Anirudh Bhuwalka would have gone into the realty, software or entertainment business but for an uncle with a serendipitous idea: trucks. In 2004, ‘uncle’ Shashi Ruia, head of the $17-billion Essar Group, had just forayed into highway construction and ordered expensive Volvo trucks. “Why not make such trucks in India?” he wondered. “After all, what does it take to make a truck? An engine, a gear box, an axle — just put them together and you have a truck!”
Bhuwalka did just that. He launched Asia MotorWorks (AMW) to manufacture commercial vehicles (CVs): the first prototypes rolled out in 2005. When commercial rollout happened three years later, the trucks did match Ruia’s definition, but with a little extra thrown in. The result: the newbie AMW has a 5% share of the HCV market (see: The highway stars) and Bhuwalka is heading what seems set to become a billion-dollar company.
The highway stars
In the commercial vehicle (CV) market dominated by heavyweights like Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, followed by worthies like Eicher, Volvo and M&M, AMW’s rapid growth has generated intense curiosity about the young gun who dared. How come he was selling jazzed-up new trucks in bright colours almost overnight? Were they Chinese? Since they were not, it was assumed Ruia was hand-holding his nephew. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the 36-year-old Bhuwalka denies it. “The Essar Group has no role to play in AMW,” he says peaceably. “But I look upon my uncle as my mentor and credit him with giving me the idea of getting into this business.”
He clarifies that Ruia put some money into his company during the initial years, provided space in Hazira to develop AMW’s first few prototypes before the official launch in 2008, and bought some of the first trucks.
It is not easy manufacturing trucks, after all even a small car like the Tata Nano has 40 patented components. Essentially, every roadworthy vehicle requires engines that take years to test and develop, efficient gear boxes, axles that can take Indian roads, and hundreds of other crucial components, all of which have to be put togeth