Happiness Truck 2.0 – Spreading smiles in North East India

The ambitious JK Tyre ‘Happiness Truck 2.0’ traversed through West Bengal and North East India where it touched the lives of hundreds of truck drivers. Covering six States and 17 cities in this second campaign, it unravelled stories from the lives of truck drivers while absorbing the unparalleled beauty of the region.

“It’s not the destination; it’s the journey” – so said American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. And so it was with the Happiness Truck 2.0 campaign. Here we present an account of the second edition of the ‘Happiness Truck’ campaign that provided yet another enchanting experience which included not only interactions with many people of different faiths and cultures but also breath-taking views of the Indian landscape that is so very diverse in nature. Unlike traversing across the northern part of the country in the first edition, this time the JK Tyre Happiness Truck 2.0 reached the eyeful north-eastern region, giving the journey a new spin altogether.

Flagging off the trip from Kolkata on November 15, the team got into the mood to travel for the next 20 days through hills, plains, fertile valleys, and much more. The aim was to woo the trucking industry and make contact with hundreds of drivers with a joint collaboration between MOTORINDIA, its esteemed sponsor JK Tyre, Lighting Partner Lumax, and Trucking Partner BharatBenz. The first Happiness Truck campaign had provided a treasure chest of interesting and informative accounts narrated by truckers across North India and the journey through the north-eastern belt was not going to be any different.

Truck drivers: The unheard story

Closely in the footsteps of the agriculture sector that provides huge employment opportunities, the transport sector is an important source of livelihood for millions across India. Truck drivers play a crucial role in keeping the country’s economy moving, sacrificing much in return with their hard work, long hours on the road, inability to spend time with the family, and braving various hardships that difficult terrains pose. From the hundreds of truck drivers we met on the road, the accounts were more or less similar. Driving long distances takes a toll on health with sleepless nights and food lacking in quality or nutrition. Facing bureaucratic hurdles on the road is another nightmare with administration officials holding up the trucks for many hours for pointless reasons or simply to extract bribes.

Financially, as many truckers narrated, the industry does not offer a guaranteed income with most drivers earning per trip rather than a salary. This often burdens them with loans and other financial traps. Drivers often don’t acquire the freight rate in proportion to operation costs. Hence, Happiness Truck 2.0 was launched with the objective of bringing joy and knowledge in their lives through engaging activities while giving them a chance to tell their stories. In India, 14% of the GDP is spent on the transport and logistics sector as compared to 8-10% in other developed countries like the US and Germany. Almost 60% of the freight transport in India happens by road, amounting to about 3,500 million metric tons. According to a recent report, freight movement by road is expected to increase at a CAGR of 15%.

A journey to remember

In this 20-day journey that took us through 3,500 km of spectacular landscapes in North East India, there were umpteen tales and trails to discover. Amidst the undulating hills and plains with luxuriant green cover and a wide variety or rare and exotic flora and fauna, the Happiness Truck 2.0 journey made sure to unveil every aspect of the lives of the truck drivers and also engage them through our many activities and awareness drives that we conducted at various halts. Our journey took us through West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya with our BharatBenz truck proving its worth in the roughest of terrains along with the sturdy and highly dependable radials from JK Tyre and the powerful lights from Lumax.

The BharatBenz 1214 R fully-AC cabin truck was more than a joy to handle for Manoj who was geared up to drive across the entire stretch since he is an expert of these routes and conditions. But what was special for Manoj, a certified BharatBenz driver, was that it would offer him a chance to share stories with other drivers on the way. The team comprised the camera crew handling Go-Pros and a massive lens so as to capture not only the spectacular vistas of the region but also the joy of the drivers, fleet owners, mechanics and dhaba owners as they participated in the awareness camps. At every halt we made, the unconventional sparkling yellow Happiness Truck 2.0 stole the show. Each of these halts had a lot to offer to the participants – question and answer sessions, knowledge inputs, games, food and lots more.

Representatives from partners of the Happiness Truck 2.0 campaign at the flag-off ceremony in Kolkata

The pit stops

Starting from Kolkata, our first stop was at Bardhaman in West Bengal, the headquarters of Purba Bardhaman district. Next was Durgapur which offers an interesting mix of fast-paced urban development with history. In fact, Durgapur is the third-largest urban agglomeration after Kolkata and Asansol in West Bengal and the third planned city after the independence of India. Asansol, the mining and industrial centre in West Bengal, was our next destination, followed by Rampurhat. Travelling through these cities offered insights into the traditional culture of West Bengal, not to forget the unique culinary experiences that are so special to this region.

Moving forward, we made it to Malda, where the ripe and sweet mangoes can make your day. Malda is also famously known for its jute and silk. It was then time to halt at Siliguri, one of the most extravagant urban places in North East India. Our truck was stationed at Barpeta, the temple town of Assam known for its various Vaishnavite ‘satras’ in the vicinity. Guwahati was a similarly enriching experience with its dense urban sprawl and also the historic temples and shrines as well as the Peacock Island on the river. The road trip also took us through Nagaon and Jorhat. However, it was Nagaland with its amazing natural beauty that floored us. Dotted with hills and waterfalls amidst endless stretches of green vistas, Nagaland is almost like heaven on earth.

Our Happiness Truck 2.0 took a halt at Dimapur, one of the largest cities in Nagaland, which was followed by Imphal, the capital of Manipur, and Aizawl, the largest city as well as the capital of the State of Mizoram, And if peace is what you seek, you will find no better place than Silchar, also known as the ‘Island of Peace’. The never-ending beauty of Shillong was another captivating destination of this adventure trip and finally the Happiness Truck 2.0 concluded its trip of the North East region at Guwahati.

Commenting about the journey and its objective, Sanjeev Sharma, General Manager (Fleet Operations), JK Tyre, said: “First and foremost, I want to congratulate the whole team of MOTORINDIA for initiating such a momentous journey with the Happiness Truck 2.0. Also, I would like to laud their resourceful research and the originality of this concept.”

“Such a trip is not an easy one on any count. But the team has scored high across all their editions, including the very gruelling journey through the high passes of Leh and Ladakh in their first edition. The good part is that all these journeys have been well-documented by the MOTORINDIA crew and will serve as important references for more such journeys. We are making the soft copies of these narratives available through JK Tyre Forum,” he added.

Talking about the brand reputation that JK Tyre enjoys, he said: “Our power and enthusiasm to connect with our consumers have kept us the best in this domain. When I say people are connected with our product, JK Tyre walks along with the guy who tows the tyre in a contemporary three-wheeler rickshaw from our warehouse to the transport company and then the tyre-fitter who puts our tyre in the rim and then the driver who places his trust on this tyre.”

“We understand how our tyres are connected to the roads and hence we are connected with each and every one. Through these initiatives JK Tyre wants to touch the hearts and lives of these people who are connected to the roads. Moreover, the title of the campaign with the word ‘happiness’ signifies such a lot of positivity since it immediately puts people into a different frame of mind, especially since the trucking industry brings too much uncertainty and toil to the people who are connected to these robust roads. JK Tyre wants to say that we understand the need of ‘happiness’ in their lives. Under the ‘Happiness Truck 2.0’ we have conducted numerous fleet management programs and other exciting engaging events throughout this journey of ‘smiles’. I am sure many would like to watch the videos of this trip and hear what the truck drivers across India have to say,” he added.

Text – Manas Nandi
Campaign Planning – Avijit Lahiri
Photography – Rajeev Bhendwal

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