Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Go the Nano Way.

Posted on: January 27, 2008

Now that Proto.in is over, I am back here with the mission to breathe life into this personal blog of mine. Here’s something that I’ve been mulling over for sometime now, and I do suspect that there might be something worthwhile behind this whole thought process. Bear with me, will ya?

The western world was fascinated by motorbikes that were revving with power and had cylinder capacity that most of us are still struggling to cope up with our four wheelers on – thats pretty much the stark contrast. While motorbikes stand for glamor, exclusivity, cult, engine-power and ridiculous pricing (along with the fear of most parents praying that their kids never ever get on one), it is essentially the norm for folks here in India. Infact, a family of two, along with their two kids travelling on a “two wheeler” isnt such a rare sight to come across in India.

Essentially what the Nano is doing, is the same strategy that the bike makers took to potentially exploit a need, and address a market segment which was under the economical zone, but had big dreams.

Just a few days ago, I was glaring at some motorbikes parked opposite to my apartment, all the new 200+ cc bikes which are coming up, and was wondering if this would have ever happened if the motorbike manufacturers didnt start with a low-cost, low-power entrance strategy. With the rise in economy has grown the power of these vehicles and we are starting to see semi-sports models launching this year, and I am quite positive that within a few short years we will be racing with the rest of the world in the full power that a machine on two wheels can deliver.

The Nano is the exact same route taken with four wheelers. On that aspect, there is due credit and salutations to Mr. Tata for the vision and the engineering talent that has delivered on it.

The second aspect that I have been mulling over, and something I touched upon as part of the Keynote speech for Proto.in, was the idea of ‘Commoditizing technology’. As part of a team in IIT Madras which is engineering technology for the masses, this is something that has come up quite often than not – the fact that more than 75% of India cannot afford most of what we call as lifestyle technology. Is it possible to take something that is considered to be exclusive for the rich, re-engineer it and make it affordable to the masses, though it might reduce a wee-bit in functionality? If there was ever a time to say yes, it would be now – when we have a much better grasp on technology and the economics that work with numbers – on the favorable side.

Something remarkable has truly started with the launch of the Nano. While, I do share the skepticism as to whether our roads can hold all these car-drivers, owning a car and driving it around, I am sure everyone deserves their chance and has the right to own a car and drive it too. I am sure now more people will take to the streets and hold our government accountable for the promises they make on the infrastructure. Perhaps there too, these numbers will work for us.

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