Maruti Suzuki: The Indian mega-factory

But before we get too bogged down in yet more figures, some historical perspective is required, because it wasn’t always like this. Just as China ‘awoke’ in the mid Seventies, so was India freed from the state-led ideals of previous administrations by Indira Gandhi’s government of the early Eighties. She wanted to create a people’s car for the subcontinent, a car that would encourage economic growth. To that end, her government simply formed a company, which then went out to try to entice a large carmaker into a partnership. Plenty of operations were considered, but most turned the offer down, probably because it seemed like a huge effort for very little return on investment. There were other issues, too: the Indians imposed numerous  constraints, and a lot of the European makers’ small hatches didn’t quite fit the bill, mainly because they were either too large, too decrepit or too posh.

Attention subsequently turned to the East, where some of the Japanese makers looked more suitable. Mitsubishi began as a strong contender, but at a meeting with the Indian government representatives, 40 Mitsubishi board members turned up to greet the four bods from Maruti, and promptly – and somewhat literally – scared the Indians off. Plus, Mitsubishi’s annual spend was higher than the entirety of the Indian government’s at the time.