In conversation with Bilal Afzal Khan
Express is Peshawar based and travels to Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Abbottabad, and Swat. Facing difficulties at the start, Afzal was determined to power through. Creating a world class public transport company was the order of the day, particularly in KPK he felt. “When I was abroad, I was amazed to see how modern the level of public transport was. Pakistan, especially KPK was in desperate need of public transportation. It hit me back in 2006 when I saw loads of people in a broken down Suzuki coaster. The women and children looked so uncomfortable. In the sweltering summer heat of Peshawar, people were stuffed like sardines in those terrible coasters. That is when the idea of Motorway Express came to me.”
What excites you about your business?
I have always been passionate about cars. My love for cars is what drew me towards this path. It also gives me great satisfaction to see people travelling comfortably in my vans. I have always believed that the right to modern public transportation is a universal right.
What were the initial difficulties you faced?
There was a lot of red tape to deal with. I was constantly discouraged in the beginning by government officials. The public transport industry does not have the best reputation, so I was prepared for this. However, I had no choice but to be persistent. I want young entrepreneurs to know that perseverance takes you a very long way. I may not be the most educated man around, but what I do have is a never say die attitude. The main reason Motorway Express is here today is because I kept at it.
What does the public transport industry lack?
Where do I begin? It is still very backward. Most vehicles are in poor condition. A lot of the drivers are not trained properly, making it a very dangerous situation. Punctuality, or lack of it, is another massive issue. I will say however that things have improved, and that is largely thanks to Daewoo as they set the trend.
How do you stay on top of things?
One has to be involved in every part of the business. I started from the very bottom. You cannot just sit there and delegate. Otherwise at some point your business will go under. It is crucial to motivate your employees. I used to wash the cars myself to show my employees how committed I am. I began with 8 employees, and now I am proud to say Motorway Express has over 100.
How do you ensure the safety of your passengers?
That is the most important for me, the safety of my passengers. The public transport industry does not have the best reputation when it comes to safety, which is why I have made sure that all our drivers are well trained and reliable. My utmost priority is to make sure that women and children feel safe in my vehicles.
Would you encourage young people to get into this business?
We definitely need young educated people in the transport business. With technology growing rapidly, it is vital that the youth, who understand technology, better than the previous generation get involved in this. The transport industry will suffer if we don’t seek to modernise it. It is also important that we develop proper workshops, so people get a better understanding of this multifaceted business.