Fashion Scandal: Tata Nano is not a car to be in a Garage

2 October 2016

In January 2008 Indian media was taken by storm by the news of Dream Project by Shri.Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of one of India’s largest conglomerates Tata Group and it instantly became a topic of conversation in every household, published in every media and it was all about a car named Nano. this Idea was in dreams of Shri.Ratan Tata in 2003 and then it took pregnant, slowly and steadily over coming many extreme difficulties to be finally launched in 2008 in an Auto expo in New Delhi. what made the matter more flammable among the young Indians was its name Nano, a very trendy name and by that came a lot of expectations as well.

I still remember the time during 2001 – 2002, when Nano technology was considered as the mind boggling technology in field of medicine and no doubt it was every students dream who finished high school to pursue career and get a degree in India or abroad in the field of Nano technology.

I presume thats why the name Nano was conceived to be an apt name for a car which was thought to revolutionize the mode of transport for millions from a two wheeler to four wheeler category and at the same time be affordable.

Now, trust me the topic is true and it all happened some four years or may be five years ago, while I was a sponsorship consultant for Lakme fashion week which is premier fashion event in India fondly called LFW. at that time Lakme was and has been for decades one of the premier brands for fashion for women in India. a very well known name among women and among men too, they had lot of products range for Indian women for a long time and they were the top brands created in India, for India.  So they were already at the pedestal of brands at a time, even before we had foreign brands in Indian market.

So I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team to make sure the LFW event gets adequate sponsors to continue to be a pioneering event in the world of fashion at the same time post profits every quarter which is more important. Actually, LFW was already acquired by the one of the Reliance groups and the old team was completely replaced by a group of new team members. so, as soon as i got the news that i was in, i started to hunt for sponsorship. all I had were certain categories in my hand except others, which were already on discussion panel and they were previous sponsors.

During this time, all that came into my mind was Tata Nano, but the image of this awesome car was already tarnished by the way it was propagated in the media as a cheap car, which was actually agreed by Mr.Ratan Tata himself on a conversation with forbes magazine quote “Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of one of India’s largest conglomerates, Tata, has spoken out. The patriarch recently told a television channel that the ‘cheapest car’ tag – a label that his group company Tata Motors TTM -4.17%proudly and repeatedly touted to emphasize its own prowess in thrifty innovation frugal engineering – was the Nano’s undoing. ” Forbes

But, I never saw the product in that angle at all. all the time when i used to google Tata Nano and look at images from different angle during my browsing hours, I saw the potential of this car for a different category of crowd and thats why as soon as i started looking for sponsorship, Tata nano was the first product that came into my mind, but let me tell you, by this time its was already damaged beyond control.  Every Product has a lifetime after launch and any correction has to be done during the time and after that its extremely impossible.

I called up the LFW team and told them that I am trying to rope in Tata nano and so on, which was actually not acceptable immediately, but was accepted later after my explanation that it was meant to be a car for women and not for family and Lakme is already a strong brand and it can leverage a lower brand and thats what it means to sponsor or tie up so that both get benefited. at the same time every brand have their own strategy and policy in place to decide whom they have to sponsor  and it doesn’t always have to be a fashion event.

After consideration, I went ahead to continue talking with the Marketing heads and other decision makers in Tata motors about this idea, because I personally felt this is going to work and all my instinct told me that it will and why they should seriously consider sponsoring and how this will eventually end up increasing the brand perspective in the minds and hearts of young women who are accustomed to the Lakme in every part of their life and as well as the Lakme fashion week.

In order to make my proposition attractive , I told them about the recently launched product of Tata group called Gold Plus. Interestingly what they did was they decorated a Tata Nano car with Gold and precious stones to a whooping amount of 22 crores had an event launch and this was for the Tata Gold Plus and after the launch it was catching up Dust in some warehouse safe room. So, i advised the Tata Nano team to seriously consider to get that diamond studded car and display it in LFW along with the super models.

