1983, India has just won the World Cup in England. Kapil Dev and his boys are now household names. Using the term demi-gods here wouldn’t be out of place for the Indian National Cricket team that brought laurels to the country from foreign soil. They realized a powerful dream for the entire nation. But, there was one more champion in the making. It was small yet powerful, it was revolutionary yet subtle and to our surprise it was local! We are talking about the iconic Maruti 800, the first Indian hatchback to be produced in India, for Indians. The dream project of Rajiv Gandhi, the 800 helped millions of Indians realise their dreams. In a first, the Prime Minister of our country personally presented the keys to the first owner of a Maruti 800. It was that big a deal in our country. We never had a true blue Indian car to call our own and now this was actually possible!
Judging by the number of hatchbacks on Indian roads, we can safely say that the 800 made an immediate impact on Indian culture. Consumers were bored of the bulky Fiats and Ambassadors out there. The 800 was fast, modern and much better looking. It was also available in multiple colors, giving users much more choice when it came to picking their first family car. The 800 also brought about a gender revolution in the country as these cars were now being driven by men and women alike. Indian women were now taking their place on the road alongside men! The 800 gave wings to the independent women of India who wanted to live and enjoy their lives just like their counterparts did. Hence, this was not just a car; it was the flag bearer of change that actually transformed the way people drive in India.
1991, reforms were introduced and ever ready foreign behemoths like Hyundai and Toyota, among others, were ready to bring in their products to the Indian market. Then, after 15 years of Maruti’s domination in the hatchback segment, Indians were again introduced to another revolutionary car; The Santro by Hyundai . Many of the Santro’s owners didn’t realize how this tiny little Korean hatchback shaped the Indian motor scene. It was a car that was not just a vehicle but an emotion and it took over the sales of Maruti quarter by quarter. People were ready to pay a few extra bucks for better performance. If anything, all the Santro did was to inject life into their competition. These two manufacturers realised the potential of the hatchback market and by 2008 we had 20 plus options with 30 more variants by 7 more brands in the market.
2008, saw the introduction of the Tata Nano; a car which was expected to recreate the enthusiasm that the Maruti 800 did in 1983. A car for Rs. 1 lakh? How was that possible? Unfortunately, the Nano was not able to live up to the expectations of the Indian public and Tata incurred huge losses because of the project. The lesson was a hard one to accept for India’s biggest manufacturer and they revamped the entire company and now they are back with the Tata Tiago.
Our Indian soil has witnessed great revolutions in the past and the inception and solidification of the hatchback is definitely up there when it comes to the infrastructure of transport in the country.
As of today, the Hyundai Santro is back and better than ever with top of the line features and looks that go well with the current trends. It is only with time that we will see how this car can revive the glory days of its forefathers.
What are your favorite memories of the Maruti 800 or The Santro? Let us know in the comments below!