I guess enough has been written about the car. From an amazing engineering and business feat to a marketing disaster: all shades and forms of opinion have been expressed. So why my two-penny bit?
Simply because Nano is too big an idea to fail.
Since its inception, the overriding impact of Nano has been its Rs 1 lakh price tag. That is sad. Because the real genius of the Nano platform should have been its ingenuity in creating a new idea in urban transportation. From a stylish new transportation paradigm, that is fashionable, hugely practical and an affordable personal city run-about to a safer and more technologically advanced vehicle to replace the auto-rickshaw. Available in petrol, gas and electric version. Nano is an idea of freedom from the tyranny of space-stealing bigger cars that have dulled our imagination to finding a better solution for crawling through 5 kmph traffic and getting exasperated not finding large enough real estate to park! As much as it is an idea to have a better and safer means of personal transport than a two-wheeler. The manifestation of this idea needs a complete multi-fuel, multi variant portfolio at different price points replete with tax benefits and exclusive parking options for electric versions. That would allow people to match their style, need and make a statement with their Nano. Much like how we choose the iPod: from the Shuffle to the Touch. Instead what has happened is that the idea of the Nano has been consumed by the ‘cheap car’ perception. Thanks to the initial hype and the product offer.
The idea of a car transcends its utilitarian purpose. That’s why some of the highest forms of design, technology, creature comforts and safety finds expression in the form of a car. It connects with the human desire for a better life, higher social currency and surrounding ourselves with symbols of personal achievement. Our cars not only show who we are but also who we desire to be. This is what determines the context of Nano.
However, since inception, the brand Nano has got tagged as ‘El-Cheapo’! Who would want to be seen with that tag? Coupled with that comes the huge media coverage of Nano catching fire. This is a double whammy.
To be the ultimate car for the masses, Nano needs to ignite desire. To do that does it not need social and technological ‘sexiness’? Then why make people look down upon and make fun of the Nano? Does it not need the emotional credibility of a star? How can Nano earn that image if it is plunged into the depths of the image poverty?
Sure market engineering is a way of getting volumes up. Lower EMI payment, warranties and the lot will impact positively on volumes. It may be argued that these are must haves if Nano has to appeal to the bottom of the pyramid. I hope it succeeds. Except that the Alto which is about thrice the price sold in excess of 32,000 units in November. If price was the issue, why not the Nano?
Instead, what if Nano became the universal object of desire.Down from the top echelons of society to anyone who can afford it. What if people thought of it as an incredible gadget of the 21st century that everyone wanted to own. A cross fertilized product between an automobile and a digital electronic gadget with all communication, computation and networking facilities coupled with performance and efficiency. From Spartan to plush interiors. From cute to cheeky and sexy exteriors. Small would suddenly have a different meaning. It would all have to begin with thinking of the Nano as the ultimate gadget on the road!
Certainly the looks of the Nano deserves it. What it does not deserve is the poverty of thought!
Yes there is a huge market at the bottom of the pyramid. But that does not mean that their first car has to be labelled as one meant for those with inadequate income. We do not live in an age where we celebrate frugality. It’s the age of indulgence. Have not the motorcycle manufacturers realized that? Owning a car is not about inching up the pole of social respect, it’s about leap-frogging there. And that’s true of every section of society. If we think of the Nano as a cross fertilized product between an automobile and a digital consumer electronic gadget then the price tag would be the invitation to cool indulgence at one end and rationalization of its utility at the other. It would be the ‘show-off’ of the 21st century. You could access the frugal version or the full monty depending on what you can afford.
Instead why give us a car that shouts ‘can’t afford anything better’.