Friday, 10 April 2009

Nano, A gift to the nation

If I am not wrong, the year was 2001. Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata Group of companies was having a business meeting on his way from Pune to Mumbai over the Expressway.

As the rains slashed on the window of his car, he felt warm and cozy to be safe. But not all on the Expressway were as fortunate. A family of four apparently was also on the same way but on a two wheeler. The kid in the front along with his father took the wrath of the rains while the mom at the backseat tried her best to protect the younger one. A typical Indian middle class family believing in the saying –Hum do humare do. A car [gadi] is still a thing of luxury in our country and not all can afford it.

That sight is supposed to have moved Ratan Tata. And he, as the Chairman of Tata Motors asked himself –What can I do for them? What can Tata Sons –as the biggest conglomerate of the nation- do for the nation? And Nano [‘small’ in Gujarati, the language of the founders of the Tata Group] was born.

Apart from the designing constraints one of the biggest challenges was the cost factor. A car for the Aam Aadmi [common man] needs to be affordable by the common man. And as time as taught us –cutting costs happens with innovation. Exactly 100 years back, Henry Ford used the assembly line to produce the Model T in 1908 which brought down the cost of car building. The question facing Ratan Tata was can The Nano with technology innovations bring it within the grasp of the Indian Aam Aadmi?

The development of the car finally kicked off in 2003 with design inputs from IDEA, Italy. To achieve its cost and design constraints Tata had simplified the manufacturing process, sought new design approaches from the suppliers [Bosch, Germany] and emphasized innovation. Such was the shock at building a car at so low cost that there were thoughts that Tata Motors should patent the technology being used in Nano. But Ratan Tata pointed out that none of these is revolutionary or represents earth-shaking technology and most relate to rather mundane items such as the two-cylinder engine’s balance shaft, and how the gears were cut in the transmission. The innovation however is the utilization of compressed air as fuel.

The introduction of Nano received huge media coverage due to its targeted low price. The most common question [even I remember to have asked this] was –“Is it really possible to build a car that low in cost?”

The Financial Times reported –“If ever there were a symbol of India’s ambitions to become a modern nation, it would surely be the Nano, a tiny car with an even tinier price tag. A triumph of homegrown engineering, the Nano captures the dreams of millions of Indian groping for a shot at urban prosperity.”

But not all was hunky dory for the Nano. The earlier identified site of Singur in West Bengal went through a lot of controversies and finally amidst a lot of drama, the Tatas pulled out of Singur and went to the land of dreams, where visions are shaped into realities –Gujarat. Within five days of Tata’s decision of pulling out it was announced on the 7th of October, 2008 that the Chief Minister of Gujarat has signed a MOU with Tata Motors for allocating land for the Nano factory in Sananda, Gujarat.

Tata Motors has commercially launched the Nano on the 23rd of March 2009 with bookings from the 9th to the 25th of April 2009 and sales from July 2009 onwards. Finally the Indian middle class will have an affordable car[gadi] of their own.

Ratan Tata, a shy man who rarely features in the social gatherings has lived for years in the book crammed, dog filled bachelor flat in Mumbai’s Colaba area. JRD Tata built Tata. Now his grandson builds Tata Nano. The Tata group of companies with their extremely high standards of ethics has played a huge role in creating the modern India. Air India was founded by JRD Tata in the year 1932 as Tata Airlines, which was later acquired by the Govt. of India. I’m sure a lot of us were not aware of this.

Tata Steel is the cheapest producer of steel in the whole world. It was not possible to reach such heights without an eye for innovation that is so much a part of the Tata Group. With Corus in their kitty, they’re the 5th largest steel producer of the world.

Tata Consultancy Services is the largest IT exporter of the nation with unbelievable profit margins.

And now Tata Motors joins the bandwagon with Nano.

Apparently Tata Steel, Tata Motors and TCS forms the largest contributor the profits of Tata Sons in the conglomerate that has 100 companies. Yes you heard it right, The Taj Group of Hotels, Tata Tea, Tata Communication, WestSide, Tanishq…. Phew!!!

Ratan Tata has definitely brought us one step closure to comfort. Over the next few years, when Ratan Tata conducts meetings enroute over the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, he might not be any lesser glad.

Do not be surprised if next time you’re behind a truck on a highway and read “Hum do humare do aur Nano” being written. By the way, try to look at the make of the truck, chances are it might be TATA.


Srab said...

Definitely a proud moment for us and not to mention the team behind the making of "nano-the people's car”. This is not only a achievement for Tata group for producing the cheapest car but also for the manufacturing sector in India. This can revolutionise manufacturing(much awaited) sector in India. Tata's are the one who own Nano(the cheapest) as well as Ford-Jaguar(if not the most expensive, at least expensive)!

Gondu said...

