Monday, March 23, 2009

Ratan Tata drops formal air at Nano launch

The usually formal and business-like Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata let his guard down at times while announcing the launch of his pet dream project, the Nano car, here Monday.

Not only did he field questions ranging from the on-road price of the Nano to prickly political posers by reporters at Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, Tata was also seen consulting colleagues on the dais, and laughing and sharing a camaraderie with the company top brass and the media alike.

All through, Tata's body language indicated he was happy at delivering his dream car within the specified time frame and was enjoying the attention of the whole world.

When asked by a journalist what would his message be to Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee - who last year ensured that the Nano project moved out of West Bengal, her state - the 71-year old Tata smiled and sidestepped the query saying: "I wish to say (to her) 'Good afternoon'."

Even as the packed hall reverberated with laughter, Tata said that was his "only message today" and declined to elaborate, preferring to close the issue with a wide grin.

Following questions pertaining to his promise to name "professional rivals" who allegedly derailed the Nano project in West Bengal and whether successfully launching Nano could signal his retirement, Tata paused, looked at his confused colleagues, and smilingly quipped: "I will answer both these questions too at an appropriate time."

The chairman of the $62.5-billion Tata group happily obliged language media journalists by replying to them with a few words in Hindi, a rarity as he usually communicates in English, and makes no bones about it.

Discussing Nano, Tata, a qualified pilot, said that when the car was conceptualised, it was intended as a good, safe and affordable family vehicle - "not a half a car to the people" - and that the final product lived up to the original dream.

About reactions from rival vehicle manufacturers, Tata looked around a bit suspiciously and responded: "We do expect some reactions from the market once it hits the roads in a couple of months. It will also depend on the impact Nano makes, though we are not entering the market in a horrendously big way."

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