As an 11-year-old boy from a family struggling to make ends meet, Manish Wazalwar's day used to begin with washing others' cars. The son of an autorickshaw driver, he might not have even imagined in his wildest dreams about what he would achieve one day. Today, Manish (28) is the owner of 33 cars and a driving school. His story is the quintessential rags-to-riches tale.
"The 34th is on its way in January," he says, reclining in a massive leather chair in his plush Shivaji Nagar office. He claims that he owns Central India's biggest car driving school. Manish's father Govind Wazalwar used to earn Rs 20-30 every day as an autorickshaw driver. "He bought an auto in 1969," Manish says.
In 1974, Govind took an examination to become an RTO inspector. But he didn't get selected and opened a driving school for autorickshaws. The school started in 1976 and, though it was only a modest success, ran for 11 years, during which Govind bought a Fiat and an Ambassador as supplementary to the autorickshaw driving school. "But due to financial crisis, we had to shut the shop in 1987. It was a very bad time," Manish recalls.
Cut to 1991. Manish started low-paying jobs - going door-to-door to sell disinfectants, working in a grocery store, selling chalks and slate pencils. "I used to buy chalks in wholesale and sell them directly to schools and colleges, to earn a rupee or two extra," he says. To save money, Manish used to walk 18 km to work daily or borrow somebody's bicycle. But in his heart, he had a dream and he worked for it with determination.
"I always thought of owning a driving school one day," he says. Rupee after rupee, Manish scrimped and saved. In 1996, he gave Rs 30,000 to his father for the financial help he had got over the years from his saving of Rs 53,000. "I took a loan of Rs 20,000 and bought my first car — a used Maruti 800 — for Rs 48,000," he remembers.
From such a humble beginning, he started a driving school that now has seven branches across Nagpur. Manish, now wants to start 100 branches all over Maharashtra. "I make sure people have no complaints," he says. He personally attends to the upkeep of his immense fleet of cars, ranging from Maruti 800 to Hyundai Accent, looking after their engine maintenance and even their polish. "I know the car engines inside out. Every nut and bolt is like my friend."