Thursday, January 10, 2008

Revolution on four wheels - Tata Nano

It had to happen someday and so it has. Delhi today witnessed the revolution on four wheels, literally, as Tata Motors unveiled the cheapest car in the world. Here comes the Tata Nano - called the "peoples car" (that name isnt new since thats what Volkswagen means in German).


The bright side:

Psst: I'm trying to become an optimist so please don't scroll down to find the dark side - it no longer exists :)

1. The fact that Tata was able to keep its word on keeping the price at Rs. 1,00,000 despite raw material cost escalation over the last four years is remarkable. And for that price, Tata Nano is more than a bargain anyway. It will probably take years for Tata to recover its investment, but thats well worth the cost of the goodwill, trust and eyeballs this product will generate.

2. Almost marks the coming-of-age for the Indian product manufacturing sector. I believe this whole project was executed from thought to the prototype stage, right here. Now, THAT is something.

3. Finally, there is a potential replacement for the millions of auto-rickshaws and centuries old fiats taxis that flood the streets today. Thats tonnes of greenhouse emissions cut in a single stroke! not to mention the potential ease in traffic congestion. (Image source: dancewithshadows)


4. You no longer have to worry about the dad riding the Lamby, blocking the road (Lamberretta - an Italian antique from the 1960s that some Indians continue to use well past its expiry date) with his son crouching on the foot-board in-front, mom on the pillion, daughter sandwiched in between along with the weeks supply of groceries and the little baby dangling from the mother's lap. (Image source: Saad, Flickr. CC. Some rights reserved)

4. Scrap dealers are partying ever since the Nano was unveiled. The favorite tune at these parties is an Indian remix of '2001: A Space Odyssey' (wierd, even the Tatas used it at the launch). All those Lambys, Vespas, Fiats, Old Bajajs, Padminis and the occasional Maruti 800 and Ambassadors to be replaced by the lil-chunky Nanos will have to go somewhere! Sample this news-bite that is going to appear on Indian media in the near future, "... the ragged rag-picker downtown (on his white Nano) is being chased by at least three leading Venture Capitalists (in the red, green and yellow Nanos) in broad daylight... and these visuals are being exclusively broadcast to your Mobile TVs by ABTV India."

5. A few months ago, Tatas had announced a partnership with the French co. MDI which had come up with an engine that runs on compressed air! I had then thought it would've been a good fit for the to-be Nano. Good that it wasn't used, at least for the time being. Rumor has it that unfortunately, the prototype MDI cars cant run more than 7.5 Km per air-fill. Lets use it for some drag racing then ;).

6. Lets admit it, Indians will have to wait ages till the government does something (if at all - and thats a big IF) about the public transport system. With the loan companies dangling the low EMI carrots, most of the Indian population would have had to take the two wheeler option. Add to it the fact, that Indians have a hate-hate relationship with the helmet, the fact that the bikes rarely if ever get serviced. 500 Nanos are better than 1000 bikes are better than 500 autorickshaws and fiat taxis are better than some future fantasy public transport system.

7. This is what Sherlock Holmes had to say when asked why he'd bought the Tata Nano: "Elementary Watson, four wheels are stabler than two; specially when you hit a pothole."
*bump, bump*
Watson: "That was no pothole, it was an open manhole in the middle of the road!"
Sherlock: "This is India Watson, even I find it difficult to distinguish one from the other."

8. Hats off to Prof. C. K. Prahalad, who saw the glass full to the brim where others thought was empty, right at the bottom of the pyramid. And, hats of to Ratan Tata the visionary who kept his word.

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