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Tata walks the big promise
January 11, 2008 03:06 IST
One could be imagining it, but Ratan Tata's voice seemed to waver a little before he finished his speech at the launch of the Nano small car with 'A promise is a promise.'
The speech, short, crisp and delivered with feeling, saw Tata take head-on all the criticism targeted at him and Tata Motors [Get Quote] in the four years that the car was under development.
Coverage: Nano - The World's Cheapest Car
It ended on a triumphant note as Tata emphasised that he had delivered on his promise to provide a car that was more affordable than any other in the world.
'Bigger day than Indica launch'
While Tata spoke, some statements made by rivals and critics flashed on a screen behind him. One of them was a quote of Suzuki Motor Chairman O Suzuki that Tata Motors would not be able to make such a cheap car.
Clearly, it was a big day for the entire Tata Group. And high-ranking executives of frontline companies Tata Steel [Get Quote], Indian Hotels and holding company Tata Sons were there to applaud the chief.
RK Krishnakumar, head of the group's hotels business, said this was bigger than the launch of the Indica, which had marked the entry of Tata Motors into the small passenger car segment. This, he said, was history being made.
'Less polluting than 2-wheelers'
Then he set about addressing criticism and concern over whether the car would meet emission and safety norms.
"This car is less polluting than a two-wheeler. It has passed the crash tests required in the country and will undergo side and offset tests required for European markets. It conforms to Bharat III emission norms and this engine will meet the Euro IV norms. Dr Pachauri need not have nightmares, and Sunita Narain can sleep at night."
RK Pachauri, chairman of the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Narain, who heads the Centre for Science and Environment, had expressed worries over the impact of the car on the environment.
'Rating agencies are clinical'
"We had some unsolicited suggestions for the name of the car. Some said we should call it Buddhu Car. Some suggested Mamta, or Despite Mamata."
The first was perhaps meant to be a tribute to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who has stood firm in his support for the Tata Motors' unit in Singur, where the Nano will be made. Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress leader, is opposed to the project.
At the press conference that followed, Tata was triumphant and defiant.
Of late, some global rating agencies have downgraded, or are threatening to downgrade Tata Motors. Tata's response bordered on nonchalance. "Rating agencies have a clinical way of giving ratings based on the level of borrowings. That is the way they work and we have to accept it."
Recalling the struggle that the project has been through, Tata said, "The toughest part was continuing to believe that we could do it." Triumphant and defiant as he was, Tata would have also been a very relieved man today.