THERE aren’t many “rubbish businessmen” out there who can rejoice in their hopelessness.

There aren’t too many failures who have had to turn to cab driving to pay off the bank loans . . .

Yet, who can honestly say they’re glad their lives took such a twist in the road.

Ishy Din however is that person.

This week his new play, Approaching Empty, runs at the Tron Theatre, confirmation that Ishy is now one of the most compelling voices in British theatre.

Set in a scruffy minicab office, Mansha decides it’s time to create his own destiny and offers to buy a business from his lifelong friend, Raf.

But as the realities of the state of the business slowly unravel, these two best friends have to face up to the old adage; partners are for dancing.

The play is set in the North East of England in the aftermath of Margaret Thatcher’s death and has already received great crit after its run at London's Kiln Theatre.

Ishy however, smiles as he says had he not failed in business, he would never had developed a career as a playwright.

“The Thatcher period killed off industry in Middlesbrough where I grew up,” he says.

“It was time when you had to try and develop a business idea.

“And I suppose that was always expected of young Asian men. After all, the immigrants were business-minded, they were survivors.

“But not me. I was rubbish. It just wasn’t in my DNA. I tried running lots of businesses, I had video rentals, the lot. But they all failed. And I ended up driving a taxi to pay off my debts.”

In 2010, while 30 year-old Ishy was driving his cab, he was grabbed by a radio ad.

BBC Radio 5 Live were looking for scripts for radio plays with a sporting theme.

“It came just after my latest business flop, and we’d just bought an office computer, so I thought: ‘I know, I’ll use that machine to enter this competition’.

“I wrote this story about two young Pakistani kids who go to watch Middlesbrough play football for the first time, expecting it to get thrown in the bin."

That's not what happened at all.

“Fantastically, six weeks later, the producers phoned me up and said they really loved it."

He adds, the pride in his voice audible; "That was the first time I thought I could be a writer.”

Ishy had shown writing imagination at school, but no teacher would ever have encouraged a pupil to become a writer.

“There were no writers from Middlebrough,” he says with a wry smile.

“People from Middlesbrough used to become welders. Then came Thatcher and that option was gone.

"The best you could hope for was to start up a small business. Unfortunately (yet, fortunately) this was something I was hopeless at.”

He adds of writing; “It never crossed my mind. It never occurred to me that I had the ability to do it, and I would ever be allowed to do it.”

But with his initial success Ishy was buoyed beyond belief. He had found a place in the world, a point of existence.

"Suddenly, I had purpose. I couldn't wait to begin writing. The ideas kept coming. I knew this was a world I wanted to be part of."

A three-week writing workshop run by theatre company Tamasha eventually led to his first major commission, Snookered is a comedy drama featuring four Muslim men set in a Middlesbrough pool hall.

The play ran to acclaim at London’s Bush Theatre in 2012. Incredibly, it was written while Ishy was working as a cab driver.

“I would keep my laptop under the driver’s seat and bring it out and write," he recalls, smiling.

"I used to deliberately work the graveyard shift, so I would get time in between jobs to furiously type away in my cab.”

Taxi work continually fed into his writing. “You meet the most amazing people.

"And I made a calculation one night that I had something like 160,000 conversations in my cab,” he says.

"But it's not just about talking to people. it's about listening to what they have to say. It's about the rhythms of their speech."

He adds; “That vast experience of life gives you an ear for how people talk, ideas for characters, little stories, little incidents that you remember.

"Writers are magpie-like. Life is our raw material.”

Ishy’s own life experience is prismed via his new play.

“On one level, it’s about two lifelong friends and a business deal,” he says.

“But it’s also about post-industrial northern Britain, and the repercussions of Thatcher’s economic policies.

"It’s about friendship and community and family.”

His plays, he offers, are all about “Asian men in confined spaces,” and are intended to shine a very bright light on the role of male Asian immigrants in society.

“Snookered was about young men born in the UK,” he says. “Approaching Empty is about Asian men who came to the UK as teenagers, with a clear idea of what they’d left behind.

"The third play, as yet untitled, will be about older men, my dad’s generation, who meant to return home, but for many reasons, have ended up spending the rest of their lives here.”

Does this theatre success mean Ishy won't be cab-driving again?

"Well, here's the funny thing," he says, grinning.

"I still pay for my badge, which means I can legally drive a a cab at any time.

"I think it's a lot to do with imposter syndrome. I still can't quite get my head round the fact I'm doing the job I love.

"There's a part of me keeps telling myself I'm still a taxi driver."

Approaching Empty, The Tron Theatre, March 5.