The 106 Ladies at the Auto World Vintage Car Museum

The 106 Ladies at the Auto World Vintage Car Museum

I was in Ahmedabad for a meeting earlier this year. Had to visit the Auto World Vintage Car Museum before getting back. With 106 cars there, it is a car-lover’s heaven. The cars are owned by Mumbai-resident Pranlal bhogilal Patel. A must-visit if you find yourself in the city.

Reached the museum around 1:30 pm on a May afternoon. Was probably about 42°C, and the open place just had roofs over the car halls. Had planned to get at least a picture of each of the 106 cars. Hope I did. The phone screen felt like it was on fire, but thankfully it held.

You might want to keep your laptop or phone a little away from you so you don’t drool all over it.

Click the car picture below to get to them. Enjoy!


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SUV Drivers – Look Out

India has seen an almost meteoric rise in the number of SUVs and compact-SUVs in the last few years. Perhaps the size fits in well with our gradually growing economy, disposable incomes, and egos. Among things that haven’t grown, is our sense of driving and responsible presence on the road.

India’s roads are getting more dangerous. And the higher seated position makes it tougher for SUV drivers to see, especially around the vehicle. Add to this the narrow, blocked or poorly-lit (and therefore unsafe) footpaths/ sidewalks, and you have more and more pedestrians choosing to walk on roads instead.

This is why it becomes even more important for pedestrians walking with small children, to keep them on your side that is away from the traffic. This also means moving them from one side to the other on dividers, when crossing bi-directional traffic. Or carrying them when crossing roads. It is tough enough for drivers of hatchbacks and sedans, thanks to the lack of lane discipline and distracted pedestrians. But it will be more dangerous if pedestrians bank on just the cautiousness of SUV drivers, given their limited proximity view from their high seats. And slightly more so with women drivers.

Sources said the observations will be given to the civic authorities to help them improve roads.

Source: link

The image above shows how you should never cross the road when accompanying children. You should be between the children and oncoming traffic.

Here’s an older post highlighting the risk [link here]


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How Well is Tata Motors Connecting Aspirations?

Earlier this year, Tata Motors announced a new brand identity. ‘Connecting Aspirations’. Sounds good, but how well is the company truly connecting aspirations?

For many years now, I have wondered why Tata Motors isn’t among the top 2 selling passenger cars in India. Despite being, what I believe, is a company and group that represents an image of the ideal Indian citizen. Grounded in values, and always striving for the seemingly unachievable; but never at the cost of people, country or values. I have also been concerned about Tata Motors’ preparedness for the future of passenger transportation.

So, a few months ago, I thought of doing a little research into why the brand in general, and its Indian lineup in particular (excluding the JLR lineup) might be coming short, in the face of competition from Maruti and Hyundai. And then in September, I took my views and recommendations and requested one of the former stalwarts of the Tata Group to share the same with their CEO, Mr. Butschek. Subsequently I sent a copy to Mr. Ratan Tata. Didn’t hear back from anyone at Tata Motors. Below are the key points I highlighted on the file I sent them.

On the upside, I found they had a good range of vehicles to cater to a wide economic strata.

On the flipside, I highlighted 3 broad areas of concern, going deeper on some, and making some recommendations for the future. The 3 concern areas were:

  • Design/ Styling
  • The Nano
  • The Indian buyer/ brand perception

Going a little into the details…

The Design/ Styling:

Apart from a general carry-over of styling from their earliest models onto many, if not most of their recent range, in particular, I found something wrong about the Tigor, a car they have a lot of hopes riding on. Even though the company website puts the car in a category/ sub-category of its own called StyleBacks, the design isn’t intuitive. And the company hasn’t taken much efforts in educating the masses either. So most people put it in the compact sedan segment by default. And that’s exactly what I did too. Which brings me to my first recommendation to them.

The above cars (from top to bottom): Tata Tigor, Maruti Swift Dzire, Ford Aspire, VW Ameo, Honda Amaze, Hyundai Xcent

If you consider the heights and widths of the above popular cars in the compact sedan segment, here’s how they compare.

