Amrit Mann is self-effacing despite sitting on a treasure trove of luxury cars and buses in which many famous people associated with the Government of India and Indian Premier League (IPL) travel.
The wall of his plush Panchkuian Road office, which is at a shouting distance from Connaught Place, has only one picture. That picture belongs to his mother.
“My mother shares the name of Baba Nanak’s wife,” says the 54-year-old Mann, director of Mann Tours.
His company was at the forefront during the G20 summit under his watchful eyes.
“We were providing luxury cars, SUVs, vans and Volvo buses not only in Delhi but across India. As you know before the summit that was held in New Delhi on September 9-10, a series of G20 meetings were taking place in Goa, Mumbai, Varanasi, Punjab and other parts of the country. We were providing luxury cars and buses even for that,” informs Mann.
Mann’s company was among the few companies hired by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to provide brands like Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Toyota, Lexus among others.
Mann and his team spent their sweat, tear and toil besides an investment of a staggering Rs 60 crore to build up an inventory and provide world class service to delegates during the big-ticket event.
G20 guests, except for heads of states, were provided Mercedes GLS, Mercedes S Class, Mercedes E Class, and Maybach with trained drivers by Mann’s company.
Mann was confident that given his long experience, he would rise to the occasion manfully.
“Apart from strengthening our inventory, we had trained our drivers for weeks together on how to deal with foreign guests. Further, our firm has a very rich experience of providing cars, buses and vans at various international events.”
After G20, he moved on to other challenges. For instance, he provided cars and other vehicles for the recently concluded MotoGP event in Greater Noida.
India was hosting a MotoGP event for the first time in history. The event, called the Indian Oil Grand Prix of India and one of the biggest racing events, took place at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida.
Mann spent his youth in Shakarpur in east Delhi and Gole Market.
“My father was working in Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital and my mother was a nurse in Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narain (LNJP) Hospital. My father was allotted a humble government accommodation in Gole Market. I have a middle-class upbringing.”
Mann was sure even when he was in school that he would not do government job, the norm back then. Kids of government employees used to follow the path of their parents.
“When I was a little over 18 in 1986, my parents helped me buy a second-hand Ambassador car. That was the beginning of my tryst with cars and transport industry. I started working with individuals and companies on demand,” he informs.
From 1986 to 1991, he worked overtime to earn money and save whatever he could. Then he purchased another car and from there onwards, there was no looking back.
Now, he owns over 200 luxury cars, vans and buses.
Where does he park his vehicles?
“We have hired a big farmhouse in Kapashera in south-west Delhi for parking our vehicles. Earlier, we used to park them in and around Nehru Park and Pragati Maidan,” he informs.
Mann’s company was perhaps the first in Delhi to buy Mercedes, which it did in late 1990s.
“Once news spread that there is a tourist firm that even provides Mercedes cars, I started getting a barrage of orders from Hotel Lalit, Oberoi and other places. It was like a game-changer for us,” he says.
Despite earning both money and reputation, Mann has not forgotten either his humble roots or his days as a taxi driver. He talks very passionately about drivers.
“How can I forget my days as a driver. I was a driver for 6-7 years from 1986 to 1991, and I fully understand the hardships, pain and difficulties faced by the chauffeurs.”
Sadly, drivers don’t get respect from their employers. They are treated with contempt everywhere. They deserve fair and just treatment from their employers.
“Driving is a forced job. Remember, a kid never aspires to be a driver even if he belongs to a very poor family background. It is the circumstances that force him to become a driver. We are short of at least 10-12 million skilled drivers. We definitely need to look and find ways to fill this gap. We talk about tourism to grow substantially but without good drivers we can never grow,” says Mann.
As President of Indian Tourist Transporters Association (ITTA), he raises the concerns of drivers at every possible forum since he believes that they are the bedrock of tourism sector.
ITTA is a registered national body of “Tourist Transport Operators”, which is recognised by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, and is solely involved in providing surface transport facilities to the foreign/domestic tourists.
According to Mann, ITTA was formed in late 60s and was reinforced in 1987 to put forward grievances, suggestions and demands to the various ministries, departments and government/semi-government bodies.
According to Mann, “An average tourist spends 35% of his time with drivers other than spending time in the hotel. If you want to boost our tourism sector, we have to improve the state of affairs for them. That is key to our progress in tourism sector.”
While looking at the fast-moving traffic of Panchkuian Road from the mirror of his office, Mann says that tours and travel business was in tatters when the Mumbai terror attack took place in 2008.
That badly hurt the business sentiments of our industry. It took years to recover. In recent past, Covid also hit the tourism sector.
But he did not remove any staffer even though the business was at its lowest ebb at the height of Covid second wave.
“How can I remove my trusted staff when the going was tough,” Mann says.
Despite his busy 24×7 life, Mann manages to spend quality time with his wife and two kids. He was recently in Paris with his family.
“Family outings are very rejuvenating for me,” he says.
Though he travels a lot, he says, “I feel at home when I am in Delhi. My roots are here.”
Mann and his wife handle the affairs of their company with active support of their professional staff.
“My kids are still studying abroad. I do not force them to work with me. They can choose their career path on their own. My son, Robin is studying in Columbia University and he is a very accomplished squash player,” Amrit Mann concludes.