Shriram Transport Finance Company (STFC) was incorporated in 1979. The company decided to finance the much-neglected sector of small truck owners (SRTO). Back then, Shriram understood the power of “aspiration” even before marketing based on aspiration became fashionable.

STFC started lending to SRTOs to buy new trucks, but it found a mismatch between aspiration and ability. The average truck operator was honest, but the equity at his command was often not sufficient to support the credit levels required to buy a new truck.

Because STFC did not have the heart to send operators back empty-handed, it decided to finance the purchase of pre-owned trucks. This was the most momentous decision the company made, and the source of its earliest success.

Shriram realized one of the most significant contradictions of credit in India: those who needed it most were the ones who could not access it.

Since then, STFC has accompanied and assisted individuals on their journey from driver to owner — whether acquiring a pre-owned truck or upgrading from a preowned unit to a brand new one. Today, it is estimated that up to 80 percent of trucks in India are owned by individuals.

STFC clearly foresaw that the market for used commercial vehicles in the country was far larger than the market for new ones. Today the company is not only India’s leader in truck finance — it is also India’s largest asset-based non-banking finance company.

Shriram realized the potential of the used truck segment way ahead of other players. The logic was simple — create viability to erode liability.

The company now has almost 1,000 official branches across the subcontinent. It is also present in remote rural areas, with offices of just one or two employees, bringing its total network to 1,900 locations. All this allows it to effectively serve a client base that now surpasses 1.5 million people.

During its first 28 years, the company focused on trucks and commercial vehicles. Since then, it has moved into passenger cars, tractors and even construction equipment.

(Second from Left) Umesh Revankar, Managing Director and CEO of Shriram Transport Finance Company (STFC), distributing academic scholarship to outstanding students as part of the company’s corporate social responsibilities.

In all these different sectors, STFC has been able to apply its unique customer skills with the same laser-like focus. “The customer makes a living thanks to the vehicle which we have provided the financing to let them buy,” explains the company’s Managing Director and CEO, Umesh Revankar. “Thus, drivers become owners, and this marks significant progress in society.

“In today’s India, being an entrepreneur and owner gives families prestige,” he continues. “We have consistently grown at 15 percent year-on-year because we fulfil the aspirations of millions of business folk in India, and this need has not yet even been fully addressed.”

It is also slowly moving into sectors related to transportation such as warehouses, petrol pumps and garages. “We used to be focused exclusively on goods transportation, but as India’s economy has become more vibrant, so have we,” Revankar says. “However, our typical customer remains the same: an entrepreneur with experience as an operator who wants to become an owner. We have helped millions achieve this goal.”

Though STFC’s success has attracted would-be competitors to used-vehicle financing, the company — India’s first to establish itself in this niche sector — is in a strong and unique position. “For new companies, this is a market that is simply not scalable,” he stresses. “Through the decades, we have built a workforce of more than 20,000 people around the country that truly understands our clients.”

“From our very first day, we have been nothing if not customer-centric,” Revankar continues. “Though the business environment changes and our products also change, our relationships with our customers remain the same.”

“We believe in six principles that we have laid down as a guiding force for our operations in STFC,” he says. These are the following: First, exclusive growth benefits individuals or organizations, whereas inclusive growth benefits the nation. Second, we must strive to create viability, not liability. Third, STFC funds assets on installment, while it takes interest in relationships. Fourth, when the going gets tough, the brand gets going. Fifth, the wider your reach, the more you sell. And, finally, an organization is only as good as its people.”

Umesh Revankar, Managing Director and CEO Shriram Transport Finance Company (STFC)

Essentially, Revankar believes that STFC’s business does good for Indian society: “Our basic idea is to give ownership status to the customer. “We believe in creating success stories that inspire,” he says. “In the past, being a driver has not been considered a prestigious or important job. But drivers are integral to the running of India. We want to make sure that everyone in India appreciates this key role.”

Helping improve education in India is key to this business philosophy. STFC gives scholarships to drivers’ children across India, regardless of whether or not the parents are customers.

It also helps unskilled unemployed people. “We teach them driving skills, which are important for advancement, but which so many people also take for granted,” he explains. “Formal training can make dramatic differences in improving traffic safety and employability.”

Almost 39 years ago, STFC, an untraditional lender was born. It has since grown to exert a significant impact on society by truly understanding the people it continues to serve.