Kitna Deti hai??
A deep sentiment rooted in the Indian psyche. Looking into the layered context of that question, one realizes that it’s not a question about mileage alone (as the advertisement would like us to believe), but a comprehensively inclusive question of all things present in the Indian way of life. We are super-efficient people. Just ask the scientists at ISRO about the Mars mission.
Long before we could put forth that question, we use to ask a different question. “Aajkal kya chal raha hai?”(What’s selling nowadays?) This was then when, India, was a seller’s market, and Maruti Technical Services Private Limited’ (MTSPL) with intentions of designing “a wholly indigenous motor car” was still finding its feet. The year is 1970. Post the demise of its then managing director, Sanjay Gandhi in 1980, the Indian government tries salvaging a fading icon and Maruti Udyog Ltd is founded.
Enter the Samurai!
In the year 1982, a License & Joint Venture Agreement is signed between Maruti Udyog Ltd. and Suzuki of Japan. Paddling through the rough waters of a closed market in India, in 1983, a car based on the SS80 Suzuki Alto platform with a 796cc engine capacity is launched, the Maruti 800. Historians will look back at this day and call it India’s first affordable car.
The liberalization movement of the 90’s sees India play host to a number of manufacturers. Maruti Suzuki, which until then enjoyed a certain kind of freedom over the market now faces some competition. This is the time when the Indian psyche truly raised the question, “Kitna deti hai?”
Maruti Suzuki then comes up with the Maruti 1000 which is Maruti’s first sedan. The styling of the car is utilitarian and a development of the three box design.
Maruti then launches a more luxurious version of the Maruti 1000, the 1298cc Esteem. Winds of change have been blowing at the design department of Maruti. It’s a runaway hit. There was a time when as a kid I’d call every sedan an Esteem.
The year is 1998, a new version of the Maruti 800 is launched, its first design change in years. Talk about competition helping push boundaries. While the design change itself is a mere face-lift, the Indian consumer has had his taste of change. He now feels important enough to deserve a fresh design every now and then.
Maruti’s design experiments continue with Baleno in 1999 and the new Alto in 2000. While as a car manufacturer this may seem like routine business, this is the time Maruti starts differentiating itself from the competition with the launch of a call center for internal and customer services and the IDTR (Institute of Driving Training and Research).The IDTR is launched with the help of the Delhi government to promote safe driving habits. Then there was the Maruti True Value scheme for used Maruti cars and the Maruti Insurance. All in all, Maruti tries to cover all the bases of the life-cycle game. The average Indian is now looking at “Itna deti hai”.
The year is 2005. It’s the launch of that quirky concept from the stables of Maruti. With a wedge shape roof line, reminiscent of a Mini Cooper and the belt line of the Evoque, it has the Indian masses going crazy. This is the era of Swift. Setting sales record after record, Maruti matches the heights of popularity of its yore. The design is timeless. With a frog like stance and a Mini Cooper reference, it still stands out today. Although its face-lift is questionable in terms of aesthetics, the swift premium hatchback will continue to be a case study for the marketing guys.
Coming back to sedans, the year is 2007. It is the launch of the SX4. A definite upgrade from the Baleno in terms of looks and hooks. The tagline of the car was “Men are back” and not without reason. A very muscled up design with visible volume around the fenders and a very sure stance. It did raise hopes of a design revolution in the Indian market. Sadly it did not match up to the hype in the sales department and had to be discontinued.
The year is 2014. It is the launch of the Ciaz, with a clear eye on the success of the Honda City and the Hyundai Verna. A renewed design language with a very sculpted body. With a sharp crease across its body conveying it’s no nonsense attitude, it has been given a bold stance that does look ready to take the Honda and the Hyundai head on. It does make all the right noises in terms of looks. Tastefully designed rear lamps and the signature Suzuki grill are a good indication of the sweat and blood of the design department. Time will tell if it manages to be a market leader. The start does look promising.
So having covered the rise and rise of Maruti Suzuki, one can’t help but notice that there are numerous reasons why the company has enjoyed the kind of status it has in the Indian market. Be it the government’s patronage in its nascent years to the design revolution it has been a part of lately, it gets a lot of things right. It has differentiated itself by a strong support system which its counterparts are still trying to build.While it has waited for a runaway success like the Swift for a while now, the Ciaz might just be that shot in the arm. And then there is the old nostalgia of the Maruti 800. The first ones always leave an impression.