|It was in December 1998 that the Indica, India's car, captured the imagination of the nation. Prior to this, no other car in India could lay claim to being indigenously designed and manufactured. It catapulted India into an elite group of just 10 nations that have manufactured their own car.
The 1990s saw remarkable developments in the Indian automobile industry. The Indian economy opened up and global car giants like General Motors, Ford, Fiat, Hyundai, Toyota etc moved in. The market experienced the thrill of robust growth even as a slew of new cars, international entrants, rang in good times for both buyers and sellers. From having no choice at all, the consumer was suddenly spoiled for choice. A seller's market had morphed into a buyer's market. It was in this exciting milieu that the Indica made its debut.
The challenge was heightened but so was the triumph. Within a short span, the Indica managed to command a significant market share of 24 per cent and positioned itself among the three top selling models in the country. No one doubted its capabilities. Tata Motors Chairman Ratan Tata had once said: "We'll have a car with the Zen's size, the Ambassador's internal dimensions, the price of a Maruti 800 and the running cost of diesel." Indica went on to live up to the chairman's cherished dream.
Its launch gave India the distinction of being the only third-world country to embark upon such a project without accessing any licensed technology. It was an honour that not even China, the 'factory of the world', could stake claim to.
Everything about the Indica was pathbreaking; a pioneering attempt. In a market in which foreign makes of cars ruled, Indica proved that it was possible for an Indian car to successfully compete with them as well as be seen as the best in its class. The ultimate testimony to its superiority came from the fact that 115,000 fully-paid orders were booked within seven days of its launch, a feat that remains unmatched in the history of the Indian automobile industry.
It wasn't long before the Indica firmly established itself as the people's favourite. In 2001, the Indica became the fastest-selling automobile in Indian history when it chalked up sales of 100,000 in less than 18 months. The makers of the car worked with concepts of space, power, style, economy and safety to produce a car that offered a pleasant ride and a great handling experience. The rigid 980kg steel body was rigorously tested at India's first and only crash test facility. A collapsible steering wheel, impact absorbing bumpers, anti-submarine seats, crumple zones and side impact beams are some of the features that make the Indica one of the safest cars on the road today.
Recognition followed swiftly. Business Standard named the Indica 'one of the top launches of the year 1998'. Trade magazine Auto India gave it the Best Family Car award. BBC Wheels declared it the 'best car in the Rs3 to Rs5 lakh price category'. The JD Power Asia Pacific 2003 India Customer Satisfaction Study named the Indica Diesel the best in the operating costs category, some notches ahead of the Maruti 800!
NFO Automotive India awarded it the Voice of the Customer Award in the best diesel small car category. It also stated that the Indica had the lowest cost of ownership across all segments in the industry. Additionally, in its 2003 annual survey of used cars, NFO Automotive said the Indica had the best resale value in the small diesel car category.
Appreciation also came in from far-flung places in the UK, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Malta. The Motoring Writers' Yearbook of the UK called the Indica a 'hero of the Indian auto industry'.
The toast of nearly 4,57,000 proud owners in India, besides about 25,000 people in different parts of the world, Indica's positioning statement of 'More Car per Car' encapsulated the uniqueness of its offering. The advertising campaign capitalised wonderfully on the basic human tendency to want 'more'. This word, which had almost become synonymous with the Indica, prompted the Tata Motors Passenger Car Business Unit (PCBU) to come up with the Indica V2, a model that took off on the success of the original Indica. The move helped the car to hold its own in an increasingly competitive market.
Lines such as: "You'll never have to suffer a small car again" helped prospective customers to differentiate between the Indica and other available choices, apart from establishing the Indica's leadership. The campaign for the Indica V2, "It's only human to want more", followed. The advertisements helped reinforce the new positioning statement "Even More Car per Car".
A truly outstanding product coupled with smart advertising enabled the Indica to carve out its own space in an already overcrowded market and to announce the triumphant entry of India on the global automobile stage. Its user-friendly characteristics have endeared it to the tremendously value-conscious Indian. Not surprisingly, the Indica has been identified as a superbrand by the UK-based Superbrands organisation. It has also been recognised as one of the strongest and most enduring brands of the last decade.
That a company which started out being a truck and utility vehicle manufacturer has been able to craft one of the greatest success stories of our times in its very first passenger car venture makes the feat even more commendable. Indica has taken Tata Motors to the position of the second largest player in the Indian passenger vehicles market. It is good news for the company as also for the Indian customer, to whom the Indica has made true its promise of 'More Car per Car'.