Another First by Nano: Online Booking

Tata Motors is offering what insiders say is another first in the Indian automobile industry - online booking.

Along with retailing co-branded Nano merchandise such as watches, T-shirts and phones on the Internet, the dedicated website for the "people's car" set up by the $62.5-billion group has a detailed section for applying for the car online, with a secure payments gateway.

Applications will be accepted during April 9-25.

"The Tatas have certainly devised a futuristic way of doing business," said auto expert and commentator Tutu Dhawan, who anticipates a good response for online booking, going by the initial response for the car.

"When almost everything today is available online, why not a car?" Dhawan told IANS, adding: "It is also time buyers are offered the ease and convenience of booking vehicles online."

Agrees Avinash Kalla, a Jaipur-based journalist, who is happy that the ease of booking the car through a few mouse clicks will save him time - and, of course, the trouble of queuing up for an application form.

For online booking, Tata Motors has a discount - Rs. 200 per form, instead of Rs. 300 for their printed counterparts, available at State Bank of India, as also Westside apparel stores, Croma appliances chain and Titan watch showrooms, all promoted by the group.

"With a virtual showroom available online, packed with specs and an innovative feature that allows you to see your car online after choosing from a range of accessories, online booking was only logical," said Kalla.

"It will save me a lot of time," said the 30-year-old journalist, who hopes to graduate to a car soon, preferably the affordable Nano, from a motorcycle.

Tata Motors has also arranged for online financing for Nano with 15 non-banking finance companies and banks. This option requires customers to pay just Rs.2,999 as the booking fee, as opposed to nearly 75 percent of the price for the self-financed option.

"The availability of online booking will boost the numbers for Tata Motors significantly with quite a lot people having access to the Internet in both the urban and rural areas," said Arun Krishnan, an automotive industry expert with consultancy KPMG.

"It is a good innovation on the part of Tata Motors. This will ensure that the number of bookings easily surpasses the designated allotments in the first phase."

Tata Motors is expected to gross in excess of Rs.950 crore ($180 million) if a conservative estimate of 300,000 potential customers is taken into account, as opposed to 100,000 cars earmarked for sale in the first phase.

"A surge in interest is seen when there is a breakthrough product like the Nano. Usually, the bookings for a particular car are five-six times the supply," said Krishnan.

Those who have visited the Nano website say that it opens pretty fast, though it crashed a few times soon after the commercial launch. So worries remain on how well it will handle the web traffic once the booking starts.

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