HALF an hour from Chandigarh, the roads lazily meander into the small hamlet of Nandiali near Fatehgarh Sahib, blissfully swaying in a cover of greenunder a sky of blue. For Harjit Singh Rai, this is ‘janambhoomi’ and ‘karambhoomi’, home where he grew up, and returned with a dream to do something for his country.
After achieving success overseas, Rai touched base in India in 2016 and set up his own trailer company. Today, Bullston Group of Industries is an industry leader in world-class horse trailers and floats, multi utility trailers and camping trailers.
The Trailblazer: “I was about 25 when I left home for Italy in 2000,” Rai weaves a gripping story, one that led him to a farm in Verona, in Italy, where he fell in love with horses. Farming is in Rai’s blood, and working with animals came naturally to him. Back in the day migrating to Italy was cheaper, but challenging. Language barrier, discrimination and unforgiving working hours did not deter Rai. Determined to succeed, he picked Italian, worked double shifts, practiced for months, earned his riding licenses and got into it professionally. “Italians believe you are not a good rider until you fall a hundred times. My forte has been show jumping, and that’s made me fearless.” He continued to compete as a show jumper till 2010, in arenas dominated by Europeans. “Equestrian sport is an elite sport run by wealthy white Europeans with million dollar horses. I was one of the few Indian participants, and I remember a friend lending me a million dollar horse for a competition,” says Rai, who dabbled in multiple businesses, and moved to the USA with his family.
Once in India, he would frequent the Pushkar horse trade show. “The treatment of horses, how recklessly they were being herded and transported in open trucks, exposing them to grave injury was disturbing.” Raireached out to a German company for distribution of horse trailers in India, but they refused to see any potential here. It only fuelled Rai to create his own brand. “I know horses. I decided to use my knowledge, resources to manufacture horse trailers that have Italian design, German precision and American style,” says a self taught Rai, who is also a welder! Braving setbacks, he innovated, kept participating in horse shows, and creating awareness on the safe transportation of horses. He went on to design and manufacture dog trailers, utility trailers, motorcycle trailers. Amidst the massive tankers, helicopters and Boeings, Bullston exhibited at America’s prestigious AUSA (Association of the United States Army) defence fair in 2019, and is now exporting to Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
The First Mover: Rai’s entrepreneurial spirit has fuelled him to innovate, evolve and grow, and his next project was conceived during Covid-19. “Covid has changed the way we live, travel and experience adventure. People want to holiday, but in a safe, sanitized way. Single women travellers are looking for safe options, millennials want personalized holidays, removed from the disconnected enclosure of a hotel room, families/friends want to explore new destinations. Experiential living and immersive experience is the new adventure.”
Being the first mover, Rai disrupted the market yet again with a ‘genuine made in India from scratch’ travel size bumper pull camping trailers that can be hooked on to any crossover vehicle. From a chic kitchenette, shower, queen size bed and bunker bed, 3-day battery back up, water storage and charging points, to solar panels, roof top tent option, a solid steel body with interlocking and wooden finish among other features, the camping trailers are under 700kilos and suitable for all terrain. “Camping trailers were a post retirement plan, but now, with work from home, the desire to be closer to nature and experience the great outdoors, and state governments like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal setting up proper camping sites, people are investing in these,” says Rai, who has clients based out of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and North East. With these trailers, he is also promoting a culture of safe travel for “tents are vulnerable to attacks of any kind.”
A Challenging Ride: The road to success is marked with roadblocks, and Rai’s had his share. “I displayed my trailers everywhere, from 2016 to 2018, and hardly got a response because the biggest challenge is awareness, education on safety, on quality. Covid set us back too,” says Rai, who now exports to Canada, New Zealand, USA and soon, Australia. Another ongoing challenge is setting up service network across India. “We make sure there is 24 hour service.”
“One has to give their business time, patience and practice,” advises Rai, who still goes for long rides, and stays close to nature to rejuvenate.
Road Map: Rai plans to revive a magazine he used to run long time back called Horseblaze. In pipeline are projects plan he is actively working on – to open mini decathlons of affordable range of extreme adventure equipment and gear, and roll out luxe motorhomes, recreation vehicles and caravans.