Making of Maruti

A new book, The Maruti Story, tells the tale of India's original people's car 

It has dominated the Indian passenger car market for over two decades as the original people's automobile in India. Now, the person who has been at the helm of this iconic project shares how Maruti 800 arrived, braving all roadblocks.

The Maruti Story, co-authored by Maruti-Suzuki chairman R.C. Bhargava and journalist Seetha, shares the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring that went into ensuring the company's success, despite being a public sector undertaking for over a decade.

Maruti 800 cars, manufactured at the factory of Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL) in Gurgaon, went off the
Maruti 800 cars, manufactured at the factory of Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL) in Gurgaon, went off the 
road in 13 major cities of India recently 
Photo: AFP

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee formally launched the book, published by Harper Collins and already being sold at bookstores, at a well-attended event at the Lalit hotel in the Capital recently.

"It is indeed a privilege for me to be present on this occasion. Maruti came into existence due to the visionary approach of Indira Gandhi. She undertook the challenging task of creating the PSU (public sector undertaking) in the automobile sector," Mukherjee said.

He lauded Maruti’s capability and productivity, and said: "The Japanese used to think what they did in work management culture cannot be replicated elsewhere. But Maruti showed that it can do the same in India. The company set an example for other public sector enterprises".

"The targets were stupendous and considered unachievable by almost everyone," recalls Bhargava, a career bureaucrat who had stood first in the civil services exams in 1956, but quit to join the Indo-Japanese car venture in 1981.

"But the Maruti project succeeded and in ways that were unimaginable in 1983," he says. "The car revolutionised the industry and put a country on wheels. Suddenly, the ordinary middle-class men and women could aspire to own a reliable, economical and modern car".

This, he says with pride, was achieved despite having to follow all governmental systems and procedures, which were cumbersome during the pre-reform era. Besides, all the difficult masters at Suzuki Motor Corp in Japan and the Government of India had to be pleased.

"Twentysix years later, the company — now free of government controls but facing competition from the world's major manufacturers who have entered the Indian market — still leads the way," he says.

"Not only that, cars made by Maruti can be seen in all continents".

Launched in 1982, Maruti Suzuki was perceived as a people’s car and its sales figure explains the success rate: More than 2.7 million units have been sold since inception.

Every second car to leave an automobile showroom has been this small wonder.

Originally conceived by the late Sanjay Gandhi, the controversial son of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, Bhargava was advised against joining the company, as it was perceived to be a highly political project with no future.

Yet, he decided to join the project for three years on deputation from Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, in which he was director-commercial. "I chose to remain there, all of us determined to make Maruti a success," he says.

"There are no regrets". — IANS