Numbers in millimeters

My view was that customers who buy sedans are looking for luxury and status, among other aspirations in their car. And one of the key, unexpressed expectations, is a wide and low sedan. The Tigor, however, is exactly the opposite of that. It’s taller than most of its peers, and is narrower too. Could that be a reason it hasn’t become as popular as the company might have wanted it to?

The only other car that probably compares, at least from a thought-process of ‘why’ point of view, is probably the BMW X6, that was first launched sometime in 2008-09. This crossover however, made more logical sense at least, compared to the Tigor. Firstly, it was a merging of the capabilities of an SUV, and the styling of a coupe. While the Tigor tries to do something similar, the concept falls flat when it is done in a category that expects something completely opposite. The X6, compared to peers in its segment (more SUV), is a giant, longer and wider than most SUVs. Which fits in well with what a prospective SUV customer might intuitively want.

Next concern, the Nano:

I have always held that the Nano was, and is a brilliant concept. [also here] Sometimes, the customer is too ignorant to deserve a great product. In India, the Nano is a shining example of that. However, Tata is also been a little vague and limited in marketing it correctly. What I perhaps would have done differently, is dramatically narrowed the target segment, and focused my marketing effort on them. Perhaps college students, or individuals in their first job. This segment is looking for ways to express their individuality. The Nano perhaps could have been that canvas. It would have taken an elaborate but easy-to-use and affordable customization program, but perhaps been worth it.

Finally, the Indian buyer’s perception of the Tata brand:

Well over a decade ago, the Tata lineup was branded by many, as a tourist vehicle brand, despite there being at least one company with a higher share in tourist vehicles. The peculiar Indian customer wants premium and affordable! Even leaps of refinement by the company have been met with disproportionately lower sentiment (and money!) from prospects. Many people continue to paint its new models with the same old brush.

My suggestion was for them to create a new sub-brand, or a new subsidiary, without the Tata name in it. Lexus, Acura, Infiniti, among others pulled it off well. And now, Maruti is trying something similar with the premium Nexa brand.

Tata has futuristic and beautiful cars like the Pixel and Mega Pixel in the lineup. And electric cars in the near future. They should consider introducing it under another brand, to avoid the brand-perception hangover.

Anyway, back to my final suggestions to them. Firstly, instead of being an average, and horribly late entry into mainstream racing, why not be somewhat early in electric racing?

The last suggestion was suggesting a possible alliance with Tesla Motors. Both companies after all, are similar in being grounded in values and having a pro-customer mindset. Interestingly, late last week, there was news of Mahindra and Uber partnering towards having a sizable number of electric vehicles on Uber’s fleet in India. That’s what being proactive is about.

Just a week before that, I recently met someone at a Design Thinking workshop I was conducting. She said she used to work at Tata Motors before. Excited, I mentioned having sent some suggestions their way. While she seemed to share the admiration I had for the company, she laughed and said that when it came to new ideas, they ‘were a wall’. For the company’s sake, I hope they’ve evolved since.


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Design Thinking: An Idea for Tesla’s Supercharging Wait Time Problem

An idea using a Design Thinking mindset, for Tesla’s Supercharging Wait Time Problem

Tesla has really transformed the automobile industry, cracking the existing fuel industry and automotive heavyweight nexus. And this is despite the first versions of electric motor driven vehicles dating back to 1828! That’s when Hungarian Ányos Jedlik invented a type of electric motor and a model car to power it with. The first known electric car, powered by galvanic cells, was built by Scottish inventor Robert Davidson in 1837.

The world, at least a few parts of it, have come a long way since. The total number of electric vehicles in the world, crossed 2 million units a few months ago!

Tesla is arguably the most popular electric car in the world today. And yet, even with the slightly more affordable Model 3, which is a few weeks behind on its delivery dates, these cars are expected to take about 30-40 minutes to charge completely (on 220-volt supercharger charging stations). And while that’s significantly down from the 9.5 odd hours the Model S takes to charge.

