Think automobile design and nations and what associations come to mind? Italian flair, French quirkiness, Japanese harmony, German balance, American flamboyance and Korean edginess? What about India? Hard pressed to think of an adjective?

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The newly-launched INDEA, India’s first dedicated school for automobile design and management, at XLRI Delhi-NCR, hopes to create a distinctive Indian style. Senior automotive industry professional and XLRI alumnus Avik Chattopadhyay, who is the driving force behind the Indian School for Design of Automobiles (INDEA) says the long-term objective of the centre will be to create a distinct Indian design style and form factor, and carry that sensitivity into global projects.

School for automakers

The idea is pretty ambitious. In the words of Chattopadhyay, who has worked with Maruti Suzuki, Apollo Tyres, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Volkswagen among others, it is to “create India’s first finishing school for automobile design”. It would produce talent for not just automakers but studios as well, he said.

Explaining the need for such a centre, Chattopadhyay described how India is the second largest auto market in the world after China and yet penetration is low. “There are only 1.3 buses per thousand people, only 25 four-wheelers per thousand people. There are just 130 two-wheelers per thousand people. Penetration is a big issue. Then there are issues to do with emissions, safety, sustainability and personalisation. We need to respond to all these issues,” he said.

“That throws up the critical need for a new-age design school that can nurture and develop world-class automobile designers and design managers,” he added.

When he broached the idea to his alma mater XLRI, the institute was receptive. The centre is being established in collaboration with XLRI alumi and has mentors like Gautam Sen, who set up India’s first auto magazine, Justice Indira Banerjee, a former Supreme Court judge and IV Rao, former Director-Engineering at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and a distinguished TERI fellow. It will be operational by the end of 2025. During the launch announcement of the centre, Justice Banerjee pointed out some of the pain points of users — she described how at her age she faces problems getting into the car — and urged the institute to look inclusively into all consumer needs.

The Director of XLRI Delhi-NCR, Father KS Casimir, said it was fitting that in its 75th year when XLRI is expanding its horizons in a big way, the centre is coming up. “We are expanding our legacy... and responding to the changing dynamics of the automotive industry which is poised on the edge of technological advancements,” he said, adding that the centre’s objective is to foster a culture of creativity.

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INDEA will be offering various programmes — from a Master’s in Automobile Design and Management to a six-week refresher course for practising designers and induction sessions for CXOs. Seminars, master-classes and workshops will also be planned as part of the annual calendar. A programme in Automobile Restoration is also proposed. “It’s all about cohabitation and co-creation,” said Chattopadhyay.

The Masters in Automobile Design & Management will be a one-year post-graduate programme with an intake of 20-25 students every year from all graduate schools through a screening process.

Summing up, Chattopadhyay said, “This would go beyond making in India, to design in India and create in India.”