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In conversation with a young entrepreneur


 

Out of the following main segments of tourism in Assam, namely, Wild life Tourism & Eco-tourism, River Tourism, Tea & Golf Tourism, Pilgrimage & Cultural Tourism, Rural Tourism & Heritage Tourism, River Tourism certainly holds a lot of promise.River cruises on the Brahmaputra from Guwahati, organized by the Govt and private sectors have become very popular over the years. Mr. Aslam Khan is a person who needs no introduction when it comes to river tourism in Assam. He has more than a decade of experience in this field. While the tourism sector and the promise it holds still excites him, he has now launched a new business which has become quite popular with the residents of the Guwahati city. In a candid interview with the team of THE MILEAGE, Mr. Khan shares about his new venture, his first love- river tourism as well as his future plans.

TM: – Thank you Mr. Khan for giving us some time from your busy schedule. Tell us about your association with the river tourism industry?

Mr. Khan: – Since my childhood days I was attracted to nature & wildlife. The desire to explore nature remained with me till I joined my brother-in-law, Mr. Hemanta Doley who owns the cruise vessel Alfresco and started working as a guest co-ordinator. Later on, I was promoted to the post of GM (Marketing) of Brahmaputra Cruise Private Limited, a new venture of Mr. Doley & his associates. I have travelled more than fifteen times on the mighty Brahmaputra with tourist groups from Europe and had lengthy discussions with them about tourism in my state.

TM: – What are the problems that this industry is facing and your suggestions for taking care of them?

Mr. Khan: – Our region is not being marketed well enough and very few people are working in this sector. We all know how well-endowed we are with natural resources. We need more people to join this industry. At the same time, the government should concentrate more on promoting tourism & providing the necessary support which will go a long way in encouraging more investment. There is also an urgent need to put an end to unrest, bandhs and militancy in the state.

TM: – What made you move from the tourism sector to the taxi business?

Mr. Khan: – My prime focus is still tourism as my company Travel Solution North East India is working to develop some new & interesting travel circuits in this region. As my business involves talking to a lot of people, it was during one such discussion that I realised the amount of trouble the city residents have to go through while travelling within the city. The auto rickshaw drivers charge exorbitant fare from the passengers. This gave me an idea to start a taxi service which will make sure that the passengers can travel in safety without any fear of being cheated.

TM: – Tell us about your initial investment and your future plans?

Mr. Khan: – The initial investment was big. But with the help of a bank loan we were able to launch the business in phases. We began with ten cabs and when we saw the demand go up, we launched fifteen more cabs. A few unemployed youths have also come forward to join us on profit-sharing basis and now our fleet strength is 50.

TM: – What are the challenges that you had to face when you launched MINI- TAXI service?

Mr. Khan: – The main challenge was to ensure the acceptance of the service by the customers. But thankfully, that phase is now over & we have found a place in their hearts. The process of getting approvals from the concerned departments also took a bit of time. But I must add that the government was very helpful and did their best to promote this new initiative.

TM: – What is unique about MINI-TAXI?

Mr Khan: – MINI- TAXI is a conceptually designed vehicle with ample luggage space. It is compact in size and has integrated GPS & GPRS device. We provide printed bill to the commuters at the end of the journey. Our fare of Rs 15/km is fixed by the Transport Department, Government of Assam.

TM: – Tell us about the CSR initiatives that you are planning to take up?

Mr Khan: – We have not taken up any big CSR initiative right now. But we have instructed our 24×7 customer care team as well as the drivers to take care in case of medical emergency and also to ensure the safety of all passengers, especially women & children and the aged.

TM: – Where do you see yourself ten years down the line?

Mr Khan: – We remain committed to deliver prompt service to our esteemed customers and the positive feedback that we have received from them has inspired us to add more cabs to our fleet. We are planning to come up with more innovative ideas to serve the commuters in an even better way in the future. At the same time, I wish to reiterate that my main focus area is, was and shall always be tourism.

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