The Tesla Roadster: source

While running costs will probably come down significantly, average charging times are still quite high. At least compared to non-busy fueling times in the day at good ol’ petrol bunks. And given our need for everything to work in the shortest time possible. Same need that ready-to-eat packaged meals, fast charging mobile tech and granola bars aim at satisfying.

Tesla’s Supercharging stations: source

Surely designers and engineers at Tesla Motors and at other companies are wondering how reduce recharging times.

To give you a glimpse into the probable Charging Station Problems:

  • Not enough stations
  • Considerable Time-to-charge
  • Large wait area needed for vehicles coming in
    (a concern in countries with limited real estate)

Given the interesting constraints, and that electric cars and their ecosystems continue to be built the way they are, I realized that it needed a fresh look, perhaps with a design thinking mindset, in an attempt to solve it.

I believe one way to dramatically reduce charging times, is to differently design the cars’ battery packs and charging stations themselves. And also the model around which the battery packs fit into the bigger picture.

And here’s what I came up with. It might not be the ideal solution. It might even be ridiculous or too complex to implement. Or it might be a step in the right direction:

Design Changes to Battery Packs:

  • Split into a many smaller interchangeable sub-packs (4 or 8 units, etc.)
  • Since really high speeds won’t be necessary on city roads, a speed-limiter & the onboard computer will help in power management by using sub-packs in sequence, making for easy consumption/replacement
  • Replacement of entire sub-packs with charged ones at charging stations
  • Standard replacement / billing (eg.: ¼ or 1/8 & multiples, etc.)
  • People pay for # of packs they replace with charged packs
  • Anti-theft battery sub-pack locking mechanism built into the car
  • Customers have a seamless experience – interchangeable battery sub-packs – Tesla maintains battery quality, replaces old batteries

And Design Changes to Charging Stations:

  • Cars drive onto a ramp, or stop at a point
  • Underground unit exchanges specified packs
  • Limited real estate, as recharging is quick
  • Spent packs stacked vertically underground & charged for next cars

I could not find an appropriate email id on the Tesla Motors website to send this idea to. And so I tweeted it to Elon Musk.

Here’s a simple overview that I shared via my tweet. What are your thoughts on solving this problem, and on my idea? Can you think of a better one, or improve on this one?

Update [2018]: In Nov. 2017, Honda claimed that by the year 2022, their electric cars will charge in 15 minutes. It obviously sounds impressive. However, a good benchmark for them and other manufacturers, would be mobile phone charging times. Some of those are down to giving 15 hours of juice with 15-20 minutes. That’s the kind of ballpark human patience will expect in years to come. Are auto manufacturers (pun warning!) gearing up for that?


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A Design Question: Turn Indicators on Cars

Image: source

A Design Question: Turn Indicators on Cars

As cars get sleeker, so do its lights. But I’ve noticed that the entire rear light cluster has been shrinking in size on some cars. And in some, the turn indicators are designed or placed in a way that possibly defeats its purpose.

A car’s rear lights cluster includes reversing lights (white), brake warning lights (red) and turn indicator lights (orange or red).

When brakes are applied in a car in front, we notice two things. The red brake lights themselves, and a visual perception of the car slowing down (or increasing in size). Even in the absence of brake lights, we would, albeit not always as fast, realize the car in front of us is slowing down or has stopped, based on visual information processed by our brain. So with the brake lights, that’s two cues for us to slow down.

On the other hand, when a driver plans to turn (especially in developing countries, where there often aren’t demarcated/dedicated lanes for turns (including for u-turns), the only cue we have, is the light. If the driver were to make the turn without using the indicator (which often is the case), there is a higher risk of accidents, especially if the car doesn’t slow down enough before making the turn.

Therefore, could turn lights be more important compared to brake lights, as there are no other cues to alert vehicles behind that a car is going to turn?

So here are some design questions for you.

So should you design turn lights bigger than, equal to, or smaller than brake warning lights? And should they be placed distinctly separate from the red brake lights to make them easier to spot, especially around sunrise and twilight?

