When I (Tatalog author Harish Bhat, currently the Managing Director of Tata Global Beverages Ltd) visited the ERC during the writing of this book, it was buzzing with activity, as it must also have been during those early days of the Indica development, beginning in 1995.
Several smart, young design engineers in the company got the rare opportunity to work on India's first car project.
One of them was Ravindra Rajhans, a member of the core development team. Rajhans had graduated with a master’s degree in industrial design from one of India’s most-reputed engineering colleges, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai.
He had earlier worked on the styling of a light commercial vehicle (LCV) called the Tata 709, and also on the Tata Safari, a sports utility vehicle (SUV) that appeared to be a crossover between an LCV and a car.
When he was asked to join the Indica team, he says he nearly fell off his chair.
Those were heady days. We had the privilege of presenting our sketches and designs directly to our chairman, Ratan Tata.
We were told that the design of the car would be developed by us, and finalized in collaboration with I.DE.A., a design house in Turin, Italy.
I remember a meeting in Pune during September 1995, where some of us asked the chairman - 'Sir, why are we going to Italy? Can't we do the design here, entirely in our own facilities in Pune?"
His answer told us what the quest for world class meant.
Mr Tata looked us in the eye, and said - 'I believe totally in our own capabilities. But when we visit motor shows abroad, we see the great strides which global car companies have made, the excellent designs they have already launched in Europe and other Western countries. Our effort should be to leapfrog into the future. For this to happen we should work in the design environment of Europe, where the design ethos is well ahead of India. Then we can hope for a car which is ahead of its time.'