Ashok Leyland, Jai Ho!

3 min readJan 20, 2024

Whatever one may say, Ashok Leyland has always been known as a Madrasi truck company. Out of its 75 years of existence, more than sixty years, it retained that tag. Nothing wrong. That was the kind of brand-building and reputation this Hinduja-owned organization enjoyed down south.

If my memory serves right, it took one Vinod Dasari to rescript that notion and declare to his fellow citizens and potential truck buyers (small, medium, and big) that “arre bhaisaab, Ashok Leyland sach much poora Bharat ka company, Madrasi nahi hai.” He roped in India’s cricketing wizard and the most successful Mahendra Singh Dhoni as Leyland’s brand ambassador. A master stroke of Dasari. Hip, hip, hurray, Dasari saab!

He was immensely successful. During my sojourns in the deep north, east, and northeast over the past decade or so, I witnessed the sprouting of Leyland Dealer networks and, of course, branded repair shops and used to share my inputs with Rajive Saharia (ex-Leylander, now settled down in Goa) after each trip.

The loyalty of South Indian truck drivers and motor maliks to the Leyland brand is unquestionable. Despite its numero uno slot in the heavy commercial vehicle segment, Tata always had difficulty taming the Hinduja baby in the South. So well-entrenched was the Leyland.

Forget about South Indian fleet owners/drivers. In a recent conversation with Jhandewalan/Delhi-headquartered Tansher Singh of ABC Express, I learned he was a die-hard fan of Leyland. Why? I demanded. Many Leyland truck owners parrot about its fuel efficiency. Tansher is no ordinary motormalik. Check his LinkedIn profile.

Another biggest votary of Leyland is none other than the Hubli-headquartered VRL patriarch Vijay Sankeshwar. Noticing the ONLY-Leyland loyalty of his massive fleet, I quipped whether VRL and Leyland are in secret marital bonding! That says a lot about both the buyer and the seller. Amazing.

One of the biggest hurdles in the good old days was the absence of Leyland repair shops on highways outside Deep South. Tata Motors ruled the roost. Plus, the easy availability of spare parts. Anywhere. Everywhere. Plus, roadside mechanics’ familiarity with the Tata Motors truck anatomy!

Today, Leyland, in the post-Dasari era, took such challenges seriously, carpet bombing the nations with its state-of-the-art dealerships.

Temples of modern India, I would say. Every single truck maker is cottoned onto that idea. Before I forget, the full credit goes to the entry of global giants such as Volvo, Scania, Benz, etc. into the Indian market post-liberalization who ‘jagao’ed the Tatas and Leyland (the original big boys of Indian trucking) from their deep slumber in every single aspect of marketing and customer service. Today, the gap between the desi and firangi truck makers is hard to figure out. Good going, folks! That is what opening up the Indian economy is meant.

These thoughts swirl through my grey cells as I sit in the chic and brand-new Leyland dealer center of VST Auto India in Alwar, Rajasthan.

“I hope it is not the auto division of the once-upon-a-time renowned Vazir Sultan Tobacco company,” I joked with Vikas Yadav during the post-inauguration ceremony.

Under the biting Rajasthan winter cold and between several sips of machine-made coffee served by uniformed catering service staff, I heard the journey of the once-upon-a-time steel trading company metamorphosing into what it is today: a giant in its own way.

The Yadavs are dreaming big and delivering big. Perhaps they have taken a leaf out of Ramaswaram-born India’s missile man Dr A P J Kalam’s advice to the nation: Yes, DREAM BIG!

It’s a sheer coincidence that Kalam was another ‘Madrasi”! Like Leyland…

More about VST sometime later.




An avid watcher & practitioner in the world of communication