“For the first five years of married life, the only job I did was dropping and picking up my wife from Airport as she had a job with Jet Airways and I didn’t have one!”—Neeraj Gupta
Meru Cabs, Ola Cabs, and Uber Cabs are prominent private taxi service providers along with many other players like Taxi For Sure and Savaari. They have redefined the way Indians commute in traffic-jammed city roads without facing the hassle of self-driving and at the same time escaping from woes of public transport systems without a deep cut in their pockets. While Meru is first Indian Radio based Taxi Service, Ola and Uber as we know are Mobile-App based Taxi service providers. Today the market has a dime a dozen players competing for revenue in taxi services segment. But the First player in any market craves an everlasting name in the minds of the public and Mr. Neeraj Gupta, Founder of Meru Cabs is no exception. The journey of Neeraj Gupta as India’s biggest Radio Taxi Service providing company Meru is an exciting one. Though Neeraj’s isn’t rags to riches story, his dedication and innovation as first generation entrepreneur needs applaud from every quarter of society. This Kalam Fan Club Post focuses on Neeraj Gupta’s adventurous journey.
Neeraj’s College Days.
Neeraj was born in a wealthy family that was known to lead an aristocratic lifestyle and his father Vishnu Kumar Puranchan Gupta also was happy leading a comfortable life with the inherited property from forefathers. He never pushed Neeraj to become a career-focused guy. Neeraj who studied Commerce in Hansraj Moraji Public School in Mumbai was also not an academically bright scholar. Neeraj used to spend the majority of his time with friends and was excelling in extracurricular activities rather than curricular ones. He had a mind and heart bent towards looking out for novel aspects and was good at monetizing such fancy hobbies. During a vacation, he came across a person who used to create inscription on rice grains. Neeraj learned this art to impress his girlfriend by gifting such inscribed grains. He not only succeeded in impressing his girlfriend with this novel gift but also started getting bombarded with zillions of requests from his friends who were eager to impress their girlfriends. Neeraj who was good at monetizing hobbies did the same in this case too. He started getting orders from Archies and Hallmark stores who were keen on giving bulk order for these rice grains. This incidence is sufficient to prove his entrepreneurial skills that have come to foreground today with his 850 Crore business of Meru Cabs that operates nearly 9000 vehicles across India.
Completed College, What Next?
Neeraj obtained graduation with a good percentage of marks, and his father insisted him to work for some organization instead of spending time by freaking out. On his father’s persuasion, he joined a textile company, but his stint with the company lasted only for three months.
In college, his love life had blossomed with classmate Farhat, and both of them got married. Unlike the majority of married guys Neeraj didn’t have a job at hand after marriage but his sweetheart Farhat got an opportunity to work for Jet Airways, and since she was a career-oriented lady she accepted the offer. For the first five years of marriage, Neeraj’s only assignment was to pick-up and drop his better half to the office. But soon he realized he had to focus on venturing into some business, and his innovative thinking paid off in the form of his first company called ‘Elite Class’— Single-Stop Automobile Service & maintenance Solution provider. He was funded by his wife who gave a loan of Rs.50000 as initial capital. His friend who was technically sound with automobiles joined hands.
The Modus Operandi of ‘Elite Class’
Elite Class had to face cut-throat competition in Automobile Repair and servicing segment as hundreds of similar operators mushroomed in the same locality. But Neeraj’s out-of-the Box thinking paid off. He offered free-maintenance and break-up services that attracted corporate sector clients, and the business started flourishing. This was just the beginning of series of ideas that were burgeoning in Neeraj’s mind.
The Success from Second Venture: V-Link Automotive Services Pvt. Ltd
By now Neeraj had started to learn intricacies of the Automobile industry and developed rapport with Corporate Indian companies. During the same period (The year 2001), Tata Infotech opened bids from transportation companies to ply buses for their employees. Neeraj grabbed the opportunity by floating a new company called V-Link Automotive Services Pvt. Ltd. He invested Rs. 14 lakh to purchase a bus and started serving five of the Tata infotech offices.
The Expansion Phase
It was at the same time Tata Infotech tied up with a company called Sitel to start a BPO. The Employee strength of Tata Infotech multiplied. Neeraj received more orders; His innovative mind prompted him to introduce smaller vehicles like Cabs instead of buses to cut down travel time of employees. V-Link grew to a full fledge transportation service provider. But the real turning point came after six years in the form of Maharashtra Govt. notification.
The Big Turning Point
It was August 2006, Maharashtra Govt. called for tenders for operating 10,000 air-conditioned, GPS-Linked, Electronic Meter based taxis for Mumbai city with a foresight of providing better travelling experience to the public. This News came as a delightful one for Neeraj, as he had acquired the knowledge and skills to operate taxis for corporate companies. He was also aware of the fact that Radio-Taxis in western countries was a big hit among the public. It was a big opportunity for his company.
The idea was fine, but the capital was the bottleneck. Neeraj transformed his company as a corporate by having ‘V-Link Travel Solutions’ as parent company and two subsidiaries: ‘V-Link Fleet Solutions’ – serving the BPOs and ‘V-Link Taxis’ – to provide air-conditioned taxis in Mumbai. He managed to obtain funding from India Value Fund in the form of 50 Cr. And very soon the investors provided additional 160 Cr. for the expansion of the company. The entry of India Value Fund encouraged Neeraj to start a complete radio taxi solution called “Meru Cabs” with 30 taxis in March 2007.
The Initial Hiccups & Journey Further…..
Those days’ private companies were denied taxi-permits. So Neeraj had a hurricane task of convincing existing taxi-operators to join his crew and had taught them use of technology and upgrade their taxis with Radio-GPS enabled systems. As the time progressed he managed to gain the confidence of both taxi drivers and public and soon by 2008, Meru Cabs had 3000 vehicles across four metros and had employed 700 drivers and earned recognition of largest taxi networking company in India. Today it has grown up to operate in not only metros but also tier-2 and tier-3 cities with more than 10000 taxis in its stride which has its headquarters in Mumbai.
Known as a serial entrepreneur Neeraj has also tried his hands in a company called META in the year 2009, as a Driver Training Facility by funding it through his Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. As a part of this initiative, nearly 10,000 drivers across 40 locations in India are trained.
In the year 2014, He has also ventured into fruits & vegetable chain through a franchise model called –“Freshkins Foods India Pvt. Ltd”—FRESHKINS:
Awards & Recognitions
In his journey in creating Meru Cabs, Mr. Neeraj Gupta has won various accolades
- Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Bombay Management Association (BMA) for contribution to the Public Transportation
- Udyog Rattan Award by the Institute of Economic Studies (IES).
- Excellence Award by Institute of Economic Studies (IES)
- Award from All India Passengers Association – Largest & Best Taxi Company in the Country.
- Best Entrepreneur of the Year Award by All India Passengers Association
- Best IT User Award to Meru Cab Company Pvt. Ltd. – Nasscom
Kalam Fan Club wishes this entrepreneur to move ahead in his entrepreneurial journey and inspire thousands of Indian youth to follow his path and make India a bigger economy.