Daksh Gupta: the accidental salesman with a big heart

Daksh Gupta was studying at university and washing cars to make ends meet when he sold a car by accident. He’d found his calling, but the coronavirus crisis has presented new challenges.

Who’d be a business leader right now? One false step in the court of public opinion and you’re liable “to be put in the stocks and pelted”, says The Sunday Times. Still, reputations are being made too. For every corporate “villain”, there’s a hero “going the extra mile to look after their people” and, in Britain’s traditionally sharkish motor trade, Daksh Gupta of Marshall Motor Group is setting the pace.

Arguably one of the sharpest dealer bosses in the business, Gupta, 49, has the salesman’s knack of laying things bluntly on the line. “We are at war,” he told Car Dealer magazine last week, mulling the industry’s “most bizarre week ever”. Gupta reckons the current three-week shutdown could continue for up to 12 weeks – with the industry taking, perhaps, “three years to recover”. But his immediate priority, in the company argot, is to “stay Marshall” (treat everybody well). “We’ll worry about sales on the other side.”

A meteoric rise

The business does have a cushion: before the crisis, Marshall announced £33m of operating profit on revenues of £2.3bn. Most of the group’s 4,300 staff are now on furlough (Gupta is paying 90% of wages – adding 10% to the state contribution). Four hundred or so are still working – the company has turned over its garages to service ambulance, fire and police vehicles.  

Gupta, who grew up in south London, the son of a retired businessman and an NHS interpreter, is sometimes known in the trade as the “accidental” car salesman, notes The Daily Telegraph. The story goes that, when studying computer science at Oxford Brookes University, he took a job washing cars at a local dealership and “accidentally” sold one. “It’s absolutely true,” he beams. “Actually, that day I sold three.” He soon became hooked on the fast-moving pace of business. His family weren’t best pleased, he recalls. They were always “waiting for me to get a ‘proper job’ in IT”. 

Gupta shot up the ranks at “meteoric speed”, noted Director magazine in 2010, shortly after he landed “one of the top three jobs in the industry” as boss of Marshall Motor. Previously, he put in stints at Nissan and Camden Group, building a reputation as “a turnaround specialist”. Old hands thought Gupta’s potential was evident from the start: “he understood the mechanics of how you sell cars extremely well,” says one. But it was at distributor and retailer Inchcape that he really earned his spurs, becoming franchise director at just 31.

Doing the right thing

“Since being handed the wheel” at Marshall, he has led the firm, which was spun-out of the family-owned Marshall Group, through a flotation, buying and selling 140 businesses along the way, says The Daily Telegraph. Marshall rode the wave of Britain’s booming car market, largely driven by the rise of personal contract plans (PCPs). By 2018, more than 80% of new car buyers were in PCPs and almost 60% bought used cars. Some feared a bubble, but it’s one that hasn’t burst yet.

Gupta views the current hiatus as a good opportunity to take stock of the business – and the “opportunities that could come out of this crisis”, says Car Dealer. Doing the best for his staff is a no-brainer. “If you do the right thing, right things will happen. You can’t forget those things you’ve built over many years,” he says. “We are going to need these people because I believe there is going to be a massive bounce-back.”

Recommended

Mukesh Ambani: the Indian billionaire eyeing global expansion
People

Mukesh Ambani: the Indian billionaire eyeing global expansion

Mukesh Ambani is already the richest man in India by a large margin, but his ambitions do not end there. He wants India to be at the front of the worl…
19 Oct 2020
Great frauds in history... John Factor’s penny-stock scams
People

Great frauds in history... John Factor’s penny-stock scams

John Factor sold worthless penny stocks through a boiler room operation, ramping the price via his financial newsletters. But he was never held to ac…
14 Oct 2020
Mohsin and Zuber Issa : garage tycoons who put Asda in their trolley
People

Mohsin and Zuber Issa : garage tycoons who put Asda in their trolley

The supermarket’s new owners are Mohsin and Zuber Issa, two brothers from Blackburn who started with a rundown petrol station 20 years ago. But their …
8 Oct 2020
Great frauds in history: Farrow’s Bank
People

Great frauds in history: Farrow’s Bank

Thomas Farrow set up his eponymous bank in 1901, offering high interest rates to small savers. After falsifying the accounts and collapsing the bank, …
7 Oct 2020

Most Popular

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm
Bitcoin

The Bank of England should create a "Bitpound" digital currency and take the world by storm

The Bank of England could win the race to create a respectable digital currency if it moves quickly, says Matthew Lynn.
18 Oct 2020
Negative interest rates and the end of free bank accounts
Bank accounts

Negative interest rates and the end of free bank accounts

Negative interest rates are likely to mean the introduction of fees for current accounts and other banking products. But that might make the UK bankin…
19 Oct 2020
What would negative interest rates mean for your money?
UK Economy

What would negative interest rates mean for your money?

There has been much talk of the Bank of England introducing negative interest rates. John Stepek explains why they might do that, and what it would me…
15 Oct 2020