Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tata Nano

The whole unveiling of the Tata Small car has been amazing. For something that took 5 years, and had critics carping all along, this is no mean achievement. Even yesterday as I scanned the papers, the critics were having their last gasps.

One said, with European safety standards, it will never be possible.
One said, it will push up crude oil prices
Another said, there is no market for the one lakh car.
And another one said, this will open up an entry level market - after that people will buy heavier, bigger fuel guzzling cars.

There have been other attacks as well - starting from charges of congestion to safety to urban pollution. I was reminded of a quote - For everyone who is saying no, there is someone who is going ahead and doing it.

There were a few who wished Tata well - notably Anand Mahindra. Bajaj attempted to steal the show, but remember their vehicle is some 4 years away - by which time the market can well be redefined.

But whatever it is, Tata has managed to bring the focus of the world to India. What McDonalds did with its Aloo Tiki, what Nokia did with its 1100 and to a certain extent what Tata did with Indica and Mahindra with Scorpio or Bajaj with Pulsar to name just a few, has been overshadowed. India is "the" land of new paradigms.

Whoever required a car to be a tonne heavy and bulky and travel at 100 kmph? Especially when traffic in a city crawls? Why not go for a small, light car that can take you comfortably at about 40-60kmph within the city? If all vehicles moved at that speed, traffic management
would be a lot easier as would safety considerations.

Of course the city will get congested thanks to the small car, but why would it get
congested if there were good public transport options? Well, of course, the cities need
roads - good ones at that, but thats something that needs to be built. Why do roads need to
be of SUv battering quality? Why cant they be better?

Of course safety will be an issue. But tell me, is an auto safe? Is a motorcycle safe? Of course, more petrol will be consumed. But, having made a beginning with a small light car like this, technology can surely get better? Perhaps a battery driven light car is a real possibility. What if version 2.0 of the small car had an electric option? An LPG option? CNG?

The possibilities are immense, from an urban transportation perspective. It could potentially change the way we move around in cities.And perhaps get rid of all the autos as well from our streets (I mean, rickshaws will be replaced by this beauty).

Trouble is, the auto companies have been living for 100 years in their own world. A world of
their own creation. Now someone has tried to shatter it. And how. Thanks Mr. Ratan Tata for
showing the way...

Perhaps, apart from all this, the Tata small car will also have another paradigm busting fallout. From the land of elephants and tigers, to the land of elephant mahouts and tiger tamers with cellphones and laptops the world view of India could change - to the the land of the small car, the Nano...


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vishaka said...

Hi, I am very much inspired by your article on the new nano. Infact i have also been reading much about the safety and comfort features of this car, but its difficult convincing my collegues @ work, that this car is indeed suited for Indian stds, -economical, fuel efficient and safe, all that you can ask for @ Re 1 lakh, but who believes me. its the "American Mentality" for a NO against small cars, lack of space and comfort, and who thinks about money.

Karthik said...

It is a game changer. The Nano is the news everywhere (BBC, NYT et al). But I don't think this will be the answer to urban transportation. It's deinitely better than a monster SUV, but can you imagine thousands of bikes replaced by the Nano. As it is the traffic in our cities barely moves. With these on the roads, aaaaarrrrrgh.

The way Indian cities are configured (narrow roads, high density), good mass transit is the best option. But, the metro rails (in B'lore, H'bad, Chennai) are still a few years off.

You make a very good point about the Nano replacing the auto-rickshaws. Autos are noisy, polluting tin cages. At least, the Nano seems to be a cleaner version of that.

Kavi said...

I am back to (semi) active blogging after some time. Its refreshing to read your posts.

This one was great.

I recall reading Ratan Tata tell a reporter who asked him about the state of roads that he was in the wrong press conference, and it was the duty of the government to build that !

If only the government focussed on building roads like how the TATAs focussed on building the small car..!

Rangachari Anand said...

If ever they drop the subsidies keeping petrol prices artificially low in India, this will become even more compelling.

Neelakantan said...

Also, I see this as a platform to launch an urban transportation paradigm - the engine could change, the configuration a little bit. There are many more things that can be done around this - once a platform is available, it is ready for any engine, perhaps a fuel cell engine etc.