Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nano frenzy

Hindustan Times

Singur Drove Nano away, now it wants to drive it

They want to ride the Nano because they want to show to their pro-farming leaders what they have missed.

Congress worker Ranjit Chatterjee was in a hurry on Thursday. He was not in a mood to miss even a second to apply for the Nano. He went to the State Bank of India branch here early in the morning to be the first to procure the application form.

He reached even before the bank had opened.

“Nano means technological advancement. Nano means moving forward. So, I have decided to gift it to my nephew who is studying computer engineering,” said Chatterjee, expressing sorrow over the Nano project's departure from Singur.

But Arun Das, the Congress candidate from the Singur Assembly seat in the 2006 elections, was unhappy even though he managed to procure an application form. He had wanted to be the first. “I was one of the first persons to give up my land for the Nano project. Though the plant is no more in Singur, I wish to be the first person from Singur to bag the Nano,” Das told Hindustan Times after receiving his application form.

“I want to ride the car because I want to show to our pro-farming neighbours what they have missed,” Das said.

According to State Bank of India sources, 25 application forms were distributed from its Singur branch. “The response was good. We expect more applicants in the days ahead,” P.K. Chandra, branch manager, said.

However, there was not much enthusiasm among general villagers in Singur about the Nano.

Peasants, who had protested against the Tata plant in Singur and had led to the project's withdrawal from there, however, seemed unperturbed. “It means nothing for us. Are we going to eat it?” Sahadeb Das, a septuagenarian from Khaserveri village, said.

Indian Express

Many Nanos rev up to roll into Singur

The small wonder wows Kolkatans too, with huge crowds turning up to book the car

The Nano may not have rolled out from Singur, but it is certain to roll into the area in good numbers.

The response was overwhelming from the farmers and other residents of the area on Thursday, when the booking opened for Nano.

Naba Kumar Pal, who lives at Beraberi Dakshinpara in Singur, which was once the hotbed of the agitation against the land acquisition, was among the many who booked a Nano today.

According to officials of the banks collecting booking forms in Singur, there was an incredible response from people, which included the likes of Zairul Haque, who had given up his land for the Tata project.

In Kolkata too, the response was great. Twenty-one-year-old Divya Hans, a resident of Russel Street, is praying hard she is among those to get the car in the first phase of Nano allotment. Incidentally, this is going to be her first car, and her mother wants to gift the small wonder when she finishes her college.

On Thursday, Divya rushed to the nearest Tata Lexus showroom at AJC Bose Road and was busy filling up forms with her mother Seema Hans. “This is my first car. I hope I get selected in the first allotment. My mother is buying it since I will be completing my college this year. This car is good for girls as it is compact, small and looks elegant,” said the BA final-year student.

Alauddin Master, who has come all the way from Hooghly to book his Nano, is waiting to own his first-ever car at the age of 47. With his wife and daughter, Alauddin, a primary school teacher, thanks the Tatas for giving people like him a chance to own a car which is reasonably priced.

“This is the first car for me and my family. Its affordability is the main reason why I want to book it. My daughters are more excited than me. For people like us, such cars priced at such rates, are a blessing. Now I can proudly drive around in my brand new car, which I hope to get soon,” Alauddin said.

At showrooms like Tata Lexus Motors and KB Motors, the crowd said it all.

At the SBI outlets, the response was mixed with only a few centres getting drawing people in huge numbers, but officials expect it to swell from Monday. “Till 7 pm, there has been a very good response, with almost 103 bookings at our outlet alone,” said an official of the Tata Lexus showroom in the city.

For some like Poulami Majumder, the Nano booking has given her an excuse to learn to drive. Newly-wed Poulami was seen preparing to enroll herself with a driving school while her engineer husband, Mainak, was busy booking the car for his wife.

“My husband often goes on tours. He is gifting me a Nano, which I want to drive,” said Poulami, her excitement written on her face.

The Telegraph

Nano champion books ‘dream’ car

Palash Mukherjee, 38, had dreamt of seeing his hometown, Singur, become an icon of Bengal’s industrialisation. But the dream was dashed with the Tata pullout last year.

On Wednesday, the member of the Nano Bachao Committee had to be content with becoming one of the first to book a Nano in Calcutta.

Mukherjee, a small-scale trader in medicines, left his Kamarkundu home in Singur early on Wednesday and took the 8.45am Burdwan-Howrah local to reach the city at 10am. He was one of the first to queue up outside a Tata Motors showroom in south Calcutta.

