The launch that showcased a thousand slips

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The unveiling of the Nano has fetched the kind of publicity Osama bin Laden would kill for.

Purple prose hailing the new peoples car, breathless editorials brazenly brushing aside environment and traffic concerns, mushy interviews with the man himself, over-the-top opinion polls have all greeted the “world’s cheapest car”.

But, has anybody driven the bloody car?

Welcome to the age of hype as journalism. Welcome to the age of who cares as long as we can get into their media plan journalism. Welcome to the age of the details don’t matter, the spectacle is the story journalism.

Like the iPhone in the United States last year, the Nano has been decreed a success even before the assembly line can be readied for manufacture. And like a Harry Potter book, half of whose hold depends on the secrecy its author and publishers can double from the previous instalment, we have had TV channels describing the route the car took from Poona to Delhi, and schoolboy newspapers cackling about the Z-category security that accompanied it.

But at least, thousands of buyers could touch and feel Steve Jobs‘ claims the day it was launched; thousands more could sample J.K. Rowling‘s concoction.

The Nano?

We just have to swallow and spout the manufacturer’s line hook, line and sinker. Or else, we could be out of their media plan. So we have to take Ratan Tata’s word that it lets out less fumes than a two-wheeler (oh, yes, tell me another) and that it won’t clog up our roads (oh, really?).

Sure, the Nano it looks cute, the colours are snazzy, and yes, it’s a proud moment for a desi company that has put out some of the most dangerous vehicles on our roads, like the Sumo and their godawful mini-trucks, to have stuck to a “promise” and delivered a car with a sticker price of Rs 100,000.

But, brother, how does it move? Isn’t that what a car is all about?

You scribble a line to see if a pencil (cost Rs 2) writes well. You check out a couple of vegetable wallahs before you buy kotambir (Rs 5). You try a pair of hawaii chappalls (cost Rs 200) to see if it is comfortable or not. Why, we sample sweets and savouries before declaring them tasty or not.

But you see a one lakh rupee from a safe distance and pronounce it a hit?

Hit it may well be and, for the sake of the Tata Motors stock of which I have a few, I hope it is. But where is the balance, the line between paid advertising and, well, unpaid advertising?

OK, it could accommodate Ratan dikra as he swung in for the launch. But can it carry papa, mama, chunnu and Bunty comfortably? Will its adhesive stuck parts withstand not-so-ideal conditions as the ramp at a five-star hotel? Do those very basic shock absorbers have it in them to haul you out of potholes for years on end?

And, since we are talking of a car, lest we forget, does its motor run well?

I guess we will never know till some auto magazine gets another sneak peak, and we all know what that means. But couldn’t we have been spared the instant verdict?

If an inexpensive price tag is all that matters, we’ve got it—even Tata’s PR people wouldn’t have done better.

Also read: 11 similarities between iPhone and Rajnikant

Photograph: courtesy


  1. rambhai

    From the business point of view this is killing competiton. We (Indians) accused Aussies of poor or no sportsmanship. Now what would you call this?? Just like the Aussies arrogant and unacceptable attitude of “win at any cost”, this seems to be Tata’s style of saying “Now I will sell my cars, at any cost“.

  2. The projection of Nano’s launch depicted in entire national media was more of like an advertorial than the Business Journalism. So, the event launch is a winning example of Corporate Communication on Brainless Journalism.

  3. Kartik

    I agree to some of your concerns! Tata Motors hasn’t been the best automobile company in India.. But you seem to be on the other extreme of pessimism! Take it easy! If we do get a car that lives up to the stats projected by Tata, it’s definitely a great product!

    Well, looking out of window, watching the interstate 880 here in CA, I can only hope that people will learn that ‘small’ is always better! 90% of these cars have only one passenger, but each one runs on a high powered engine that might not even match a fraction of Nano’s mileage! The need of the day is not a powerful engine that can take you to 100mph in 5 seconds, but a car that will be economical and environment friendly! And since Tata has already promised a hybrid version, they are taking the right route! In fact the Nano as it is has better mileage than the Prius, imagine what a hybrid engine would do!

    PS: Hope you have nothing to do with TC or Mamtha 🙂 JK

  4. boring journalist

    One more instance of the gullibility of the media. What the media today needs is somebody to spoon feed. And it laps it up and becomes a abettor in selling dreams to the people.

    Car for Rs. 1 lakh sounds quite astounding. Read the small print. the local taxes are extra. In case of Karnataka, the price is likely to up by another 40,000. It is urban friendly and cant meet the rural needs because it cant run on bad roads.

    Maruti also started with a tall promise of produing peoples cars. But See what has happenned? It is more elitist in approach and not within the reach of the common man.

    forget about the cars. The automobile manufactureres are not able to put out a good two wheeler which one can buy easily. A comparitively good two wheeler, be it the scooter or the motor cycle costs anywhere around Rs. 40,000+.

    Ratan Tata would do well to go in producing the peoples two wheelers rather than going for people car

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