Pratap Bose, Head of Design, Tata Motors is slowly, but surely, bringing about a welcome change to the design philosophy at the company’s Passenger Vehicle Business Unit (PVBU). Right from the time Tata Motors launched its first passenger vehicle in the market in 1998 – the Indica hatchback – design was never considered a strong differentiator for the company’s offerings in the market. Almost every product that followed the Indica to the market looked like clones of each other, albeit in different body styles and sizes.
Until, of course, the Tiago came along. The Tiago represented a change in design philosophy within the company, Bose told us recently. The intent within the group today is to create a family of products that are not clones of each other, but one that bears resemblance. Each product represents a certain character, and that has to come through the overall design of the product. “We shouldn’t do the same sausage in different sizes,” he said.
So, is Tata Motors working towards creating a certain design language like many other automobile brands globally? Bose answered in the affirmative, saying all future Tata products would have a youthful and modern appeal. While each product would have its unique characteristics to differentiate itself from one another, the DNA would remain the same. For Bose, it is extremely important that each product has a distinct, individual personality.
IMPORTANT TO STAND OUT
This change has been necessitated due to a variety of factors, both internal and external. Consumer preferences and demands have been evolving at a very rapid pace, and most buying decisions are made based not just on the product design, but also the experience that a manufacturer can offer. This, in fact, is true in all sectors. A great design backed by poor experience may not bring in favourable results. Similarly, a product may not take off if it offers a great experience, but comes with a not-so-appealing design.
In a market with close to 200 models, it is all about standing out. Bose explained, “If you line up the Tiago, Hexa, Tigor and Nexon, people will see they are a family of products. In Tiago, it’s the cheekiness you see in the big eyes. The Tigor says I’m a little more grown up, a little more serious and formal, but still very funky. Nexon comes along and says I’m much stronger than you.”
A product can stand out in many ways. While some manufacturers believe in keeping designs subtle, some opt for a loud design language. And both these approaches could be equally acceptable and successful. Bose is not one who thinks it is important to shout and scream to get noticed. Neither is it important to be aggressive to make a statement, he asserted. For Tata Motors, the DNA it is developing is to be subtle, yet strong. “People often confuse between strength and aggression. The Tigor and Nexon, for instance, are not aggressive cars but are very strong cars in their own right,” he said.
TAMO & FUTURE MOBILITY
At the Geneva Motor Show in March this year, Tata Motors introduced its sub-brand TAMO and showcased its first creation, the RACEMO – a two-seater, fully connected sports coupe concept. TAMO, the company said, will essentially act as an incubating centre of innovation towards new technologies, business models and partnerships in order to define future mobility solutions.
The RACEMO has nothing conventional about it, he said. It is built on a patented MOFlex Multi-Material Sandwich (MMS) structure that enables greater freedom in surface design, efficient largescale part integration leading to modularity and faster time to market.
Bose, obviously, is delighted to be given this opportunity to design a sub-brand to explore mobility of the future, while still creating products for the current mass markets. Not too many designers would be fortunate to have such a phenomenal opportunity, he said.
The other development that has Bose very excited is the new advanced modular platform (AMB) that the company has announced. All future products from the Tata Motors stable will be based on the AMB. Development of a new platform is often the responsibility of the engineering team, but at Tata Motors, Bose was actively involved in defining the platform – a rarity in the automotive world, he said. The design team, in fact, worked very closely with the engineering team to truly define what can and can’t be done with the AMB.
Having worked with Piaggio, Mitsubishi and Mercedes before joining the Indian automaker in 2007, Bose started out with just four designers at the Tata Motors Engineering Technical Centre (TMETC) in Coventry, UK. The company had three disparate studios – one each in Turin (Italy), Coventry and Pune – and none of these were bound by anything. Today, the Tata Motors design team has developed into a 200-strong vibrant workforce, with 80 people in Pune, and the rest almost equally split between the global studios.
As the company charts newer markets globally with products meant to address future mobility, Bose is faced with diverse challenges. At the same time, he needs to ensure products from the company also cater well to the unique challenges that the Indian market throws at it. Having learnt the art and the craft of design in Europe, he is applying those skills to satisfy the very unique requirements in India. This is exactly what makes his job exciting, he said.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah