Mr Ratan Tata officially retires as Chairman of Tata Sons, a massive business conglomerate that has interests from salt to automobiles. A passionate car nut, Ratan Tata has been a force to reckon with at Tata Motors, a car maker he’s helped shape over the years, from being a purveyor of trucks to one that caused a revolution of sorts by building the world’s least priced car. Known as a visionary, Ratan Tata’s pet project was to empower millions of Indian two wheeler riders, by giving them a low cost option of upgrading to the safer option of four wheels.
Envisioned as the least priced car in the world, with a price tag of INR 1 Lakh, or $2,500, the Tata Nano was heralded as impossible by many big car makers. Tata Motors though, had different ideas. Spurred by the personal interest of Mr Tata, Indian engineer engineered around seemingly impossible obstacles to spawn the Nano. Though the initial clamour for the Nano was sky high, the initial interest began to wane away after the novelty faded off. Thereon, it has been a uphill struggle for both Tata Motors as well as the Nano.
In India, cars are more aspirational than merely being a basic means of transport. The “cheapest car in the world” moniker sat uncomfortably on the Nano, with many prospective buyers perceiving the car to be down market. Tata Motor has been working very hard to turn around the fortunes of the Nano, in a market where car sales have slowed down quite significantly. In fact, 2012 has been a tough year for the Indian car market, with petrol cars struggling to sell well due to high petrol prices. The Nano, though the most fuel efficient petrol car in India, also bore the brunt of this sales slowdown.
However, Tata Motors has been promoting the Nano in a big way with marketing campaigns across the country showcasing the many virtues of this pint sized runabout. The efforts seem to have paid off given the fact the Nano has outperformed many other petrol cars in terms of sales growth. While 6 of the t0p 10 selling cars in India has seen a drop in sales when compared to last year, the Nano, along with the Swift, the Swift Dzire and the i20, has managed to buck the trend. With Ratan Tata bidding adieu to the company he’s helmed for more than 2 decades, this is perhaps the best parting gift that the septuagenarian business tycoon could have got.