Mamta Mercy and Nano

Tata Motors’ ‘Nano’ has suddenly and certainly put Indians’ innovation capability at higher platform along with the best in world. Many articles by western economists in media and their presentations at International conferences refer to ‘Nano’ as symbol of this emerging economy that many perceive as a prospective superpower. CK Prahalad is certainly one of those dreamers. Nano is very much a product for the bottom of the pyramid. Many think Nano can bring about a revolutionary change in manufacturing sector in a globe starving with fuel crisis. There are others too.

Karl Ulrich is Wharton professor of operations and information management and Kevin Dehoff, a partner at Booz & Company. One interview with strategy+ business on ‘High- leverage Innovation-Lessons from the Auto industry’, went on as follows:

Strategy+business: One of the things that we are seeing from Tata, in particular, is innovation at the bottom of the pyramid, if you will, stripping a car to its very basics. That is cost-in-manufacturing innovation.

Ulrich– I think that the Tata vehicle is going to be fascinating to watch because I think there will be Americans who will say, “Why can’t I have a $2,000 car?” And it will force us to really confront what is the minimal requirement on personal transportation. When the vehicle starts to approach the price of a nice mountain bike, you start to say, “Maybe I don’t need a 6,000-pound vehicle with a global positioning system in it to get to the grocery store.” So I think that innovations in the developing markets will actually have some repercussions in the Western and mainstream markets.

Strategy+business: It would be interesting to see how and if Toyota responds to Tata.

Dehoff: I think that that’s a challenge for Toyota in terms of how they take that successful product development model that I mentioned and globalize it. Right now it’s a very successful model; it’s largely a centralized model that works out of Tokyo. I believe that one of their challenges going forward is how do we replicate that model around the world.

Knowledge@Wharton: Karl, going back to your point about American consumers reacting to the [Tata] Nano. What roles do users or customers play in automotive innovation, and is the role growing?
Ulrich: Well it is interesting because users often can play many different roles. In some industries they can be innovators themselves.

It’s certainly a compliment to India’s innovative might.

Tata Motors is readying to start trial production of the Nano in Singur, famous by now in India and abroad less for the location of the manufacturing plant of Nano and more for the Mamata-led agitations against the acquisitions of the fertile agriculture land of petty farmers ffor Tata Motors plant. It may starts from September 1. The suppliers of auto parts are eagerly looking for the potentially huge business. And millions of customers including women, students and even farmers are waiting to see the little machines all around them. But an element of uncertainty hangs over because of the Mamata’s Trinamul Congress threatening to go ahead with an indefinite siege of the site from August 24. Can’t Ma (Mata) show her mamata (motherly kindness to Tata Motors dreams and the country’s pride? Why can’t Mamta Didi appreciate the prosperity of the region that the plant can bring about in the region? Why is so obstinate? Does she wish Tata to come to her and beg for it?

Let Mamta ask for all that she wishes to provide to the farmers or affected ones as compensation, but not create a situation that emanates a poor image of the state to the local as well as foreign investors. Let the Leftists only take the credit of hijacking prosperity of the state, as I am sure West Bengal unionism will not give up its traditional way of working for making every one poor.

‘Worried’, Tata flashes Singur alert

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