Customer-centric approach paying dividends to M B Link

By Vinayak Pandey
Date: Jul 31 , 2017

MB-Link Tourist is one of the oldest and sustainable bus fleet operators from South Maharashtra. With its head office at Sangli and its branch offices spread across the State, MB-Link has connected people and places pan-Maharashtra through its dedicated bus fleet services for almost two decades. MOTORINDIA spoke to Mr Mohd. Rafik Rauther, Managing Director, and his son, Mr Rahil Rauther, Director, MB-Link, at the head office, to know more about the company working and its expansion plans.


Talking about his entrepreneurial journey, Mr Mohd. Rafik Rauther said: “It was in 1994 that I first stepped into the bus fleet operator business with my father-in-law in Mumbai under the flagship of ‘National Tourist’. After an initial experience of 5 years, I started ‘MB-Link Tourist’ in 1999 with one second-hand bus. I sustained almost a decade until 2011 when I brought my own new bus on Ashok-Leyland Chassis – a 2+2 semi sleeper coach running between Sangli and Pune. My business showed an exponential growth since 2011, and today I own a fleet of 22 buses – 12 air-conditioned and 10 non-air-conditioned buses”.

With its headquarters in Sangli, the Managing Director later moved to Kolhapur, which is around 47 km from Sangli, for business expansion and currently handles the operations from Kolhapur with daily visits to the Sangli office. He added: “My passion for buses has grown with my business. There was growth, and opportunities came due to my father-in-law’s involvement in business. I feel I have grown in the industry through my struggle for sustainable development”.

Starting with a single bus on the Sangli – Pune route, MB-Link showed a gradual increase in the number of buses and in its routes of fleet operation. With time, MB-Link expanded its operation front connecting Sangli with Aurangabad and Goa. With its second base in Kolhapur, it linked Kolhapur with Pune, Aurangabad via Jalna and Mumbai (with services to Thane / Borivali and Crawford Market). It also started the Mumbai (Borivali) – Solapur route on priority.

As a sustainable fleet operator, MB-Link gives priority to offer best customer service in terms of punctuality and devoted streamline operations, as a measure for development and betterment of its fleet services. It looks forward to passenger feedback and demand, to explore new routes of operation.

Referring to fleet-services, Mr Mohd. Rafik Rauther said: “MB-Link was the first bus fleet operator to start the Kolhapur – Jalna – Aurangabad route. When we studied the route, we found that passengers on this route used to do transit break-journeys to reach their destination. There was the need for a dedicated bus service and hence we took an initiative to start this strategic route. To sum up, I feel that through MB-Link we are trying to cater to the public needs of connecting people and places through our dedicated services. On the same lines, we introduced the first premium bus service on the Sangli – Aurangabad route”.

The MD further observed that the company was looking forward to new developments on the operation front and streamlining measures have been taken with respect to the same. “We have recently installed CCTVs for passenger safety, Wi-Fi on board and have also introduced GPS-tracking for passengers. I personally feel that keeping a brace with technology, we can improve passenger safety and provide amenities which will enhance our sustainability in this industry in terms of services to our passengers travelling in our buses”, he added.

Speaking on MB-Link’s bus maintenance infrastructure, the MD pointed out that the company has outsourced bus repair work as of now. While cleanliness and daily maintenance is done by the company’s own staff, scheduled maintenance in terms of ‘Bus Servicing’ is done on time with priority. Explaining the recently introduced Bus Code, the MD felt that the Bus Code will provide a better and permanent solution to issues of bus safety and passenger safety, and hence standardization will ensure proper enforcement of the safety regulations.

“Bus Codes have led to the closure of bus overhangs. The number of berths in a sleeper coach is standardized to 30 berths as per AIS-119. Buses need to be built on standard dimensions as mentioned in the regulations in the Bus Code. The mandatory emergency exits in the buses is a good move ahead and will improve the passenger safety”, said Mr Mohd Rafiq Rauther while giving his views on Bus Codes.

Forecasting his future plans for bus fleet expansion, the MD showed his interest to procure Bharat – Benz sleeper coaches. He focussed his trust on Veera Vahana Udyog Pvt. Ltd., Bengaluru, with respect to its Veera V5 and V6 bus models, for his future endeavours.

As for further route expansion, Mr Mohd Rafiq Rauther focussed his plans in the Marathwada region towards Eastern Maharashtra in the coming days.

Talking about the role of drivers and crews in maintaining better services, the MD stressed the need to have experienced drivers. The driver and crew instructions to maintain good behaviour with passengers on board and to be in uniform at duty is followed regularly in the mandatory check-list in terms of services.

Commenting on passenger queries and complaints, Mr Mohd Rafiq Rauther said: “I address the queries and complaints myself and my preference is to solve them instantly with proper action. We have dedicated helpline numbers for passenger pickup and drop enquiries. There are trained office staff for the helpline numbers who attend the queries, helping the passengers, upfront.”

The MB-Link fleet operation front is kept updated by adding new routes from time to time, keeping in mind certain factors like road conditions, passenger occupancy on the planned route, followed by self-survey with respect to hotels on the route for food and bio – breaks for passengers. The self-survey is done by the MD and his team.

The MD further observed: “MB-Link believes that the company has its own USPs of its business structure, which makes it endure in this bus fleet industry platform. Our punctuality with respect to departure and arrival timings, cleanliness in buses and dedicated and devoted crew is the key to our success”.

He further said: “Regarding our facilities at our premises, the bus laundry is currently being outsourced, but in the long run, we are planning to have laundry facilities installed in our premises, for our convenience”.

Sharing his views on the current scenario of bus fleet operators in Maharashtra, Mr Mohd. Rafiq Rauther said that there has been significant growth in business in recent years in terms of connectivity and passenger flow, which has helped revenue generation leading to the expansion in employment in the bus industry.

Asked about the challenges faced by private fleet operators in maintaining their services, Mr Rahil Rauther, Director, MB Link, said: “As private fleet operators, we faced a lot of problems, the most significant being the government’s taxation policy. I feel there is a lack of a devoted central-core committee or an organization which can deal with these issues on a collective approach”.

Referring to the Bus Operators Confederation of India (BOCI), Mr Rahil Rauther remarked that BOCI would act as an interface between thought leaders in the bus industry and enhance efficiency, competitiveness and business opportunities for its members by providing a range of specialized services and global linkages. BOCI will provide a platform for consensus building and network on the key issues faced by bus fleet operators. It will bring all State associations and unions under one umbrella to achieve better coordination among them.

Projecting his views on the upcoming BOCI event – ‘Prawaas 2017’, Mr Mohd. Rafiq Rauther said: “The three-day Prawaas 2017 in Mumbai will help to develop a unified vision that will facilitate safe, smart and sustainable integrated public transport solutions. I am hopeful that all private bus fleet operators will come on the common platform with a centralized problem tackling approach to solve the current challenges of the bus community. The focussed efforts in this regard will ensure long-term solutions to the problems”.

Prawaas 2017 will help explore opportunities of growth in public-private partnership in services and infrastructural development. It will also enable B2B dialogue among the BOCI members and attract investments in the sector to trigger growth, he added.

Commenting on MB-Link’s vision and motto with respect to its services, Mr Mohd. Rafik Rauther and Mr Rahil Rauther stated that the company is trying its level best to develop its bus-fleet to serve people with its dedicated approach, meeting the challenges with a zeal towards all-round development.

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