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India: Introducing the Tata Nano

Categories: South Asia, India, Economics & Business, Environment, Technology

The unveiling of Tata Nano [1], a new supermini car at the New Delhi Auto Expo today has created quite a commotion on the blogosphere. The standard version of the car is 100,000 Rs (approximately 2500 USD) making it the cheapest car to hit the Indian market.

Tata Nano

The reception to the car has been quite mixed. Some claim that such a cheap car is only going to add to the infrastructure woes in Indian cities, already weighed by congested roads. Plus, the potential of pollution increasing as more cars hit the road. However, a lot of people are extremely positive about the car.

Indian Muslims [2] writes that the car could have an interesting impact on rural India.

I agree with the critics that at least it is going to be a traffic disaster. Our cities are already seething with jams and crowded places. But then Ratan Tata is a businessman. And his focus is on bringing products which people need at the cheapest possible price. The infrastructure problems have to be solved by our policy makers and politicians. And it may be too much to ask from them. We have seen Bangalore and Pune become pathetic without much being done to keep pace with the exploding population of these cities. I am sure if this car is a success it will be a traffic disaster. But then if we think outside our cities, in the rural areas, where 70% of India lives it could be a life changing thing.

IndieQuill [3] sums up the range of reactions, and points out that there is no reason for cars to be a luxury good.

On the one hand, where the hell do any of us get off making the case that cars should remain a luxury? Ratan Tata might be indulging in a PR exercise but he’s got a point when he says there are tons of families out there who’re making do with extremely unsafe modes of transportation because they can’t afford safer alternatives. Anybody who’s seen a woman balance a tiny baby on her lap while clinging to her husband as they sit on his bike and make their way through bumper-to-bumper traffic has a lot of nerve arguing that that couple ought to stick with their bike so that the rest of us, with more money in our bank accounts, can swan around in our a/c cars.

Don't Trust The Indian Media! [4] has pictures of the car from the Auto Expo and writes that activists are likely to lose goodwill if they target people for being aspirational.

About Sunita Narain and R K Pachauri's comments on congestion and pollution, while valid stink of elitism I am afraid. People will protest against this car, but they should instead go after factories, after diesel generator sets and so much more. The problem with Indian greenies is that by protesting against the wrong things, they tend to lose goodwill. Remind me to cancel my subscription to Greenpeace. Don't go after people's aspirations guys, you lose goodwill. Tell people to consume more smartly, and tell our government to spend more wisely and not allow unfettered development, but mobility and communications are the wrong things to go after.

Ultrabrown [5] expresses some safety concerns, but appears pretty positive about a car that promises – at the very least – protection from the elements.

Tata Motors just launched the modern-day equivalent of that Corolla, a car which costs less not only after adjusting for inflation, but in simple dollars as well. The Tata Nano isn’t a beauty queen, nor does it come with a click wheel. Its bumper curlicues evoke a late-model Ford Taurus, its absurdly high brow a boxfish. But at just Rs. 1 lakh ($2,500), it could put safer transport into the hands of middle- and lower-class families across the world.

Marketing Practice [6] looks back at the time when the car was initially announced and scoffed at, and how the car probably doesn't need any marketing to boost sales.

In the marketing front, Nano had the dream start . Infact Nano may need no ads but heavy dose of positive PR during the launch. The brand may have to counter the skepticism surrounding the performance . Another nightmare is managing the initial rush of the customers. Since this is a car for the common man, there is every possibility that the customers could be given a raw treatment at the dealership touch- points. Indian marketers are still to wake up to the possibilities of a good customer service. How Tata and its dealers handle the initial euphoria will be something to watch for in the Customer-relationship perspective .