Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nano, People, Economics and Tata's Vision

Yesterday Prakash blogged about sentiments on Nano. On the points that Prakash had mentioned:

1. Bridge the status for many people
Are we looking at a more or less equal status of people because all of them can have a car? Is this the end of all differences and do we start treating people equally? Nano is just a product that would attempt to cash in on the small segment of city people that can afford a bike but can't afford a Maruti 800 or such a car.  

Status differences are there and will be there. There will always be a comparison.

2. Allow people to convert their dreams in reality
The one who managed to buy a Nano would want to sell it the next year and move up to a bigger better car. So, if someone can dream of a Nano, the next dream would be an i10 or Getz or Maruti 800.

3. Ensure safe travel
Agreed. A car is safer than a bike just because you can't drive a bigger vehicle as crazily as you would drive a bike. But sir, what about the safety of the poor souls that happen to walk and cycle on the same road. Yesterday, I stopped for letting a pedestrian cross the road. She was shocked that someone could do that and stood like a moose in front of the headlights. In the meantime, I was honked and yelled for stopping!

BTW, I use my car as rarely as possible - maintaining a balance between social responsibility and need for luxury.

4. How a good segment of population will take a cautious approach before buying? They will wait and watch till the official verdict is on.
1 lakh (or advertised as Rs 99,999 + taxes) is just a marketing figure. I wonder what would be the cost of driving it that includes fuel, maintenance and insurance. Tata cars aren't known for their ease of maintenance and roads aren't designed for a maintenance free driving either. At this state of economy when the money flow is not guaranteed, people would obviously think a hundred times before committing on an ongoing spend.

My concern is, as the number of cars keep increasing, we have limited road-space in all the cities. We just can't afford to have more cars without causing major problems in environment, physical and mental health and lastly economy. In these conditions, it would be foolish to expect an expensive product to make life better for the masses.

Here are the specific comments about the timing of Nano.

Was it a good idea of Mohammed bin Thuglaq to shift the capital city? Was it a good idea to mint leather currency? Definitely yes! But every decision for a country or organization must be backed up by time.
  • To me, Tata's Nano and their acquiring of Jaguar, Land Rover or Corus lack the vision Tatas are known for.
  • If building a car from ground-up is an achievement, they have done it with Indica. 
  • Instead of improving its quality and being cost effective in the production, Tata chose the 1-lakh car. Though the idea sounds good, it seems to be driven by ego - that we can do it. 
  • That has an adverse impact in making fair judgment of the present conditions. I feel the opposition at Nandigram should have been seen as a bad omen for the 1-lakh car. We usually do not see resistance as a warning and Tatas are no exception.


Ramiah Ariya said...

I think Nano and Tata have become part of a much subtler fight. The Nano has been marketed not just by Tata but also by mass media as some kind of weird symbol of Indian achievement. Exploiting the nationalistic sentiments in a segment of Indian population, the Nano has been pushed as a product that all Indians should be proud of. In fact, Indians should be so proud of it, that our own tax dollars should be spent in creating an ideal envornment for Nano's production. When the backhand, secret dealings of Tata with the West Bengal government blew up in their face, our media advised us that Mayawati was stopping the dream of Indians themselves from materializing.

I am always suspicious of products pushed by the media as satisfying our dreams. The truth is, our dreams are always what our media say they are. For many in India, the dream is of a comfortable public transportation; separate bus-lanes for the benefit of the public who cram these buses; clean, shady busstands; ability to walk without fear in our streets; affordable public healthcare; good public education. When was the last time our media highlighted the above list as dreams of Indians? The answer is never. Instead a naked, consumerist, pro-business push to convince us is on.
In this blitzkrieg, in a network of commentary online, in print and in television, our media has highlighted the Nano, Lakme Fashion Week, IPL and meaningless Miss World crowns as Indian dreams. In this chorus, our common, realisable dreams are lost.
Neither would the Nano bridge anybody's statuses. How naive to believe that the extreme income differences in India can vanish away because of a cheap car. What kind of economic sense does that make?
The Nano is an irresponsible product introduced while the whole world is moving towards greener, sustainable development policies. It is one more attempt by the famed business class of India to thumb its nose at social benefits.

Ramiah Ariya said...

I meant Mamta Bannerjee above, not Mayawati. I always confuse the two.