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How Bolt and Zest scripted Tata’s design drive

MURALI GOPALAN | Updated on January 20, 2018

New drive The Tiago represents the new design philosophy at Tata Motors PAUL NORONHA

Pratap Bose, Head of Design, Tata Motors

Pratap Bose, Head of Design, is excited about the road ahead

The Bolt and Zest may not have set sales charts afire but were important steps in the design journey at Tata Motors. These, in turn, paved the way for the new ‘Impact Design’ philosophy embedded in the recently launched Tiago.

As Head of Design at Tata Motors based in the UK, Pratap Bose has reasons to feel satisfied. “A journey is made of steps and the Bolt and Zest were the first (steps) we took. They really established a certain perception of us in the market and perception is also half the battle,” he said in a recent interview.

As Bose puts it, the company’s cars may not have been on people’s radar at one point in time car but “are squarely in that space” today. This was quite evident at the recent Delhi Auto Expo where people queued up to take a look at the Tata Motors stall which showcased the Kite 5 compact sedan, Hexa lifestyle SUV and Nexon compact SUV. The Tiago hatchback was, of course, present in its erstwhile Zica avatar where the rechristening became mandatory.

“It has been quite a journey for me and the design team over the last five years. With the new launches, we hope to be the Top 3 in mind space,” said Bose. This is where Impact Design really matters in terms of generating immediate impact on seeing a car and lasting impact over time.

Making an impact

“Today, Impact Design is a very important company philosophy. Beyond the first 20 seconds of seeing the car, you then talk about the various things and experiences which create a lasting impact. Once the customer has driven away in our car, we should not forget him or lose track,” explains Bose.

Getting back to the Bolt and Zest, these cars helped in getting to the next level represented by the Tiago and other products displayed at the Expo. The main objective was to get people talking about Tata Motors again in a “positive light”.

As Bose says, one thing that can be said confidently today is that the level of quality, design and material used in Tata cars has changed customer perception dramatically. “People did not write us off but said the Tatas are back in the game…’let’s see what else they have,” he adds.

Here is where the Bolt and Zest were critical inflection points. While commercial success is one part of the story, Bose believes mindshare is as important and this is where these two cars more than did their bit. “They are highly respected and people who have those products are extremely happy. It was also a proving ground for us that we could actually walk the talk,” he says.

There were quite a number of people who felt the Bolt had similarities to the previous Tata cars though this was not the case in the Zest. According to Bose, lots of women liked the Zest even though it had not been consciously designed for them. On checking out with dealers, he realised that women liked the sense of luxury in the Zest.

Diversity in focus

These inputs have been critical for the Tiago too and the other products that are due to follow in the course of this year and next. Bose is as keen to increase the number of women designers across the studios in Pune, Italy and the UK. “There are barely 12 in 200 now but more women are coming into the auto space now,” he says.

This is also thanks to an increasing number of design schools also offering non-traditional (design) areas which interest women and could pave the way for their entry into cars. The profile of the design team at Tata Motors has also changed over the last few years.

“I receive a lot of applications and portfolios from young people in India and increasingly from Europe and America. We have got some designers from the US, Australia, Korea and so on,” says Bose. Apparently, their interest was ignited by the photographs of the cars which were put out.

“They see the pictures that interest them and then start finding out more about the products and company,” he adds.

This only convinces Bose that the cars “put out there” are the real ambassadors and spokesmen of the company. It is therefore critical to get things right every single time.

The designers represent nine nationalities and are a “very good mix of experience and youth” with the average age being in the early 30s.

“I have told the team to be bold and let us use the past to build the future. Impact is the key in design and this is the yardstick eventually. This is one word understood across the group and I am hopeful the Impact Design message spreads,” says Bose.

He then lets you in on what his dream is for Auto Expo 2018. “You should still be able to recognise a Tata car even when it is covered,” he says. Drawing an analogy to top-selling books like the Harry Potter series where readers do not even need to see the cover, Bose is likewise keen on getting a few books out first.

“At Auto Expo 2018, when you come to see the rest of the library, you will be able to recognise the stories,” he declares.

Published on April 28, 2016

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