Tata Nano – Innovative but is it a boon or a bane?

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When I first came to know about Tata’s Nano I was not skeptical like others. I was rather elated, I thought it as a very innovative idea that is going to impact the lives of millions of people like no other technology and in a very direct way.

India is a vast country and most parts of it does not have the luxury of favorable climate. The masses have to bear heat that can be at 50 degree Celsius during summer and bear cold that can go below zero in the northern parts of India. And when it rains it just pours. Just imagine millions of people traveling in these conditions in a bicycle or a motor cycle or in city buses which leak everywhere. Its painful and you have to give it to the strength of the people to endure such challenges.

Against this backdrop just imagine what an affordable car can do. Even though not all of the lower income population can still afford a 100,000 rupees car but I think at least 30-40% of them can trade their motor cylcle for a Nano. Its definitely a boon!!

There were lots of skepticism from various section of people – Suzuki’s boss said a 100,000 Rs car cannot be made without compromising on safety and pollution, some well-intended people said Indian roads are not ready for it so focus should be on improving the infrastructure first. The skepticism on the possibility front had been proven wrong to some extent by the prototype displayed in the Delhi Auto Show but the skepticism about the infrastructure could prove right.

I did not believe when people said that Indian roads are not ready . I thought these guys must have been paid by people who would not like Nano to succeed to utter such non-sense. But I realized this could in fact be the truth when I visited chennai last month.

I was traveling by car to my sister’s place one evening and I was shocked by the number of motor cycles in front of our car. They must have outnumbered the cars by 20:1 and the traffic was heavy and the maximum speed we could reach in the roads during that evening was 30 kph and we were at 25 kph most of the times. At this moment I thought about how the condition will be if you replace 50% of the two-wheelers by 4 wheelers. That thought was simple horrifying!! It made me realize India still has a long way to go before it can pride itself as a developed nation.

I believe that you cannot kill innovation just because the roads are not ready. Instead the focus should be on developing the infrastructure irrespective of cribbing that a small car can lead to congestion of Indian roads. Infrastructure is the blood stream of an economy, its a MUST which should be developed at all costs – with or without a Nano. Perhaps, Nano made people realize how pathetic the infrastructure is. Hope the government and industries focus their attention on this problem before a Nano brings the indian roads to a standstill.



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5 Responses to Tata Nano – Innovative but is it a boon or a bane?

  1. ruhi says:

    i feel he blog i read nw abt d car nano i was too agree to the fact that jus b’cz of the indian infrastructre we shud nt hamper the outcomin of such a great innovation. its nt only in ths case bt i think its for every new innovation we come across dnt blame d circmstances dnt be the critic try to appreciate it.

  2. chithrakarunakaran1 says:

    The Rise of the Car Nazis:
    Ratan and the Tata Wannabes
    Chithra Karunakaran, Feb 09, 2008

    Ratan Tata has made an illegal Left turn in a no-car zone. The Nano is a no-no.

    Bad for India, bad for the developing world, bad for the poor. Good for entrepreneurs who want to make a fast buck. No social conscience needed.

    Can industry-hungry West Bengal help to rethink the Nano ‘personal car’ project and instead develop into a manufacturing hub for MASS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION? Do we need more cars OR more and better public use transport — buses, subway trains, rail? With the proposed launch of the Nano car, every central and local government in the developing world is off the hook — they will no longer have to commit political will and infrastructure funds to provide public mass transit. A cheap car? Cheap for the environment?

    The people of India and I am one of them, do NOT need a mis-named people’s car. We need a People’s Bus, A People’s Mass Transit, a vastly expanded People’s Railway, we need PUBLIC MASS TRANSPORTATION that is ecologically sustainable and delivers a public convenience that meets the needs of our underserved Indian URBAN AND RURAL masses and is the envy of, and a model for, the entire world. I proudly count myself among these masses, even though I teach in the US and live and work in India only about six months of the year.

