PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The unveiling of the Nano has fetched the kind of publicity Osama bin Laden would kill for.
Purple prose hailing the new peoples car, breathless editorials brazenly brushing aside environment and traffic concerns, mushy interviews with the man himself, over-the-top opinion polls have all greeted the “world’s cheapest car”.
But, has anybody driven the bloody car?
Welcome to the age of hype as journalism. Welcome to the age of who cares as long as we can get into their media plan journalism. Welcome to the age of the details don’t matter, the spectacle is the story journalism.
Like the iPhone in the United States last year, the Nano has been decreed a success even before the assembly line can be readied for manufacture. And like a Harry Potter book, half of whose hold depends on the secrecy its author and publishers can double from the previous instalment, we have had TV channels describing the route the car took from Poona to Delhi, and schoolboy newspapers cackling about the Z-category security that accompanied it.
But at least, thousands of buyers could touch and feel Steve Jobs‘ claims the day it was launched; thousands more could sample J.K. Rowling‘s concoction.
We just have to swallow and spout the manufacturer’s line hook, line and sinker. Or else, we could be out of their media plan. So we have to take Ratan Tata’s word that it lets out less fumes than a two-wheeler (oh, yes, tell me another) and that it won’t clog up our roads (oh, really?).
Sure, the Nano it looks cute, the colours are snazzy, and yes, it’s a proud moment for a desi company that has put out some of the most dangerous vehicles on our roads, like the Sumo and their godawful mini-trucks, to have stuck to a “promise” and delivered a car with a sticker price of Rs 100,000.
But, brother, how does it move? Isn’t that what a car is all about?
You scribble a line to see if a pencil (cost Rs 2) writes well. You check out a couple of vegetable wallahs before you buy kotambir (Rs 5). You try a pair of hawaii chappalls (cost Rs 200) to see if it is comfortable or not. Why, we sample sweets and savouries before declaring them tasty or not.
But you see a one lakh rupee from a safe distance and pronounce it a hit?
Hit it may well be and, for the sake of the Tata Motors stock of which I have a few, I hope it is. But where is the balance, the line between paid advertising and, well, unpaid advertising?
OK, it could accommodate Ratan dikra as he swung in for the launch. But can it carry papa, mama, chunnu and Bunty comfortably? Will its adhesive stuck parts withstand not-so-ideal conditions as the ramp at a five-star hotel? Do those very basic shock absorbers have it in them to haul you out of potholes for years on end?
And, since we are talking of a car, lest we forget, does its motor run well?
I guess we will never know till some auto magazine gets another sneak peak, and we all know what that means. But couldn’t we have been spared the instant verdict?
If an inexpensive price tag is all that matters, we’ve got it—even Tata’s PR people wouldn’t have done better.
Also read: 11 similarities between iPhone and Rajnikant
Photograph: courtesy tatapeoplescar.com
Wonderfully put! :)
Mashelkar did but he is a part of Tata Motors now.
Are those headlights real or are they stickers like those on Lightning McQueen?
It is quite obvious that churmuri does not ‘get it’.
Please read T.N.Ninan’s article in Business Standard at http://www.business-standard.com/common/storypage.php?autono=310463&leftnm=4&subLeft=0&chkFlg=
If it costs Rs.1 lakh, no one cares how it drives. It surely is better than an autorickshaw with its 4 wheel geometry. And we all know how sturdy those rickshaws are.
The first thing I will do is (a) take the engine head to timmanna lathe for a good shave (b) build a new exhaust and (c) more importantly will move the AC swtich on to the steering wheel…you cant expect 0-100-0 in 5 seconds for the lakh you pay!
Not A witty Nick stop watching car-toons!
Good counter perspective…but aren’t we getting too cynical here. For once, all of India is shifting focus from the spindoctors of the software industry (yawn!) to celebrate the success of our much ignored manufacturing prowess.
Jokes and snides comments aside, let us begin to appreciate what has been accomplished with Tata Nano. Thanks.
Agree with DB. Many auto giants have attempted the feat and given up. The reasons range from non-viability to not enough market to non-profitability and on and on. Tatas deserve credit for their unfaltering commitment and the will to see it thru to fruition. Kudos to Tatas..
Even pencil and vegetable vendors do PR for their products. That being the case, Tata’s case could be no different. They certainly deserve a round of applause.
I am buying it. Period.
shriyuta pritam senguptare, after you have done naming calling the ‘deekra’, please let the us know that your heart truely beats for indian cities and ask the sardar, the tambi, the bahu, the comrades and the chaddis to rationalize petrol prices.
let me put it this way, artificially making petrol affordable is more disastrous for our cities than ingeniously making an automobile affordable.
it took no less than 40 patents to build this small car, in tearing that car apart you have not used 1 original argument. oh! wait perhaps that deekra is your original contribution.
I live in New Jersey and the launch of Nano was on the local news! It is definitely an achievement by Tata Motors.
So, let us feel good that India is being recognized for good things and leave the unnecessary negative comments.
Ratan Tata for Bharata Rathna!
If some one is coming up with world’s cheapest car with nearest competitor costing more than double the price, then it surely deserves all the hype. You can use all your skills to critisize the car calling it anti prestige symbol like other elites. But the fact remains that for the first time in history, someone has come up with a car which is truely for the people and auto magazines are putting it in their cover page though rich don’t care for it. I guess it’s a true success story of the middle/lower middle class and credit should goto TATA.
if nano can throw autorickshaws out, there could be nothing better happenning to Indians and Indian roads. Similarly, we must find a nice way to eliminate other polluting vehicles of India like the lorry
well said and at last some one talking common sense aloud. I did that in a rediff post and asked “what will it cost me finally?” and people called my post (thanks for not calling the author so, directly) stupid, unpatriotic and what have you?
And in my post http://badrirag.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/nano-miracle/ I had raised the issue of declaring a winner on sight and guys are branding me a cynic.
Please do continue to ask the right (uncomfortable) questions amidst this hysteria, the likes of which have not been seen for a long while!
“We just have to swallow and spout the manufacturer’s line hook, line and sinker. Or else, we could be out of their media plan.”
That’s the dead give-away that Mr. Pritam Sengupta was not invited to the launch parties hosted by Tata Motors :-) !!
And putting “Osama Bin Laden” as a tag for this article is downright cheap publicity… If you had to mention tags, why not “Steve Jobs” and “J.K Rowling” (both of whom are mentioned in the article)??
Good article. A lot depends on the feel of the car. The fact that M800 is not selling all that well may be an indication that people dont always go for the cheapest car on the block. A car is often a status symbol.