‘Small wonder’ is a book full of hopes, promises and the culmination of a dream born of the vision by Ratan Tata and executed by his team of Tata Motors. Being a billionaire Indian businessman and chairman of the Tata Group, one of the largest conglomerate companies in India, it was easy for Ratan Tata to make it happen. However, having said this, he too had to face a series of challenges that marked the launch of Nano, the cheapest car in the world. The book, essentially, chronicles the story of the making of the Nano. Ratan Tata is a habitual doodler, and one of his doodles shaped the earliest ideas of the car that would jolt the automobile world. Ratan Tata's initial doodle was to rebuild a car around a scooter so that those using it could travel safer and cheaper. But gradually, his conception morphed into something that redefined the world of motoring. The book is co-authored by Philip Chacko, Christabelle Noronha and Sujata Agrawal and it took them one whole year to publish it.
Tata Nano, the cheapest car in the world, is aimed at the middle-class Indians, to have a safe and affordable mean of personal mobility. During the course of the interview with the British newspaper in the year 2003, Ratan Tata spoke about an affordable car being on the agenda of Tata Motors, and when pressed on the cost, he said it could be around $2500. The next morning the newspaper had a story that the Tatas were planning to manufacture a car costing Rs 1 Lakh ($2500 approximately). Ratan Tata took it from there and made it happen in early 2010. ‘A promise is a promise” - that’s what the tagline of the book reads.
India has seen a lot since Tata’s declaration of his dream project in 2003. Lot of apprehensions, rebuts, demurs and finally acceptance - Nano has seen it all. The Nano project was supposed to be based in the state I live in. So, I was particularly interested in the journey of the making of the car and the Tata's take on it, which the media have excluded categorically. I have seen the madness and lived it everyday till it was shifted to another base in the western part of the country. It was a black day in the history of our state when it lost Nano (read industrialization and growth) to the gross politics and lack of belief and steadfastness on the part of the people. Tata Nano was finally shifted to a western state due to immense political pressure from the major opposition party of the state I belong to. I was particularly interested in the insight of the Tatas on the challenges incurred by the shift of the base. The book looks at the conception, challenges, cost factor, the switch from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat, the first look at the car and the world's reaction to it. It also narrates the story of sustainability and the growth of Tata Motors in the process.
“Small wonder”, published by Westlands and priced reasonably at 295 INR ($7 approximately), comes in hardbound white cover, with a chic image of the dazzling yellow car, embossed on it. The title, in black and bold, spells in large font size makes it distinguishable. The cover is really appealing and so is the foreword by Ravi Kant, the Vice Chairman of the Tata Motors. The three page long foreword promises an honest insight into the making of the car - the vision, challenges, limitations, dedication and the eventual launch of the car. The book has pictures of the timeline - right from the raw print to the finish product - in super glossy, eye catching finish. It is easy to hold and read and comfortably settles into the hands for an easier read without interruption. However, after I finished reading some pages, which I did without a break, my eyes started to feel a little uncomfortable. Later, I realized that the font size of the book is little smaller than usual. I felt, it could have been a size bigger for a better reading experience.
The 150 pages, full of facts and chronologies, promise to be an asset for the students pursuing management or engineering courses. The content, however, is not meant for a general readership and will not drive random readers. However, the people working with the Tatas and who have been directly and indirectly concerned with the launch of the car, may like to keep it as a souvenir, if not for its literary excellence. I would not have considered buying it myself but didn’t mind reading it when offered by my boss. Even though, prejudiced and factual, it was a pleasant read all through. Any kind of dream fulfillment exudes optimism, and the book, essentially, tells a tale of dream come true. That makes it a happy book in the end.