The Tata Nano

In the image above, you see Ratan Tata in the Tata Nano. What a priceless shot. Notice that it says “Peoples’ Car” and not “People’s Car” — it is a car meant not just some people but for a varied group of people. It is a car for the various peoples of the world. I am not sure that that is what those who put up that sign meant. Maybe it is just a mistake. But that mistake speaks to a larger truth.

I also think it is interesting that “The People’s Car” translates to “Volkswagen” in German. The Volkswagen Beetle was built upon the express dictate of Adolf Hitler. Curious that we have Mr Ratan Tata as the promoter of India’s people’s car. In any event, Tata Motors is making a game-changing move and I am proud that an Indian corporation is doing so. Way to go, Mr Ratan Tata. May you succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

[For follow up to this post and its comments, see “Tata Nano — Part 2“.]

Author: Atanu Dey


7 thoughts on “The Tata Nano”

  1. well i hate to sound like a whiner but this doesn’t excite me one bit. Sure we’ve produced the cheapest car. so what ? This is not the solution fit for Indian social / environmental / economic context though.

    social — Given our population and infrastructure, is personal car the right solution ?

    environmental — we all know it. Car is energy and material intense.

    economic — India is not energy rich. We import what $60 billion worth of oil each year. So each time we drive a car, we cut some part of the check to Saudis. Thats money leaving indian shores, instead of staying within the shores to help local economy. Also future energy situation looks quite bleak. Why do we want to lock ourselves to energy intense economy ?

    I would have been proud if Tata did something really game changing. Something that solves us real problems , not brush them under the carpet.

    I was listening to that nano press conf. some reporter asked the questions i asked above. Ratan Tata simply brushed it aside saying ” this is not the forum for such questions .. It’s government job to provide infrastructure ..” etc. Hardly game changing answer.


  2. Ratan Tata is right , chaitanya.

    It is the government’s job to provide infrastructure. Read Atanu’s entire article ‘ Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid’.


  3. Vaidehi, I wasn’t suggesting that Tata build infrastructure. I was questioning the suitability of car for current Indian conditions.

    Mass car has been available since times of Henry ford. How exactly is this different apart from price point ? I wonder if front end price point matters really. The recurring cost of fuel is going to increase from now .. have you noticed price of crude and credible talk of peak oil ? Don’t forget govt subsidizes petrol in India which masks the real price of fuel from consumers. This whole pricing reminds me of las vegas casinos where they provide you almost free lodging and squeeze you on the gambling 🙂


  4. Got your point chaitanya.
    However economics, population explosion , environmental health…nothing exists in water tight compartments. Everything is intertwined and interdependent. India’s governance that way is truly messed up. The so called rulers pretend to do SuryaNamaskar after losing their vision.
    This car would certainly benefit two wheelers and young toddlers going to schools (concentration camps ) packed tight like cattle in rickety three wheeled contraptions.

    Thrifty use of fuel and resources ought to be enforced upon people in high places . ” Desh ke liye kuch bi karenge , aam janata ke liye marange”….blahblah should be made to live what they profess.

    One Narendra Modi has set an example rooting out corruption and achieving much more. Why can’t he be emulated?
    However , my personal choice for Bharat Ratna would be people like Maneka Gandhi, Vandana Shiva…


  5. Hi Atanu,

    If Ratan Tata succeeds beyond his wildest dreams, I am guessing the nationalist in you will swell with pride, while the economist in you will be dismayed.

    I am hoping the car succeeds in the market place and leads to more people appreciating the need for good infrastructure, alternative fuels and even good governance.


  6. I’m not sure whether it is the Govt’s job to provide infrastructure. If the Govt is involved in providing infrastructure, our underlying assumptions are :

    (1) Spending on certain infrastructure is better than spending on other kinda infrastructure (or health or education)
    (2) The market doesn’t have sufficient knowledge to make that decision

    Infrastructure projects are highly profitable (not to the people!!) ventures for politicians. The choice of infrastructure would be decided on, what is the most profitable for us? And roads seem to be most profitable. The costs are high, there are continuous huge maintenance costs (at least yearly), and they promote the use of petrol , another guaranteed income stream for the govt, and a ministry/bureaucratic structure needed for taxing people and regulating.

    Govt should be out of infrastructure building business, let the market decide what it wants. Enterpreneurs take risks, some will build roads, some will build trains, ferrys, flying broomsticks, helicopters, pushpaka vimana, vedic based solar flying devices, magic carpets and swamis can also sell levitation and yogic flying classes.

    The best policy to pursue would be to eliminate Govt’s vice like grip on infrastructure and transportation (railways, state road transport corporations) .


  7. Chaitanya,

    “I would have been proud if Tata did something really game changing.”

    Game changing is not done a company or a few companies. All game changing things are results of thousands of experiments being tried out by thousands of companies. Continuously. To open innovation channels (and thereby, eventually, productivity), requires economic freedom friendly policies, no State control.


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