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Rs 1-lakh car: An open letter to Ratan Tata
Vijay Sambav | June 26, 2007
Dear Mr Ratan Tata,
This is with regard to your ambitious dream of manufacturing the Rs 1-lakh (Rs 100,000) car.
This dream of yours seems to have taken shape from feelings of socialism and from the virtuous sentiment of wanting to empower the middle class.
On face of it, your vision looks to be a fabulous one that will fulfil the dreams of hundreds of thousands of Indians who would want to own that esteemed car. However, this very dream has myriad potential hazards that might surface later.
Please consider the following factors before you venture out to manufacturing the low-cost car:
In a country of a billion-plus people, even providing good roads to commute from one place to another has been an uphill task for government agencies: it involves billions of rupees and country is still grappling from lack of funds in the infrastructure arena, and thus we have a serious lack of proper, motorable roads all over the country.
But when your Rs 1-lakh dream car is finally launched, can you even begin to imagine the catastrophic effect it will have on the road infrastructure of the country? As it will be priced as low as some motorcycles available in the country, there will -- in all likelihood -- be a huge demand to buy the car. Sales will soar and soon city roads will be blocked with as more and more of these (and other) cars grapple for space. This, in turn, will lead to an infrastructure disaster.
Question that you need to ask is 'Is India ready for my car?' Or will you too get it into same old argument, 'It is the government's job to provide infrastructure, not mine.'
This factor needs no explaining: more cars means more emission, leading to an environmental disaster.
Urban and rural Behaviour:
This is an interesting factor that I feel you should consider when you think of making us 'middle class' (for whom you are building this car) people happy. Imagine the chaos this low-cost car will cause as traffic snarls and mile-long jams become a matter of routine in cities and small towns.
Imagine, again, the impact this melee will have on that middle class guy -- whom you want to make happy with the low-cost car. So will that guy be happy in a chaotic place inside his low-cost car.
Please do analyse the social impact and the changes that this four-wheeled instrument will usher in for an average Indian in his day-to-day life.
A visionary like you, sir, should not see the short-term benefits and indulge in projects that can have a huge negative socio-economic impact. Please consider alternative avenues to make the same middle-class people happy.
Here are my suggestions (although a person of your stature probably doesn't need them):
Advantage? A continuous revenue stream.
Another continuous revenue-generator.
These two ideas might not be as big as your dream, but they have a less adverse impact on the society or the environment.
We expect visionary thoughts from thought leaders like you, but the kind that have a very positive effect on the environment, people, and society.
The writer is employed with a top Indian infotech company in Hyderabad.