Image: source


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A Rural Electric Ride

Hemalatha-Annamalai- Ampere Vehicles

A Rural Electric Ride

While a lot of us are busy in our world of self-indulgence, it’s reassuring to know there are Indians like Ratan Tata, who’d go the distance with regard to businesses that positively impact to one or more segments of the population.

I’m speaking about the Nano in particular here, the world’s cheapest car that was inspired by the concern Mr. Tata had for a number of Indian families that traveled with their spouse and children on two-wheelers, and the risk that posed to their safety.

Now I’ve written a few posts mentioning the Nano, though I don’t think I’ve written enough about that business and engineering marvel.

Anyway, here’s a relatively unheard of company in the field of ‘affordable’ AND ‘electric’ cycles, scooters & load carriers from India.

Hemalatha Annamalai of Coimbatore, the founder of Ampere Vehicles Pvt. Ltd., has been making affordable electric vehicles since 2008. What’s better, is that she has a focus on rural transportation. And it gets better. She is backed by Kris Gopalakrishnan, one of the co-founders of Infosys. And none other than the original king of low-cost vehicles in India, Mr. Ratan Tata himself.

May there be more entrepreneurs like her.

Read more about her and her vehicles here: link


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5-wheel suitcase design suggestion

Suggestion to designers Sung Ha Lim and Hee Kyung Oh for their 5-wheel suitcase design (link)

yanko design - bag design suggestion 2Link to my detailed comment about the design of this 5-wheel suitcase is here: link

Originally posted here: link

Ironman: Heroes Aren’t Born, They’re Built

“I’ve been called many things. Nostalgic is not one of them.”

-Tony Stark

Many of us have been anxiously awaiting Ironman 3 [not sure if my connection was slow, or if the official movie site expected me to wait for Ironman 4 while it loaded].

Anyway, I saw the Audi commercial a few days ago. It showed the electric sports car from their stable, the e-tron, with the ad’s tag line conveying:

  • It’s never a bad day at work.. When your commute looks like this. Audi. Engineered for Ironman [Audi ad on Indian channels], or..
  • It’s never a bad day at work.. When your commute looks like this. Audi e-tron technology. Tested by Tony Stark. Coming to the Audi A3 Sportback in 2014 [The full Audi ad]

Tony Stark has been driving Audi’s since the first part of the movie series. So, it’s pretty evident that the tough, quick-witted and cocky Tony Stark likes driving an Audi. That, or Audi bagged some in-film advertising deal, or that the team felt the Audi was cooler than driving perhaps an electric Bugatti Veyron. The ‘electric’, of course, taking importance after Tony Stark has the self-sustaining clean energy powered Stark Tower built in The Avengers. I don’t think he would be caught dead in an energy-efficient Toyota Prius any day.

Audi e-tron - Ironman

Let’s look at the Ironman numbers for a second. Ironman 1 on a USD 140 mn budget, grossed well over USD 585 mn. Ironman 2 did over USD 623 mn on a budget of ~ USD 200 mn. Ironman 3 too appears to have been made with USD 200 mn. And am sure the Ironman brand is worth a good deal too.

But all that aside, with over 1.45 million vehicles sold in 2012, WHY would a USD 64 billion Audi need an Ironman commercial to further boost its sales?

With the Audi R8, the Spyder and now the e-tron featuring in the Ironman series, that should have been advertising enough, without Audi needing to make another commercial now.

So, I’m trying to figure out why the auto giant would compromise, almost looking dependent on the Ironman brand, especially considering how the 31 second ad shows Ironman only for the first 14 seconds, after which there are brief bits of the e-tron for the next 11-12 seconds, followed by just the names, Ironman 3 and Audi. And for an electric car, ‘electric’ is never mentioned or shown once. Just ‘engineered for Ironman’ or ‘tested by Tony Stark’. A lot of reputation and brand value to base it on a fictional character, no?

It’s understandable for smaller companies like the privately-held Royal Purple lubricants, or for the USD 2 billion Burger King among others, to ride the Ironman wave, as they did with the USD 100 million marketing spend during Ironman 2. But for a much larger Audi to do that, I’m not sure if it is a good business decision, or just blowing ad budgets on a crappy ad that might be doing more damage than good, banking on the success of Ironman 3.

