As a young boy growing up in the Indian metropolis of Kolkata, Syed Ahmed loved watching trains and streetcars.
Ahmed was so fascinated by them, he would later pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.
“My first job after completing my degree was with one of India’s biggest truck manufacturers, Ashok-Leyland,” he said.
That was in 1987.
Five years later he moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to work as a sales engineer at a Renault trucks dealership.
For Ahmed, Dubai was just a stopover on the way to Canada, and he landed at his final destination in 1996 with enough experience in the industry to get a job quickly.
In December of that year, Ahmed joined Toronto Truck Center, a Volvo dealer, which changed hands multiple times in the next few years.
“I was the only South Asian salesman in heavy trucking at the time,” Ahmed said.
Selling Volvo trucks to the South Asian community wasn’t easy, though, because the brand was new to the North American market.
They were all buying Freightliners.
“You know, once people have a thing in their mind, they will stick to it. Now it has changed, but it took a lot of hard work.”
And the hard work paid off, with Ahmed receiving multiple sales awards, and Volvo establishing itself as a key player in the Canadian market.
“The most memorable moment in my career was when I received the award for Canada’s top salesperson for Volvo trucks in 2006,” he told Road Today.
“I was the only South Asian to receive that award at the time.”
Ahmed won the same award again in 2014.
By 2017, he had accumulated a number of other honors too, including the Master Sales Leader Silver award 14 times and the Master Sales Leader Gold award four times.
But Ahmed is not sitting on his laurels.
He has been regularly upgrading his skills by participating in workshops and seminars as well taking courses offered by various manufacturers including Volvo, Cummins and Peterbilt.
His language skills also helped him excel in his job – he speaks English, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and Tamil.
“I have also picked up some Punjabi.”
Ahmed is currently working as account manager at Cervus Equipment – Peterbilt of Mississauga, Ont., Canada’s largest Peterbilt dealer.
“I enjoy working here as we have a great sales, parts and service team,” Ahmed said.
There is no typical day at work, each day is totally different depending on customer calls and their issues, he said.
“It could be a midnight call from a customer who needs help, or calls from someone looking for information on warranties.”
Covid-19 has hit the trucking industry hard, but sales have started to pick up again, he said.
Ahmed, who has been working from home since March, is now back at his office as customers have begun returning to the showroom.
“They are buying trucks. I just did a deal for seven trucks, and the guy needs another 15.”
The most joyous event in Ahmed’s life came in 1998, when his wife Parveen gave birth to triplets – two boys and one girl.
“They were premature babies, and taking care of them was a big challenge,” Ahmed said.
Twenty-two years on, Rahim, Rahman and Fathima are pursuing their post-graduation studies.
Just like other young Canadians, they too have no interest in trucking, Ahmed said.
“Rahim wants to be a doctor, Fathima wants to be a dentist and Rahman is working toward becoming a game designer,” he said.
Ahmed spends his spare time listening to music and watching Indian movies or cricket.
“I am spending most of the time watching cricket.”
Ahmed lives in Brampton, Ont., with his mother, wife and children.
Profile by Abdul Latheef