    Q.Why did Ratan Tata and the Tata Group choose to put their wholly admirable “frugal engineering” expertise into a private car and not into making buses and mass transportation vehicles? A.Corporate greed and personal ambition.

    The Tata Group has decades of engineering knowhow in the heavy truck sector. Why didn’t they build on this experience and come out with buses and other mass transport innovations? Again the answer is corporate greed and selfish personal ambition. Ratan Tata has absolutely no stake in the Greater Collective Good (GCG). Tata is all about profit. Tata is all about a narrow self-serving short term view in which he and Tata Group can make a quick buck and now unfortunately the India Govt. has awarded Ratan a Padma Vibhushan. That PV should have gone to Medha Patkar the Narmada Bachao Andolan actvism pioneer and she would have probably declined it. She would be right to do so. No point accepting a Padma Vibhushan from a Govt. that is committed to predatory capitalism against its own people.There are only a handful of folks like Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Anna Hazare, P. Sainath and a few others who cannot be bought and sold by corporate interests and criminalized politicians.

    What many Indians (especially the avidly consuming, politically apathetic and ethically indefensible middle class in India) fail to appreciate is that a fabulous city like New York where I live about six months a year is heavily invested in mass public transportation. NYC has been heavily invested in mass transit for over half a century.

    I don’t own a car either in the U.S. or India. And I don’t plan to own one, certainly not the Nano. I walk. It’s smart not to be an obesity stat. I ride the buses and trains in India and I am proud to say that I adamantly refuse to ride in a car in India.

    In New York, I do have a bicycle. Tens of thousands like me in New York ride our magnificent, er often tardy and continually underfunded subways of the NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). I can get all around town and all the outer boros and to JFK airport for $2 and then I am happy to pay another $5 to get me on the public mass transportation called the AirTrain right into the airport terminals. We ordinary folks (mainly the middleclass and the aspiring middleclass of New York City) fought long and hard at public hearings and through legislative lobbying, for the funding of mass transit in preference to car-choked highways — and we got it. We didn’t get everything we wanted but there’s always a next time at a public hearing or a court testimony.That’s participatory democracy.

    Even our Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg rides the subway everyday to work. It’s a great feeling to get on a train that runs under New York and to know that we are contributing zero pollution to our wonderful city. That is precisely what we need in India. NOT crazy Ratan (“I have no watan”) Tata and his no-no Nano.

    Let’s get real. India cannot afford to manufacture and dispose a paper cup, let alone produce yet another private car. We should not be following the U.S. model of predatory capitalism. The U.S. model of endless consumption is ecologically unsustainable. It is emphatically not the model for India.

    Both the centre and the states in India must urgently invest in public mass transit which they have criminally neglected and disproportionately taxed.

    The Nano represents a vivid test case for our civil society and the need for urgent development of a Critical Environmental Studies in schools and colleges to research such complex issues. I have presented the above ideas in India during conferences on Environmental Sustainability and will not rest until such proposals gain policy implementation.

    The Gandhian post-revolutionary democratic Indian nation-state deserves a lofty vision, mission and policies that affirm the public trust. Public mass transportation that is ecologically sustainable is part of that noble public trust.

    Note: in a subsequent blog I have cut and pasted all or nearly all of Tata’s own comments (“From the Chairman’s Desk”) on the Nano.

    Let the reader perform her/his own critical analysis of whether the Nano serves the Greater Collective Good (GCG).

    Dr. Chithra KarunaKaran
    City University of New York (CUNY)

  3. ANUPAM SAH says:

    tata nano is a boon for the poor Who dont have the capacity tobe an owner of a car.
    secondly,TATA nano is eco-friendly.
    And for a country like india i think that nano is the best car.For small families as well as for commercial use.

  4. HDB For Rent says:

    Tata nano is cool. When will we get this in Singapore? Or are we going to get it at all?

  5. If only I had a greenback for every time I came to yourmitra.wordpress.com… Superb post.

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