I dont think that its silly to make the cars walk the ramp we had other options as well like displaying at the front, but considering the fact and the situation it could have been done. such was the circumstance of the LFW and Tata nano at that time. i personally believe shri. Ratan Tata would have personally walked the ramp along with the models together with diamond studded car worth million of dollars. he would have certainly done it considering the fact the problems the company went through all through the primary cycle and the kind of investment made into advertisement and the amount of investment which had gone into the over all project. couple of days before i saw him speak on Stanford Business School event were Shri. Ratan Tata was adressing the MBA’s and not a single interaction ever went without mentioning tata nano episode.

As far as the sponsorship, I was in heart and soul for this project, in fact i did not even call any other car manufacturer, because as soon as in know that 22 crores was spent in trying to some how lift the Tata Nano brand in the sight of common people i decided that i should give it all i can, in my capacity to make sure the dream of Shri.Ratan Tata comes true, cause the intention was perfect, but the implementation was messed. who ever advised to tag in the cheapest car tag should have been a cost accountant and not a marketing guy, cause you dont market a product without knowing or making the market research first.

I think this is a car for women, it was cozy big enough for a family but, aptly for a college going young women or ladies who are working in their twenties and still single or would like to have a handsome car and dont want to ride a bike. Just look it from a different angle what was said and what looked like are very different, you get an excellent view of the road in front of you which is easy to ride and park in a county like India, look of the road is very important when you want to ride safely in city environment, were now and then people cross roads before you even realize and as you drive for a long time you will get comfortable and thats when you change to another car with a long hood in the front.

For Tata motors this is a deal of a life time, because they could have got enough exposure in all the media for Tata Nano and at the same time full exposure for Gold Plus which is product actually made for the middle class, and as you know, Tanisq is a premium class product. Apart from this, usually LFW is frequented by the bollyhood celebrities, they come even if you dont invite them and they are like family. now what happens when they come to know that a car is displayed with gold and diamonds worth 22 crores. they would have certainly visited to take a look at this car and eventually clicked some pictures. Tata motors would have scored a couple of points with single shot.

But after a long discussion, Tata team came up with an answer that the car studded with the gold and diamonds are with gold plus and not with tata motors and that its not safe to transport to Mumbai for LFW. I  was very upset and i knew that was a last resort for the car at that time cause there was not enough time for the cars re-branding and all other attempts are going vain. This story would have been an extraordinary success in China as the language of English is not considered as a language of the common, but thats not the case in India.

Recently, before planning to write about my experience , visited the website of Tata Nano and was shocked to find that a comment was left by a women mentioning how she felt about the car and how others feel about it and there is still an impression that its a cheap car of how people view it as a poor mans car. interestingly i saw a picture of women models standing along the Tata Nano on their website and it looked fashionable. Sorry, this is not only my view, but four years back when i was meeting a Joint secretary in Ministry of commerce, he agreed with my view of the whole episode positively. I dont know whether the message reached the right person, but its all true. for example if some of other brands especially in the Airlines Industry can sell the same idea to the India populace, why cant Tata which has deep ties in the minds Indians try again ?

What about the  dozens of Engineers, Line Managers, Project Managers, Architects or designers, Important men and women who were a part of this venture from all backgrounds, workers in the assembly line, Marketing department, and not the least the PR and Corporate Communications from all walks of life who had to deal with this so called mess. and what about their future…..if you carefully think all these in right perspective and sober mind you will certainly agree with me. we cant let them loose jobs because some one projected the product in a bad light.

So, I still feel that the story of Nano can be changed to the benefit of everybody as we are insisting on this make in India campaign initiated by our Prime minister who is fondly called Namo in India and world who believe in in this mantra and proved that all things can be envisioned. So, I believe a new impetus should be given to re-brand the Product with more emphasis on young women while marketing, will certainly gain much ground, in the over all sales in India and abroad going forward.

The story of Tata Nano can be rewritten, history can be made if we reconsider the matter. we still have time, because of the name of Tata. hope the message gets across…….hope miracles happen.