What Audi should have done, is told the other advertisers what Tony Stark told Nick Fury, “I don’t want to join your super-secret boy band.”

Let me have your take on it.

It Could Have Rained Nanos

Sure the Tatas have had their share of tough n’ rough times with the Nano, and they buggered up with the advertising as well. That means there was extremely insufficient advertising, and never at the right time. It just struck me, what stopped them from making a kick-ass tv commercial for the monsoon season. Am sure for bikers riding through heavy rains, praying you don’t skid, getting drenched less in rain water and more in dirty water that cars and trucks splash  at you would have made for a compelling reason to buy a Nano.!

Why, then, didn’t they think of it before? They really could have made it rain Nanos this season.




Drivin’ me Nuts.!

you are driving one morning to work. nice weather, relatively low traffic. ‘i’m finally going to reach well before time’, you think to yourself. just at that moment, a speeding cab whizzes to your left, suddenly cuts you without a signal or warning. you snarl, and then immediately think that it feels like a really great day, full of positives, so you wouldnt want to ruin it by getting into a foul mood over a crazy driver. you near a signal, nearing a car in the next lane, who appears to be somehow drifting towards your lane. you honk lightly. you think he’s getting back into his lane but just as you’re real close to his car, he honks back and swerves in your direction. your brakes screech the car to a halt, and your still wondering if that actually happened.
Grrrr..!! that does it. that driver’s going down, you tell yourself, as you floor the accelerator and veer into the last lane and align yourself in perfect striking position.

Drivin’ me Nuts!

You are driving one morning to work. Nice weather, relatively low traffic. ‘I’m finally going to reach well before time’, you think to yourself. Just at that moment, a speeding cab whizzes to your left and cuts you without a signal or warning. You snarl, and then immediately think that it feels like a really great day, full of positives. So you wouldn’t want to ruin it by getting into a foul mood over a crazy driver. You near a signal, nearing a car in the next lane, who appears to be somehow drifting towards your lane. So you honk lightly. You think he’s getting back into his lane but just as you’re real close to his car, he honks back and swerves in your direction. your brakes screech the car to a halt, and your still wondering if that actually happened.

Grrrr..!! that does it. That driver’s going down, you tell yourself, as you floor the accelerator and veer into the last lane and align yourself in perfect striking position. Then you suddenly realize that you’ve rattled the nerves of that middle-aged lady whose trembling hands just about managed to swerve out of the way of your car screaming through. So you slow down, and try and get back your cool. Though its not happening. the music playing doesn’t seem to work its magic either. You get to work, your mind imagining you perhaps strangling the driver who dared to cut you.

I’m sure you can relate to at least most of that.

I got my driving license sometime in 2001 i think, though I’ve been crazy about driving well before I could pronounce “car”. As a toddler, I’d sit on my dad’s lap while he’d drive, and I’d hold the steering and pretend to drive.

Then, when i was halfway through school, I’d change gears on my relative’s jeep, while the driver drove and took care of the foot pedals.

Anyway, almost soon after i learnt how to drive, i came to realize that the way people drive has a strong correlation to their personality and behaviour patterns, and also the peculiarity of people in that region.

For instance, in Mumbai (India), where I’ve driven the most, cars on the road tend to make maximum use of the road. Three lanes could accommodate up to 5 rows of cars and still have place for a bike with saddle bags on either side to smoothly ride through.

Now while I say this after driving/ observing only certain parts of India, am sure if anyone paid enough attention, a pattern would emerge for the population at different locations, across the world.

A foreigner visiting India had observed that Indians, while driving, make full use of the road. So if there were no road dividers, cars would “expand” to the opposite side of the road as long as there was no on-coming traffic, and then get back into their side of the road while some vehicles whizzed past from the opposite direction, and then get back to using part of the opposite side again. Talk about adjusting to the surroundings.!

