Even Ramamurthy Thyagarajan must not have imagined how a small business that he started decades ago would make such a big difference to the lives of so many entrepreneurs. At a time when truck financing itself was just coming into vogue, Thyagarajan pioneered the financing of used trucks. The idea was simple: if truck owners were burdened with high interest payments, as they would be if the cost of the vehicle was high, they might not be able to repay the loans. Today, Shriram Transport has assets under management of close to Rs 85,500 crore, an annual net profit of about Rs 1,258 crore and 1.6 million customers.
In 1974, Thyagarajan, then a young statistician with a love for both mathematics and music, co-founded a chit fund, Shriram Chits, with a friend and fellow music lover. This would pave the way for what is regarded as one of the most innovative businesses in the Indian financial services space — financing of used trucks. Thyagarajan worked with New India Assurance and later with Vysya Bank for several years after that and always believed in empowering borrowers. That has helped Shriram Transport keep its loan losses in check even as it has grown at a steady pace.
An impeccable credit culture coupled with a caring attitude towards customers is whats sets Shriram Transport apart from others. It’s not just that field officers are well acquainted with their customers—a system where the customer acquisition officer also ensures repayments has worked well for the company. Moreover, Thyagaran has always believed in delegating responsibilities and has created a strong cadre of executives. The Shriram Ownership Trust, launched in 2006, saw wealth being shared with senior employees, who are partners in the trust. Thyagarajan has often said, “Our company is not based on transactions, but on relations with our financial and strategic partners”.