In 1998, Tata Motors embarked upon a decisive strategy – to make India's first indigenously developed passenger car. This singular decision meant that the company had to change its character inside out and transform itself from a commercial vehicle maker to an automotive producer that straddles the entire spectrum of four-wheelers, from small car to 40 tonne truck.
The belief paid off. Says Ravi Kant, managing director, Tata Motors, "The first time we went into cars, we received brickbats but we resolutely kept at it and succeeded." The Indica made it, against all odds, and in the face of tough competition from some of the best car manufacturers in the world. Says Rajiv Dube, president of the passenger cars business, "We have built a robust Rs10,000 crore Tata car business, but have sold over 1.1 million cars, built a strong relationship with Fiat, acquired world-class brands such as Jaguar and Land Rover, and announced the most awaited car in the world – the Nano. All this may not have been possible if the Indica had not succeeded."
The last ten years have seen the Indica evolving, from a germ of an idea and a new vision for the company, to India's first fully indigenous car and a best-seller in the market. It has gone through several iterations, with new models and variants aimed at specific target segments – the Indica 2000, the V2, the V2 Turbodiesel, the Xeta, the Xeta LPG, the Indica Dicor, and finally the latest offering – the brand new, second generation Indica Vista.
The evolution of the Indica has in many ways mirrored the Tata Motors journey as the company has mastered the intricacies of the new business. As Mr Tata puts it, "The Vista showcases the progress that the company has made over the last several years in design, quality, technology, performance and refinement."
As a passenger car company, Tata Motors has learnt to understand and serve the customer better. It has become more quality-oriented, with an enhanced sense of refinement, of fits and finish. The company has also become more process-oriented and more disciplined in its product development programmes. Along the way, the passion and commitment of its engineers and marketers has transformed into a burning desire to prove themselves against the best in the industry.
"It's been a challenging yet exciting and satisfying journey," says Mr Dube. "Some of our competitors have crossed a century in the business and we have a way to go to catch up fully with them. The good news is that we are getting there fast." The ten-year old Indica has indeed opened new vistas for Tata Motors.