Anil Thakraney: Nano: Manufacturing success, marketing failure

06 Jun,2012

By Anil Thakraney


Last night, I watched a very interesting documentary on Nat Geo. No, it wasn’t about lions or elephants, it was about all that went into the making of Ratan Tata’s dream car, the Nano. The programme was fascinating, as the producers went through all the challenges and problems the Tata group faced to bring the so-called ‘one lakh’ rupee car to life. And they also spoke to the designers and the engineers as well as to Ratan Tata himself. (A quick aside: Why Shri Tata prefers to speak only to firangi journalists and production teams is something I’ll never understand.)


Must say I was left quite impressed with the manufacturing marvel little Nano is. Okay, so it isn’t really a one lakh rupee car on the road, but at its price point it does pack in a lot of goodies, is reasonably comfy for four passengers and is hugely economical on fuel consumption. And most importantly: because it’s tiny, the Nano can slip into any little parking space… a huge bonus in city conditions. And yet, the car hasn’t taken the market by storm. Sales have been below expectations, in both urban and rural areas. Strange? Well, not really. Because Tata’s marketing team screwed up a really good thing.


The moment they positioned it as the ‘poor man’s’ car, they took the sex out of the equation. Even at a low cost, a car’s association with status and pride must be maintained. No one wants to be perceived as a loser when it comes to his car, a person’s most visible possession. This simple little consumer insight eluded such highly paid and experienced marketing minds.


The bad news is that the damage is done. Whatever tricks the Tata Nano marketing guys have up their sleeves, it will be very difficult to erase the ‘poor man’s car’ image. I would like to meet Mr Tata and discuss this, but he seems to be allergic to desi journos.


But here’s the good news for Tata. After watching the Nat Geo documentary, I have decided to buy the Nano. Because it’s a real value for money gaadi, and what people think of me has never mattered anyways. All that the Tata group can hope for is there are more misfits like me in this nation.


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PS: ‘A Step From Zero’ is a cool web idea from Coke. The film features a youngster who turns his sad life around by practicing a new dance move. The film’s gone viral and the dude’s become famous. This was a web project where people were invited to shoot videos of their dance moves and submit them for selection. Nice web idea from Coke. A good case study for marketers struggling with the digital space.


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5 responses to “Anil Thakraney: Nano: Manufacturing success, marketing failure”

  1. u gave the answer ppl mostly think value for money in car and say how much of the population of India is not poor, but i accept image part of yours too…but still it was one of the top selling cars of 2012…and it even reduced sales of maruti 800 by 20%…which shows…nano is not a failure

  2. Thakraneyisachut says:

    Abbey thakre, my good friend RT dsnt meet Indian Journos because they are cheap products like you. Absolute 0 intellect or ability. Go take a piss. Who care for your poopy opinion , go write for aapki sarita.

  3. Pratikmanish says:

    They shoul have positioned it as a Cute car for small family or couple instead of cheap car, which eroded the pride associated with buying a car.

  4. Himanshu says:

    Hi Mr Thakraney…I still remember reading a headline in a hindi daily “sabke nainon mein nano”…in my opinion, the nano team relied on print media and PR to reach the masses. Going overboard with marketing wouldn’t have made nano the 1 lakh car. I don’t remember the initial print ads positioning it as a poor man’s car. The earned media did it in…now it is being positioned as a youth vehicle…that’s what the current TVC suggests.

  5. kk says:

    mr tata probably doesn’t meet indian journos is bcoz he hates stupid questions thrown at him,, which the indian media is expert at