The case illustrates the opportunities, challenges and trade-offs involved in the design, prototyping and marketing of the Nano — the so-called people’s car — by Tata Motors Ltd. (TML), a Tata Group company. The case takes place nine months after the company’s chairman, Ratan Tata, launched the Nano, on January 10, 2008, at the 9th Auto Expo in Pragati Maidan, an exhibition center in New Delhi, India. The case asks students to take the position of Ravi Kant, the company’s managing director, in early September 2008, as he faces multiple dilemmas that could lead to the temporary closure of the Nano manufacturing facility in Singur, West Bengal: increasing competition, rising manufacturing costs, aggressive moves by local and global competitors, and stakeholder pressures.
CASE PREPARATION QUESTIONS
1. How sustainable is the Nano? How would you rate the Nano in terms of its economic, social and environmental consequences (i.e. net gains, net losses, trade-offs, etc.)? What are the key sources of these gains or losses? What are the differences in the short-term versus the long-term economic, social and environmental footprints?
2. Is the Nano a disruptive innovation, or is it an innovation whose time has come? What are the short- and long-term implications of its launch? What key tensions surround the introduction of the Nano?
What competitive or political motivations maintain these tensions?
3. How does the introduction of the Nano influence sustainability at TML and within the Tata Group? What questions does the Nano raise or answer as TML aspires to a global position in the automotive sector? How does the introduction of the people’s car square with luxury corporate acquisitions (e.g. the UK-based Jaguar)?
4. What are the implications of stakeholder tensions in Singur? What steps should TML (or the Tatas) take? Should TML have done things differently in the past?