I do not want to take anything away from Tata and fact that Nano will be a boon to many but what most of us are failing to notice is the basic set of problems that will be soon facing. With Nano becoming affordable you will be seeing a car instead of a scooter/bike and can you even begin to imagine the amount of traffic jams that people will have to face. These days without a Nano getting out on Sunday is a torture, with Nano God Bless Us is all that I can say. I saw this ad no TV where the son tells the father that since future will have no petrol he will open a cycle shop. That may not be very far, the people in this country, be it rich or poor, educated or uneducated do not understand that these natural resources are depleting at a faster rate than nature can replace. It may be our generation that may open a cycle repair shop and not our kids or grandkids !!!!

Apart from that Hail Nano!!!! :)

Buzz said...

@Gondu, I wanted to put that point also but I guessed that it is self explainatory. Let me try again.

A couple of decades back Bajaj Scooter came into picture... there was a huge demand for the same... and see how the roads, municipalities and cities have coped with it. Its a matter of time, traffic would not be an issue at all.

Regarding fast depleting natural resources, there is a Eco version of the Nano. Moreover Nano is very economical.. 24kms per litre

Apart from that just have a look here

California consumes more fuel than India and China put together... so you should know where to bring a check.

Now its Jai Ho for Nano...

Gondu said...

@Buzz If everyone tries to point a finger at others and expects them to begin, the problem will never get solved. Everyone expects the other person to take the first step and in the process we all end up losing. I am not trying to take anything away from Nano and even though it has an eco-friendly version it will still be a big cost for all of us to bear.

Gary said...

It surely is a gift, and if traffic jams bother anyone, we should be fixing that problem. Pollution is an issue, but Nano will add just a few drops in the ocean. There are enough studies to prove that floating around. Urban pollution, on the other hand, will increase, but we as a nation have to address the quality of petroleum-based fuels sold here, even if we don't go hybrid, et al.

And the anecdote about 4 people on a 2 wheeler on the expressway is probably not correct. Two/three wheelers are not allowed on the expressway, they never were. Never mind the source, the great idea must be hailed. I don't want to split hairs anyway.

I was with Tata Motors until late 2003 and we would hear rumours about the one lakh rupee car. I guess it all started then.

I don't think corporate India has ever dreamed so big, forget about making it come true. That in itself deserves an applause.

Buzz said...

@Gary, Then it must be one of the roads in Mumbai city... From what I remember it was either the Expressway or a city road of Mumbai. Thanks for the clarification, but I think I have seen two wheelers over the Expressway... am not sure though..

Gary said...

Let's not get into that debate :). I guess I was not precise.

Mr. Tata himself says that he was inspired by seeing a family of 4 on a 2 wheeler, it's of little consequence where it happened. And it could have happened anywhere in India. It's commonplace, as you would know.

Rohit.. said...

Sourav... thanx for putting up a nice line abt TCS Ltd. :)

I just hope Wipro doesn't sue you for this :P

Buzz said...

@Rohit, For the time being let us shed our differences and appreciate the vision of the legendary Mr. Ratan Tata. I'm quite sure the Nano would have made every Indian proud of the fact, even my anna-data Mr. Azim Premji.

Apart from that, being a Telco [Tata Motors] shareholder, this itself is a proud moment for me !!!

Pushpak . . said...

I'm proud to be a Tata associate, and similarly ashamed of being a voter of the constituency being represented by Mamta Banerjee.

Shantanu Gupta said...

In this world of global warming and climate change....Its the time for public transport and I c that Nano will spoil the drive for public transport even further. Car companies have done this for ages....making cheaper and affordable cars and lobbying hard against efficient public transport systems. The big 3 have in US never allowed the public transport to spread in US and now US contributes 25% of world's global warming.

Tata has made us proud by their international acquisitions and has certainly increases India's bargaining power on many fronts. But Nano will only add to the problems of "Aam Aadmi" rather than alleviating them. This "Aam Aadmi" term....its just to fool emotional Indians. Tata is targeting Nano for 2-wheeler drivers and as second car for kids and wives. 80% people in India use public transport and they any way can not afford Nano or even a 2-wheeler. I would be immensely happy if Tatas will design a affordable, comfortable, fuel efficient bus for Indian roads to compete with volvos and Mercs of the world.

We should all demand better public transport form our governments rather than glorifying the car makers....

Pls have a look at this ppt to understand the traffic problems and proposed solutions....

Shantanu Gupta said...

Mr. Nano Fan.....

Spend some money....Buy this report from CSE and do some hard blogging...

Gary said...

Surely public transport is the way to go, but that doesn't take anything away from Tatas.

And Tatas are investing big in quality public transport - trucks, buses etc.

You can check this out:

And search for 'Tata world truck' on any search engine of your liking.

And there is this hybrid Indica - slated for a 2009 launch but will probably will be delayed - courtesy Singur, and the recession.

We need to appreciate the fact that creating an infrastructure for public transport is beyond their realm.

Nevertheless, clean transport, whether private or public, is the way forward - but perhaps not the only way.