Alright so the car that everyone has been talking about is finally here. Feast your eyes on the Tata ‘autorickshaw’ Nano. And I do not mean that in a derogatory way if you are thinking that. I feel that the autorickshaws that buzz about like flies on the roads of any Indian city or town are a necessary evil for a majority of commuters.
In any case, I am not going to be commenting on whether the Nano is a good or a bad car. I firmly believe that except in the rarest of exceptions, you normally only get what you pay for. So please dont pay 1 lakh rupees (USD 2000) for the Nano and expect the features of a Fiat 500. On whether the Nano is safe or not- I think it is obviously clear that this is a relative question. The hundreds and thousands of families who ride everyday perched precariously on two-wheelers without proper helmets in India are going to be more safer in a Nano than on their motor bikes. You are definitely not going to survive a high speed accident on a European Motorway in the Nano (and shame on you if you expect to!).
I think the Tatas had a clear idea of the target audience they wanted when they conceptualised this project. Lower and Middle Income familes in India who have never had access to a car. And so thats who the car will serve best.
The Nano will probably do to the Indian car market what the Reliance CDMA service did to the mobile phone market in India some years ago. Once again priced at an incredibly low amount, the Reliance mobile phone found its way into the hands of thousands of people who would never have otherwise shelled out the money for a mobile phone. For about a year after introduction you would see these phones literally everwhere. Ofcourse with the eventual passing of time those phones disappeared to be replaced by eventual sucessors.
There was of course the associated ‘image’ problem. No one who could afford another phone would ever buy a Reliance phone. I’m not sure if this would kick-in in the case of the Nano. My guess is that it probably would, but there would still be no shortage of people queueing up to buy these cars (if interested go to the nearest branch of State Bank of India where you can get the application forms for Rs 300- does that remind you of the registration process for some of the competitive exams? Or if you are more the snazzy type, you can pick the forms up at Westside- the lifestyle chain (owned by Tatas- d’ah!) and if you are an internet addict (though why you would need a car escapes me) you can do it online). Like the Beijing olympic tickets, once the deadlines for the application passes, a computerised system will pick numbers at random. So if you really need that car…pray!
In the meantime everybody else who already has a car can start preparing their strategies to combat the shrinking amount of parking space in their respective cities. Bon Courage peeps!
(PS: with the ipod nano (small) and tata nano (small)- would they start naming small babies ‘nano’ too?)