Nano in Ratan Tata’s (presumably) native Gujarati means “small” -presumably an inside joke the top management at Tata Motors bought into while naming their soon-to-launch microsized-wondercar. It’s fair to assume they did not expect the adjective “small” to apply to the lifespan of the vehicle though. Recent reports suggest that the Nano may have died an unnoticed and unlamented death in Sanand. So, what went wrong with the so-called people’s car?

There are obituaries aplenty out there, but safe to say that people did not buy the Nano because they could not buy into it. The brand hitched its wagon to a single star -that of being the cheapest car in the world. Unfortunately, that star turned out to be a black hole that swallowed the brand whole. By proudly labeling itself as “cheap” the brand took an obvious risk that bombed spectacularly. Every public issue that occurred was seen through the prism of the brand’s “cheapness”. Poor crash test results -because corners were cut in safety, of course. Cars catching fire on the street -poor quality materials were used obviously. And so on. The Nano’s single greatest USP was seen as an unacceptable weakness by the Indian consumer.

No doubt, tomes will be written on the subtle differences between the cost-conscious and the value-seeking Indian consumer and the several lessons the Nano left behind will likely form a substantial part of that explanation. At least in that form this brave, but ultimately flawed, adventure will live on.


(This Perspective was originally published on July 18, 2018 by Shekhar Badve on LinkedIn)