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.