IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT

India Today - - STATES - —Sh­weta Punj

START­ING THE EN­GINE

It was In­dia first peo­ple’s car at a time when only two brands ruled the roads—the Am­bas­sador and the Premier Pad­mini. The top pas­sen­ger car­maker in In­dia, with a 50.5 per cent mar­ket share, it adapted quickly to chang­ing con­sumer pref­er­ences and ex­panded its port­fo­lio from small cars to all seg­ments in the pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle mar­ket. An early flag-bearer of the Make in In­dia cam­paign, it ex­ported 1.5 mil­lion ve­hi­cles to over 100 coun­tries.

The pre­mium hatch­back, Baleno, be­came its first car to be man­u­fac­tured in In­dia and ex­ported to Ja­pan. It em­ploys 25,000 em­ploy­ees and is build­ing a sus­tain­able profit model by re­duc­ing im­ports and ag­gres­sively pur­su­ing lo­cal­i­sa­tion.

It all be­gan in a makeshift work­shop in Delhi’s Gu­labi Bagh. The year was 1966 and then prime min­is­ter Indira Gandhi’s son San­jay Gandhi had am­bi­tions of build­ing In­dia’s first small car. He started a car-build­ing ex­er­cise with a few friends, with parts sourced from shops near the Jama Masjid and a mo­tor­cy­cle en­gine. The gov­ern­ment even is­sued a let­ter of in­tent in Septem­ber 1970, al­low­ing San­jay to pro­duce up to 50,000 cars a year. But Emer­gency de­railed the project. A year af­ter San­jay Gandhi’s death in June 1980, Indira Gandhi re­vived Maruti, with Suzuki as the tech­nol­ogy provider from Ja­pan. Maruti is the first com­pany that com­bined sleek design with tech­nol­ogy for a su­pe­rior driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. It played a key role in open­ing up the In­dian auto sec­tor to for­eign play­ers. For many, Maruti was their first car. The com­pany has launched 36 new or re­freshed mod­els and in­vested Rs 2,000 crore on an R&D centre. It is also skilling the youth by col­lab­o­rat­ing with the In­dus­trial Train­ing In­sti­tutes.

ALL GEARED UP

Maruti plans to in­vest over a bil­lion dol­lars to revamp its range and launch 15 new ve­hi­cles in the next 3-5 years. It aims to hit 2 mil­lion in an­nual sales by the end of the decade, from the present 1.28 mil­lion.

SU­BIR HALDER

FIELD OF MARUTI The fac­tory at Mane­sar, Gu­ru­gram

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