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How I made my first million
Stephen Peter | November 26, 2005
It was in the early 1970s when Stephen Peter completed his higher secondary schooling from a missionary school in Solan, Himachal Pradesh. Since his parents in Kerala had to bring up his other siblings within the paltry income that the family earned, Peter had to forgo higher studies to start driving a taxi that his friend's father bought him.
Today his company, Petersons Travel Services, is worth Rs 6 crore (Rs 60 million), and manages a fleet of around 100 vehicles, which are used in the service of call centres, hotels, and for ferrying tourists around north India.
In 1975, when all my high school friends were dreaming of going abroad for higher studies and making it big, I had to settle down with a car to ferry people back and forth around Delhi. My parents' limited income meant that I had to earn my own livelihood and also help my siblings.
However, I did get an opportunity to go to Libya in 1976. But things didn't improve, since Libya at that time was a very difficult country to work in, especially with all of its regimentation. But what proved to be my advantage was that I drove cars for some big companies there and outperformed my peers even though I was the youngest.
I came back to India in 1985 and bought Ambassador cars with my savings and some loan from two banks. I started running a DLY taxi service (this service books taxis for the whole day rather than just for one-off trips). I defaulted on my bank loan initially, but things became all right after a while.
I started Petersons in the same year with three cars and provided car services to ICL, a leading multinational at that time.
It was then that I met Mr Mohit Goyal, who headed the northern region at ICL (now ICIM). Goyal would have to take lots of foreign visitors around and out of the city.
That is when my knowledge of Italian, Arabic and English came in handy. Besides, these visitors also liked the way I drove the taxi. One French visitor told me that I have a monster's body with eyes all over my body, which is why I drove so safely.
In 1990, Goyal along with Saurabh Srivastava (now executive chairman, Xansa India) started IIS Infotech (now Xansa India). I also chipped in - both by putting in some money and supplying taxis for their guests.
They used to receive a lot of guests from the UK at that point of time and my knowledge of English and Italian, etiquette and mannerism gave them the confidence that I could serve them well.
I expanded my fleet when Xansa got established and the promoters extended credit to me against my services. I also hired drivers and taught them the ropes of the trade, and also trained them in driving, etiquette and so on.
I soon became a preferred vendor for most BPO services, besides Xansa. Today, apart from picking up and dropping call centre executives, I also send vehicles to companies for receiving and dropping guests, tours of the city, sightseeing and so on. My fleet includes luxury cars, SUVs and mid-sized cars, and they are supplied according to customer specifications. Besides Xansa, my clients include TCS, ICL, Orix, Airtel and a number of multinationals.
My elder son, who is taking the CAT (Common Admission Test) exam this year, also helps me with my business, whereas my younger son is still to complete his graduation. But for them I would have been incomplete.
As told to Sangeeta Singh