by Biswajith Baruah
Pai Group commenced its operations in 1952, envisaged into the Passenger service division in 1992 with Pai Associates and embarked on its operations from Belagavi with its fleet of buses.
Pai Associates has been able to carve a special niche for itself with its dedicated and devoted bus services to the people, since its inception in 1992.
Biswajith Baruah exclusively spoke to Krishnakumar N Pai, founder of Pai Group and MD of Pai Associates, and Mr Rajendra N Pai, Head of Fleet Operations, on occasion of Silver Jubilee year of Pai Associates and tried to find out how they were able to sustain their business during the pugnacious times.
Reminiscing about their journey Krishnakumar N Pai, said
Pai Group was formed in 1952 and we began with our trading business and the transport business was started thereafter to support the trading. We started our transport business with a Bedford truck in 50’s, on Belagavi to Mumbai route.
In 1962, we established our first transport office, outside Belagavi, in Mumbai – at Maszid Bunder, to support our business.We got the bus permit in 1992 and eventually ‘Pai Associates’ – the travels division of ‘Pai Group’ was started.
The initial route of Pai Associates was Belagavi – Mumbai on a Tata 807 bus and they made it sure that their buses had a support of our trucks in case of any requirements, so on priority, strategically they commenced their first bus route to Mumbai.
Pai Associates bought 28 seater Tata buses to accommodate more passengers on the route. In 1996, it started Belagavi – Bengaluru route.
Soon through its dedicated and devoted bus services, Pai Associates became the talk of the town, at Belagavi and eventually Belagavi – Mangalore and Belagavi – Pune routes were started in quick succession.
In 2002, Pai brought a DC (Dilip Chhabria) made bus and introduced it on Belagavi – Mumbai route. The bus was manufactured at DC’s Silvassa unit and soon became the cynosure of attraction for everybody and they ran it upto 2006.
With the farsightedness of the Directors, Pai Associates made a choice to move ahead with time and in 2003, they included two Volvo B7R Mark 1 buses to its fleet.
Pai increased its Volvo buses fleet gradually with Volvo B7R Mark 2 buses and our total strength of Volvo buses reached Eight, very soon. In 2011, they opted for one of its kind – two Volvo B9R 12 mtr coaches with customized rear driver berths. With time, till 2017, they have also added eight air-conditioned sleeper coaches and four air-conditioned seater coaches along with non ac coaches in the fleet.
All their buses sport the unique yellow and red graphics livery on their buses. That livery also has a deep thought behind it – Hindu traditional and cultural colors – Yellow and Red. Yellow signifies ‘Haldi’ (Tumeric) symbolizing ‘Inner Purity and Inner Pride’, while Red signifies ‘Kumkum’ as a form of ‘Shakti’ or Power.
Over the years, Pai Associates has remained in the fore-front of the bus fleet operator business in Belagavi, in terms of its fleet and passenger services. The goodwill of the operator amongst its passengers on account of its punctual services, disciplined crew, cleanliness inside its buses and good hospitality makes Pai, the most sought operator for traveling amongst the people of Belagavi.
Rajendra N Pai, Head of Fleet Operations said, “Currently, we have fleet schedules connecting Belagavi with Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru. With the perspective of providing better services, apart from induction of new luxury buses into our fleet, we have undertaken some new developments on the operation front, followed by streamlining measures.
We are coming with our own “Mobile – App” on both Android and iOS platforms, which will facilitate mobile-ticketing on the go. We will also be enabling GPS-tracking for passengers soon. On-board entertainment for passengers will be introduced with plethora of movies and entertainment shows available through our app, supported by on-board Wi-Fi and DVR storage modules in our buses”.
On plans regarding future fleet expansion, Mr Pai said that the company is planning to procure Bharat-Benz Sleeper coaches with Veera bus body. Discussions are also on with the option of inducting new Volvo buses to Pai fleet in near future.
On being asked on factors considered while planning a new route, he said, “We consider customer feedback and viability. The planned routes are surveyed by our team for proper hotels for food breaks and rest rooms for bio-breaks for passengers”.
On the issue of safe driving, Mr Pai added that, “Bus Driver and Crew play an integral role in maintaining our fleet services well. We give instructions to our bus crews regarding safe driving and awareness is created regarding proper behaviour and hospitality with passengers travelling on board our buses.”
Speaking on the customer service of Pai Associates, the MD felt that. “Since people of Belagavi are well acquainted with our dedicated and punctual service, we hardly get complaints regarding our services. But of course, any complaints received on part of the passengers are attended promptly and required action is taken with respect to the same”.
In regard to the fleet operation, Pai Associates considers its usp’s as the main reasons of its sustainability. Mr Rajendra Pai adds, “Our punctuality in terms of our services, our bus and passenger concerns, good will and acquaintance of our brand as our USP’s adds to huge passenger base on our operation front”.
Summarizing on the challenges faced by a private fleet operator, the MD expressed, “Surviving in the industry as a private bus fleet operator has been always a challenging task. The government policies towards us is not at all encouraging, as far as taxation policy is concerned. There is a need of a collective approach to reach at a consensus regarding the problems faced by the bus fleet operators for a permanent solution for overall development”.
Pai Associates has proved its sustainability effectively on part of its fleet operations and its services towards its passengers by providing comfortable, luxurious and safe travelling. Pai have completed 25 successful years of its services from 1992 to 2017. On Their Silver Jubilee celebrations, this year in 2017, they would like to thank the people of Belagavi for their support and goodwill. They wish to continue their services, serving people – by following our traditional Pai gesture of “hospitality with gratitude”.
About the Author : Biswajit Baruah is an ardent entrepreneur in the Bus Industry in India. With roots in Assam, Biswajit is Belagavi based and is currently working as a ‘Mentor and Director’ for a Bengaluru based start up – “Bus Bucket”. Biswajit is a blogger and has also marked his presence in the field of Automobile Journalism as a ‘Consulting Editor’ to India’s premiere Commercial Vehicle Magazine – “Motor India” published from Chennai. His profile has a touch of Bus Photography, Journalism and as an Analyst for Sustainable Transport in India.