Review: Small Wonder the making of nano

It was a winter morning in 2008 as I walked in to my (then) New York office I saw one of the business guy (American) having an animated talk with a bunch of other guys (mostly Indian), who were also working in that office and were from TCS, I asked Hello Tim, whats the big news?

He showed me the New York times of that day which had a story about Tata Nano and he said see you guys have made the world’s cheapest car at $2500. I remembered some talk about such a car from Tata Motors coming up so realized, I said oh right. And then he started reading the features of the car and was visibly happy. And then he turned to the guys from TCS and asked isn’t this company same as the ones you guys come from ‘Tata’ and TCS guys beamed and proudly replied oh yes Tim, it’s from our company only (like there is no difference between TCS and Tata Motors).

Tata Nano garnered that much interest across the globe and people already identify the brand Tata world over so the expectations were all the more increased.

The book this week “Small Wonder the making of the nano” by Philip Chacko, Christabelle Noronha and Sujata Agarwal gives a good insight into the how the nano transformed from a dream of Ratan Tata to a reality. The $2500 car that world has never imagined.

The book talks about how the concept was born in Ratan Tata’s mind, then how it got a tag of 1 lakh, how the team was formed, who all were the main contributors, what all small innovations were done, the issues ranging from a perfect engine to shifting the plant from Singur to Sanand.

The book has Ratan Tata written all over it, If one hasn’t read the book it’s hard for anyone to imagine the amount of involvement of the Tata Motors Chairman Ratan Tata in the small car project. How he led the development from the front, sometimes acting as a leader, some times as a team member.

The book does a good job in highlighting the contributions of other main members as well such as Ravi Kant and Girish Wagh. It insists that there was no path breaking technology innovation that lead to nano at a price tag of 1 Lakh but small innovations and frugal engineering that lead to Ratan Tata’s promise to be kept.

The writing is lucid and not much technicalities of automobile industry is included which is good from a reader’s perspective. The Singur episode has been described in a non judgmental manner. We can only imagine what it takes to shift a automobile plant from one place to another thousands of miles distant and without producing a single vehicle, Tata Motors employees had to actually do it.

The book is a good read and every one interested in automobile or not should read it. It is as much a book on a small car as it is on human conviction, team work, hard work, commitment, sacrifices, leadership, facing adversities and many more human qualities.

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