May 26, 2020
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"Imported Small Cars Can't Work"

An hour after he unveiled the small car to a rapturous response, Ratan Tata met Outlook in the Telco pavilion's tiny conference room. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

"Imported Small Cars Can't Work"

It seems the small car project was more than a business project, it was almost a mission...
No, it was purely business. There was no way Telco could have kept growing fast just making commercial vehicles. We had to get into other segments.

Why didn't you opt for foreign collaboration?
If we went for a JV, the results wouldn't have shown in Telco's financials. I wanted this to be an exclusive Telco project so the company can take full financial credit for it. Moreover, I don't think the Indian small car market can be catered to with imported products.

Why small cars?
It's the largest segment; there's still enough demand and the price remains high. We wanted to utilise this demand and give a better product at a more competitive price.

And then?
We put in place a whole new set of people with an entirely new set of parameters from other Telco divisions. As Telco's primarily been a commercial vehicle manufacturer, the mindset and temperament had to be changed for the new car. The team had to keep the passenger car customer, not the truck driver in mind, that we'd deal with individual, civilised, urban customers.

What sort of targets are you looking at?
We expect the small car market to be 6-8 lakh by the year 2000. And we hope to be making 1.5-2 lakh small cars by then.

Your Korean rivals will tout 'state of the art'. Where do you see your car on that parameter?
We'll also be state-of-the-art in many ways. We're already catering to Euro 2000 safety and environment norms. Our car conforms to latest electronic energy management norms. It has gone through the standard crash tests conducted everywhere in the world. We will try and pack all possible features that one would need and expect in a modern car in the small car.

Kerkar, ULFA, phone-tapping: '97's been a very eventful year. What do you expect in '98?
I hope it's different.

So you didn't like '97?
Would you, if you were in my place?

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