business can help tourism immensly':
Driving a dream to reality
People have dreams in their lives. Sometimes they realize these
dreams in real life with determination or some let them just keep them
as dreams. The owner of a leading rent-a-car company in the country and
Managing Director, Casons Rent-A-Car Zakir Ahamed also had a dream to
own a business related to cars and he had a vision to make it a
profitable venture. He was interviewed by Daily News Business.
"I was very fond of cars from my childhood. My uncle had a car when I
was very small and I used to potter about with it during my leisure
time. I learnt most of the things about cars during my childhood, he
An old boy of Zahira College Matale, Zakir was the eldest in a family
of four children. After completing his school education he joined an
automobile engineering institute in Kandy and obtained the membership of
the Automobile Engineering Institute in UK. Then he joined a private
sector company as a transport officer for four years.
"I used to work long hours those days and gained experience on how to
manage a transport business. Once I had to attend to an urgent personal
matter and could not go to work. I was sacked from the job for my
absenteesm and I am here today because of that, he said.
Zakir instead of going in search of another job wanted to start a
business of his own. "I only had my dream and hopes when I started this
business," he said. In 1987 with another friend he rented a small office
space in Colpetty and started the 'rent-a-car' business with a small
investment. "At that time, the charge to rent a car for a month was Rs.
4,500 only. I hired one car to start with and gradually increased the
number of vehicles as the demand increased," he said.
"It was not a well-known concept at that time but I created an
awareness among my friends and spread the message around to find the
market," he said. "In 1990, I invited my brother Zufer Ahamed to join
the business and handle the accounts. I started leasing vehicles as
there was a good demand. I purchased 10 vehicles including vans and gave
my clients a high quality and reliable service. They liked me and
supported me as I was an upcoming young person," he said.
Zakir shifted his office to more spacious premises in Rajagiriya with
new developments and employed three people. By 1993 he had 30 - 40
vehicles in the business. Within a short period of time of eight years
the business was well established and he registered the business as a
private limited liability company. "I named the company 'Casons' because
my father's name is Casim. I took the first two letters CA and because
my brother and I were partners I added the word sons to it which made
CASONS", he said.
Today, he has a large fleet of vehicles and a three storied office
building in Borella with nearly 100 employees.
There are 10 to 12 rent a car companies in the country at present and
Casons is one of the leading companies. His clientele includes foreign
delegates, corporate clients as well as personal and government clients.
Zakir is also one of the founder members of RACA the Association of
Asked about the difficulties he has faced from the beginning of the
company he said "It was very difficult at the beginning because there
were no proper communication systems as today.
A vehicles of the Casons fleet with a customer. Pix by
People did not even have telephones. I had to send a person on a
motorbike to most of the places to give a message. This is a business of
high risk. Sometimes the cars hired from us were used for various
illegal and wrongful acts. I have lost several vehicles and there is a
lack of sufficient regulation in Sri Lanka to recover the damage in such
instances. I have got a very good insurance package with Amana Takaful
Insurance, he said.
"The Government should consider this matter and formulate suitable
laws because the rent-a-car business can be made a fast developing
service in the country which will bring a lot of foreign exchange to the
country via tourism. After the war ended I had a large number of
inquiries from my old clients and new clients about their holiday plans
to visit Sri Lanka. Many foreigners like to hire cars because they have
more privacy. Some like to stay longer than one month but the visa
restrictions discourage them.
If the Tourist Board starts working with our Association it will
build confidence on the country improving the country's image. These are
the facts that Government should consider to develop this service.
Presently the taxes on the import of cars, prices of motor spare
parts and fuel are very high.
If some concessions are be considered for this business it will
improve further", he said.
His future plan is to develop the business further by opening a
branch in the North and provide more employment opportunities. "I give
my clients 24 hrs service and there is a vehicle repair plant and a pool
of drivers and self driven vehicles ready to serve anywhere in the
country at any time. People can make bookings on-line and these are the
secrets behind my success," he said.