I noticed another interesting habit in the town of Mangalore, and in the city of Bangalore, and am quite sure it must be highly prevalent. If one wanted to turn right at a crossroads which had a small circular garden or something similar at the centre, they would normally be expected to drive around the circle in a clockwise direction to get to that particular turn. However, most of our great people would instead find the shortest path… making the right turn just before the circle…I mean who cares if you’re staring at a bunch of alarmed drivers coming head-on.

That reminded me of this joke i read sometime back. A man is driving on NH1 when his wife calls him. “darling, be careful”, she says frantically, “I just heard on the radio that there’s a madman on NH1 driving in the wrong direction. Please be careful.” Her husband replies, with a hollow laugh, “your damn right about that, but it’s not one madman, but hundreds of them!”

Another strange driving habit, very similar to our corporate circles, is people’s reaction when being overtaken. Some people drive at a slow 25 kmph. And with a gap between them and the vehicle in front being big enough to fit an A380 (Airbus). Now you are somewhere between these two cars, in the next lane. You have turned on your indicator to signal you’d be moving in between the two cars.

Soon as you’ve given the indicator, the car behind you and in the next lane, rockets to 60 kmph. The driver desperately tries to keep you from getting into their lane. You barely manage to save scratches on your car, wondering if the driver left his senses back home that morning. Its very similar to the behaviour of crabs in a bucket. Even if they aren’t trying to get out, they’ll do everything they can to prevent others from getting out. If you’ve driven in India long enough, you’d know over 85% of the people never use indicators.

I assume its for one of two reasons; first being, ‘why bother signalling, if the other driver loves his car, he’ll slow down anyway’, or, because he/ she’s dead sure the car behind will speed up, so instead, its better to suddenly cut lanes while no one’s expecting it.

Nothing’s more horrifying that a parked car suddenly darting into your lane on what seemed to be an empty lane till then.

Ok, maybe that’s not horrifying enough. Try this instead. You got that same parked car suddenly taking off on the extreme left, going 0-30, and darting to first lane to make a U-turn. These drivers expect everyone else to be driving at 20 kmph with a foot ready on the brakes. Or they consider themselves immortal. And you thought Milla Jovovich had a hard time in Resident Evil.

All these trends/ characteristics associate closely with what Indians have been known to be like. Now I’m not generalizing. And while I take pride in being an Indian, am just pointing habits/ behaviours we must strive to change.

And while your at it, try get hold of the book “Games Indians Play – Why We Are the Way We Are” by V. Raghunathan, to get some more perspective on the general attitude.

Anyway, I’ll get back to what I was talking about (I tend to deviate from topic quite easily).

Indians (me obviously included), are always in a rush to get somewhere. So much so, we tend to cross the zebra crossing, or stop over the crossing, while waiting at a signal. Every second counts, I suppose. The closer you are to the starting line, the quicker you can leave on green. Then it doesn’t matter if you continue to drive at 25 kmph in fast lane from there on. We’d still prefer to be right there, first car to move, when the light goes green.

I’ve seen cars literally squeeze through gaps between cars. Some drive halfway up a sidewalk, or drift to the wrong side, just to be first at a signal light. However, after the lights turn, somehow, they don’t bother getting even close to the 50 kmph speed limit. They’re driving at their pace, with not a care in the world, even at 9 am on a weekday. Brings me to wonder why then, do they take all the effort to get to the front row.

Now this one absolutely takes the cake when it comes to driving in India.

Recollect how some cars try to get to as much in front as possible, while waiting at a signal?

There’s another really funny trait among many of our drivers here. Some people end up going so far ahead at a signal, that the signal is actually behind them. I mean, “what the ****!!”. So when the lights go green, they depend on a car behind to honk, to let them know that they can move. So if the cars behind weren’t in a hurry, cars could be waiting for as long as 10 seconds, before moving. Believe me, its a hilarious sight to see.

Imagine something like that happening in Formula 1. An over-eager-to-win F1 driver driving past the racing lights and stopping, before the race started. All I can do is hope we all drive a little more responsibly. And be a little more accommodating, on the road, at work, at home, everywhere.


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