Sunday, January 13, 2008

"A promise is a promise"

These words, which emanated from Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, literally moved me to tears. Having promised a car 'for the common man' in 2003, he would have found it extremely difficult to keep it, owing to a spurt in global steel and fuel prices over the years. Why then, in spite of this, did he keep his promise? Why didn't he increase costs to reflect increase in input prices?

Mr. Tata contradicts the image of a conventional corporate. The drive to make such an audacious attempt came when he watched a family on a motorcycle, with a wife behind and a kid in front, endangering the safety of the entire family. This sprang up an idea in his head, and keeping the middle class Indian family in mind, created a product that would revolutionize the way the common man travelled. Indeed, he is one of the few corporates who really thinks of improving the condition of the common man, rather than just blindly running after profits. We do need more of such inspired corporate leaders, to make up for the lack of those in our political system.

Instead of taking the usual path of developing a car, Mr. Tata decided to innovate. What enabled him to achieve this feat, is to be analyzed and emulated, not just by auto makers, but by all entrepreneurs. He started with a clean slate, and finished with 40 patents in the process, and a car which defied conventional automobile design. Hats off to a great thinker, a visionary, an innovator and an altruist.