is focussed on expanding his business. Ashmi Road Transport Private Limited will soon shift to a Rs 7-crore corporate office on three acres close to Nagpur city. I intend to expand my business in a couple of years and generate more jobs, which is what our country needs the most, says Khan.