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Nano gets huge public reception

It is indeed the “People’s Car” that people can’t wait to take home. Booking requests are pouring in at car dealers, reports Karan Choudhury.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2008 09:45 IST
Karan Choudhury

It is indeed the “People’s Car” that people can’t wait to take home. Ramesh Khanna, a Delhiite, wanted to book a Nano, within hours of unveiling. Another mesmerised visitor whipped out his checkbook. He was willing to pay more than Rs 1 lakh.

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These gentlemen were among those lucky enough to make it to the Tata stall at the auto-expo, where the Nano debuted on Thursday. They got close enough to take a good look at the new vehicle and fell in love with the gleaming beauty.

At the unveiling earlier, the country decided this was the car everyone wanted, as they saw a tall man ease himself out from behind the wheels. Ratan Tata did not hit his head against the roof and his legs cleared the doorway cleanly.

If it’s big enough for Tata, it’s big enough for India. And the world.

It’s a worldwide hit. South African automobile website motoring.co.za endearingly called it “Slowcoach Econobox”. Most others slapped the label of “People’s Car” on it, despite the fact the phrase found no mention in the Tata pitch.

It really is the car people have been waiting for. The Great Indian Mutiny, a blog, went live with updates as Tata unveiled the Nano — the opening line tells it all: “My mother: Why is he talking so much. Just show the car, Mr Tata. I am buying it anyway.”

A joke. But that’s the kind of frenzy that accompanied the launch. A London newspaper’s website gushed that Nano got a “popstar” reception. Every media organisation in the world reported it — some with a sneer, the rest with eyes wide open.

But here is why Tata would not pay much attention to the sneering. Middle-class India just fell in love with the latest from the Tata stable. Deepak Srivastav, an Allahabad government officer, said, “It’s time now to dump my scooter.”

For Jeevan Khurana, a Delhi retired civil servant, “It’s the best car for a retired government servant. It will do just fine for our needs — home to the local market and back and occasional visits to relatives and friends living close by.”

But Tata is looking beyond Khurana and Srivastava. He said at the launch, “I hope this is a car that changes the way people travel in rural and semi-rural India.” That’s where Nano is headed, and that’s where the car hopes to strike gold.

The customers would be people waiting to trade up from their scooters and motorcycles. For a lot of them, the decision was made as soon as they set their eyes on it — as the three Nanos glided across their TV screens.

Their was no way that Meenu, a schoolteacher in Dhanbad, would now allow her husband to buy a car, which they had been planning for a while now. They will now wait for the launch of the car later in the year.

Booking requests are pouring in at car dealers. At Rama Auto Dealer in Ranchi, the phone has been ringing off the hook with enquiries. Owner Mukesh Choudhary predicts a great future for Nano. "The middle class has just been waiting for this kind of a car."

When they say middle-class, they are actually looking at the owners of motorcycles and scooters. For them a car is now just a few thousands rupees more. There is also a younger bunch of people waiting to move up the ladder.

Ludhiana's Gurdeep Singh has a packed garage - one Toyota Innova and a Mitsubishi. But said there is room for a Nano, for his daughter. "It would be a perfect car for," he said, "it would suit her personality well." So, there you are. A blogger on The Great Indian Mutiny gushed: Hats off to you, sir.

He meant Ratan Tata.

(With inputs from Ludhiana, Ranchi and Allahabad)

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