Casons Rent-A-Car Managing Director Zakir Ahamed urged the Government to look into numerous matters, such as duty scale for travel and rent-a-car companies, local drivers’ licenses for tourists, and better packages for travellers.

In an interview with the Daily FT, he stated that there were a lot of cold monopolies taking place, which should be taken down. He added that issues such as counterfeit parts available in the market should also be looked into and resolved.

Ahamed noted that the country should think of placing a better duty scale for travel and rent-a-car companies as he believes these companies also bring a lot of foreign revenue, even though they are not marked down in books.

He also recognised the need to establish an online driving license website which would enable foreigners to apply for Sri Lankan drivers’ licenses before they arrive in the country. “To obtain a local licence in Sri Lanka, it will take around eight to nine hours. A tourist who comes to Sri Lanka for a four-day holiday will have to spend nearly one day at Werahera getting his license.”

He further advised the Government to look into the old vehicles in Sri Lanka which are more often than not hazardous. He added that the tourist image would be impacted when such vehicles were used. “Sri Lanka needs modern vehicles,” said Ahamed.

Casons Rent-A-Car, specialising in offering travelling services to tourists and locals, owns five other companies – Casons Travels Limousine Service, Casons Tours, Bike Rent Sri Lanka, Casons Taxi, which is a budget taxi service, and the newly-established venture, Casons Travels and Tours.

It also offers bullet proof vehicles through its affiliated rent-a-car companies in India to Sri Lankan Parliamentarians flying to India.

Recently the company purchased 24 luxury cars with an investment of Rs. 230 million ranging from the Mercedes E200, Toyota Prado and Toyota Allion, which will run for the newly-opened hotel, The Kingsbury.

In addition, their sale growth for 2012 has also increased by 30%.

500 vehicles

Casons Rent-A-Car, an around-the-clock ISO-approved company and a founding member of the Rent-A-Car Association of Sri Lanka, started as a sole proprietorship in 1987 with only one car and no proper capital income.

The turning point was when Ahamed got fired from his earlier job at a transport office handling over 100 vehicles, for being late to work just once. He said: “I didn’t want to negotiate with them because I had pride at that age of 19.”

With the help of another rent-a-car company, Casons Rent-A-Car was established. Ahamed revealed that later on in 1991 his younger brother joined him and since then they have worked to make the company bigger. Today, Casons comprise of 500 vehicles ranging from cars, vans, trucks, buses, bikes, Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and a limousine.

Catering to the demand of SUVs, Casons boasts 75 SUVs in different makes and models, which include the likes of Hummers and a limousine. Ahamed noted that Casons Travels Limousine Service is the first pioneer limousine company in Sri Lanka. He explained that they started this service when IIFA was in search of luxury vehicles.

He further revealed that the only vehicles branded with the Casons logo are the ones that run exclusively for The Kingsbury hotel, noting that many clients in Sri Lanka enjoy their privacy.

Dedicated staff

Speaking about the staff, he noted that Casons has a staff of 20 dedicated people, around 170 drivers, and 10 mechanics. The company has its own equipment and high-tech mechanic workshop to repair and maintain the vehicles.

Ahamed believes that the drivers represent the company as well as the country. “When a tourist comes to Sri Lanka, he will always ask the driver first ‘how is your president?’ ‘how is your country?’ and ‘how is the economy?’ So we have to have good drivers.”

He asserted that the company’s drivers are dedicated, knowledgeable about roads, well-groomed and quite social with the clients. Fifty per cent % of the drivers can converse well in English. “We have quite a lot of Arabic speaking drivers because Sri Lanka is becoming a country for Arab tourists. We also have drivers who can speak French, Russian and other languages,” asserted Ahamed.

However, he noted that in Sri Lanka most people feel being a driver is demeaning. “We want to bring this change. In our website, we are set to put up a page for our drivers. We want to brand them as the service crew because they are not just drivers.”

To improve the knowledge of the Casons service crew, Ahamed plans to conduct some workshops next June to help them become better at their jobs.


Ahamed mentioned that they have a lot of high-end clients from India and Malaysia using their vehicles. He added that they also work very closely with the Foreign Ministry.

The company’s local clientele adds up to 40% while the rest consists of foreigners, expatriates and organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO). “We also supply vehicles to the Sri Lanka Army, Sri Lanka Air Force, and Sri Lanka Navy.”

Business and maintenance

For Casons, business is at its peak during the months of November and December with around 25 clients using their service. “We cater close to around 100 to 150 foreigners a year – walk in clients. Via the website, we have around 200 to 300 clients a month,” asserted Ahamed.

Touching on the company’s maintenance costs, which include changing of tires, licences, insurance, and batteries, he revealed that costs amount to an average of Rs. 2 to 3 million per month.

Service charges

Casons charges Rs. 300 per km for a luxury Mercedes, Rs. 200 per km for a luxury Prado, and Rs. 63,000 for eight hours for the limousine.

As for renting a vehicle on a daily, weekly, monthly, or a term basis, their cheapest car, which is the Suzuki Alto, starts at Rs. 1,499 per day. Some vehicles are in the range of Rs. 25,000 per day. He added, “For all the luxury cars with drivers, we charge Rs. 30,000 to 35,000 per day.”

When it comes to motorbikes, he mentioned that they start at Rs. 10,500 for a week. “We have around 15 Yamaha and Honda motorbikes used frequently by Indians and Russians.” However, clients have to pay the full rental amount and a refundable amount of Rs. 30,000 before renting out a vehicle.

Two-year plan

“Within two years, we want to get into all the star hotels in Colombo. We are planning to have a bus service in Colombo City for a day tour. This bus will run among the hotels every day in the mornings and evenings,” revealed Ahamed.

The company also plans to introduce tracking systems onto its cars. Currently, a few cars are undergoing a trial. In addition, Casons also plans to invest in environmentally-friendly vehicles by starting its own hybrid hiring service.

With the Casons Taxi service, the company hopes to target 250 to 300 airport hires, which is the amount of hires available from Colombo 1 to Colombo 15.

Revealing the reasons behind the company’s success, Ahamed asserted: “Our success is working hard. We start early at around seven and finish late. To be successful, you can’t take shortcuts.” He added that to get to where he is today, it took a lot of passion for motor cars.

Pix by Sameera Wijesinghe