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Small is Beautiful on the Indian Roads

May 2011

By Anushka Sharma, Delhi

It’s a common sight on Indian roads to see scooters or bikes zipping around, carrying four people. That’s right: the daddy, mommy, a child squeezed in between and one infant in the mother’s arms, clinging for dear life. It’s scary but it happens all the time.

While the small car has been around India since the 1980s, when Suzuki teamed up with Maruti and launched the Maruti 800, that 30 year old monopoly has been broken in the last decade or so. Indian industrialist, Ratan Tata took it a notch higher (or let’s say lower) when he launched Nano, the cheapest car in the world at $2500, in early 2009. Tata worked on the principles of frugality, economy and reduction of anything that could be done without—inherently Indian ethos. We’re a nation that knows how to make-do with what we get.

The other company that recently tapped into the small car market is Germany’s Volkswagen. European cars have mostly targeted the richer classes, but VW’s Polo is the newest, cutest thing to happen to the Indian middle class. It’s a hatchback but its style quotient is pretty hot – not the usual tall boy, bug shape format. It looks sleek and aerodynamic, borrowing the form of its richer siblings. It fills in the aspiration of the middle class -- German engineering at an affordable price.

Of course there’s no end to the sexy sedans and SUV monsters that sit in rich India’s garages, but it’s the hatchbacks like Tata’s Nano, VW’s Polo, Japanese Maruti Suzuki’s and South Korean Hyundai’s Santro that you see buzzing all over bumpy Indian roads.


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