“I couldn’t hold back my tears when I first touched the Nano. It’s a lovely car. It’s a dream come true but the dream isn’t ours anymore,” he told Metro. “But the joy in booking my first car fades into insignificance whenever I think of the deserted Singur factory,” he added.

Mukherjee’s family had willingly given up around four bighas for the project and collected a cheque for Rs 11 lakh.

“I felt proud that a part of the mother plant would come up on my land. We grew a little rice on our land but were ready to forego it for the small-car project,” Mukherjee said. “My cousin and I were involved with the factory canteen and also in supplying building material to the site. Those were the happiest days of our lives,” he sighed.

Then, of course, Mamata Banerjee and Krishi Jomi Jeebika Rakkha Committee happened and the dreams ended.

Mukherjee is one of the founder-members of the Nano Bachao Committee — formed a day before the October 3, 2008 pullout — and is its working secretary. He was also a part of the delegation that met governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee last year to try and save the project. “I begged with the governor. I did everything possible,” he said.

But Mukherjee hasn’t given up on the Tatas yet. “The situation in Singur has improved since October. Ratan Tata is socially responsible, he won’t let us down. Security can’t be the sole issue, otherwise he would’ve closed down the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai (after 26/11),” he pointed out.

So why was Nano his choice for the first car? “The Singur emotion overrides everything else. Also, it’s a great car, affordable for people from the lower-middle class. I can finally discard my old motorcycle and take my family out in our own car,” he smiled.

Queries usher in Nano bookings

April 9: Bookings for the Nano opened today amid confusing signals from the Tatas over the conduct of the computer-generated lottery in July.

The Tata Nano website put out conditions for the bookings that specifically barred multiple applications by an individual. However, Tata Motors Finance — the auto financing arm within the group — said there would be no limit on the number of bookings that an applicant could make.

The Tata Motors spokesperson saw no confusion between the apparently contradictory positions. “There is no upper limit on how many applications an individual can make. But we reserve the right to weed out multiple applications,” he said, without asserting that they would do so.

If Tata Motors intended to weed out multiple applications eventually, why was it permitting Tata Motors Finance to accept multiple applications in the first place? It is fairly easy to weed out applications since the bookings have to be supported by PAN card identification.

“Yes, multiple applications will increase your chances of winning an allotment,” said another official. The computerised pseudo-random number generation technique will select 100,000 allottees.

Even more intriguing was a proviso in the booking terms spelt out on the Nano website which said Tata Motors would have the right to sell 10 per cent of the Nano production at its discretion and outside the lottery process.

The car is now being produced at the company’s Pantnagar plant, which has a capacity to produce 4,000 units a month. Tata Motors is setting up a larger production plant at Sanand in Gujarat, which will have the capacity to roll out 2.5 lakh units a year. This plant is expected to be ready by December or early 2010.

But the slight confusion over the booking rules didn’t dim the excitement at Tata Motors dealerships across the metros and towns. Many were paying the full booking amount of Rs 95,000 for the base model instead of seeking financial assistance.

Retired central government employee Shyamaprasad Aich from Bijoygarh arrived early at KB Motors on Ballygunge Circular Road to submit his application form. He was one of the few to make an outright payment of Rs 1,40,000 to book the top-end LX variant.

“My wife died on March 27. She had wanted a Nano very badly and would have seen one in her lifetime if Mamata hadn’t forced the delay. I want to buy one to pay my respects to her. I am booking the Nano to give Mamata a fitting reply.”

The Tata channel partners were resorting to a bit of hard sell to get customers to book the car. At the Westside store on Camac Street, Club West members were being given gift vouchers worth Rs 300 to cover the cost of the form.

Argentinian tourist Alexandro Vincent popped into Lexus Motors on AJC Bose Road to gaze at the world’s cheapest car. Vincent was “amazed” at the build quality of the $2,000 car. Will he buy the Nano Europa back home? “I just might consider that,” he said.

Lucknow was one of the centres that witnessed heavy bookings — about 7,000 on the first day. Filmmaker Muzzafar Ali, who directed the film Umrao Jaan , was among the early applicants. Dealerships in Delhi, Mumbai, Ranchi and Jamshedpur reported bookings in hundreds. Most expect bookings to surge before the window slams shut on April 25.

Many customers were disappointed they couldn’t test-drive the car. “Our dealers are unable to give out the car for test drives because of the numbers,” said the Tata Motors spokesperson. Most dealers have been given just one car for display.