Exactly a decade ago, National Institute of Design-graduate Pratap Bose made a daring presentation to Tata Group scion Ratan Tata about what Tata Motors design stands for and what it should be.
At that time, Tata Motors was the country's second-largest car maker, but its designs were not really hot favourites. Bose, who had by then worked with Daimler and Piaggio, rooted for a sharper and more aggressive change to Tata design in his vision statement.
Ratan Tata disagreed with Bose's understanding about Tata’s designs. However, he believed that Bose can be 'a very helpful addition' to the company. After spending five years at Tata Motor's UK design studio, Bose was made head of design of the company in 2011.
In the past, Tata Motors had been accused of producing boring looking cars with outdated designs. Indica, Indigo, Manza, Vista and Aria carried the same design themes that struggled to excite buyers allowing competition to have a free run in the market.
This once even prompted a long time Tata Motors shareholder to raise the issue at the company's annual general meeting which was also the last for Ratan Tata. “Why do all Tata cars look the same? Why can’t you launch stylish models (sic)?” enquired the shareholder.
Bose's Impact design theme looks to change just that. Earlier this year, Bose rolled out a new design language 'Impact' under which the first launch was the Tiago (formerly Zica). Sculpted look, sharp lines running around the body, wraparound tail lamps and aggressive forward stance became standout factors for the Tiago compared older Tata cars.
“You can either win or lose a customer within the first 20 seconds of him seeing the car. Impact design is exactly about creating an immediate and lasting impact. This journey of change has begun with the Tiago”, said Bose.
At 22,000 bookings in little over two months, the Tiago has become the most successful Tata car since the 2008-launched mini car Nano, which saw 203,000 bookings. Moreover a waiting period of 8-12 weeks has not defused buyer enthusiasm.
Bose promises that what the Tiago started in design will be carried forward by all the launches Tata Motors has committed. Up next is a lifestyle SUV Hexa followed a compact sedan based on Tiago and a compact SUV Nexon.
Unlike in the past when Tata cars were largely confined to the domestic market, these next-gen models will carry globally appealing design and styling, ready to compete against giants like General Motors Ford or Volkswagen.
“We are pushing for designs that are globally attractive and not just to one market. That is why we have designers from 8 different nationalities working with us who provide inputs. The challenge is to design futuristic cars with a global appeal and carry the Tata DNA”, added Bose.
The buy-out of Jaguar Land Rover helped Tata Motors gain global recognition. Therefore, a globally appealing design for its own cars is important for the company. However, Tata Motors is not keen to have any influence of JLR products as far as design or styling is concerned.
“Jaguar, LandRover and Tata brand cars have individual and distinct personalities and different customer profiles.
While some process, best practices are shared and adapted to the Tata Motors Design and Development process, the three brands maintain separate design identities to strengthen their market positions”, added Bose.