Guess how the Rs 1 lakh ($2,200) car Nano was born? It took some idle doodling by Ratan Tata, head of the Tata Group of companies, at lifeless board meetings, says a book chronicling its making.
"It started by my spending a lot of time doodling at boring board meetings. Most of us are victims of the environment in which we are and...we lose sight of the fact that we have a greater responsibility - a responsibility to serve the communities we live in to improve the quality of life of people we work with," Ratan Tata recalled later at a gathering of Tata executives, according to the book "Small Wonder: The Making of Nano".
Christabelle Noronha, who co-authored the book with Philip Chacko and Sujata Agarwal, says: "The Nano has been and remains essentially a product of Ratan Tata's imagination and his desire to recast the car as a means of affordable personal mobility for middle class India".
"We had a strong feeling that the Nano story needed to be chronicled - that the story would be something that ordinary readers would be keen to know and understand," Noronha said.
"We had initially set out to publish the book for circulation within the Tata organisation. After this had happened, a fair bit of interest was expressed by publishing companies to take the book to a larger audience. That's when we decided to go public," Noronha said.
The writers met more than 100 people from Tata Motors, including "engineers, dealers as well as Nano owners, before getting down to writing the book".
"It took us a year to write the book. We began in April 2009," Noronha said.
The writer said "one of the greatest plus points of Nano was to marry quality with affordability".
"It has done this in a manner that is path-breaking and extraordinary. More than India needing a Nano, India deserves a Nano and a lot many breakthrough products of this kind. Creating this car has certainly been worth the effort," Noronha said.
"Nano has changed the rules of motoring business in more ways than one. It has shown that this country has the capability to be truly innovative in manufacturing," Noronha said.
"From what we gathered during the course of our research and interviews, the Nano project most certainly has been the highlight of the careers of the people involved in the making of the car," she added.
Ratan Tata's initial doodle was to rebuild a car around a "scooter so that those using it could travel safer", says Noronha and colleagues in the book.
He got in touch with an industry association and suggested a joint effort with Tata Motors "to fashion what he terms an Asian car: large volumes, many countries involved and different people producing different sets of parts."
The response was tepid. "It was similar to what happened when Tata Motors wanted to make the Indica," the book said.
Recalled Ratan Tata: "I remember people saying why doesn't Mr Tata produce a car that works before he talks about an Indian car."
The book looks at the challenges, cost factor, the switch from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat, the first car and the world reaction. It also narrates the story and growth of Tata Motors in the process.
Citing statistics, the book says there are some 600 million passenger cars on the world's roads today and the figure is strengthened by about 67 million new units every year.
Not surprisingly, "the majority of these cars are in the developed world."
The book, which will be launched later this month, has been published by Westland Ltd.