Don’t Assume Shared Geography Equals Cultural Understanding

Struggles of India’s Tata Nano, ‘the world’s cheapest car,’ demonstrate the importance of understanding the culture of a generation in much the same way as we would strive to understand the culture of a country or region.

India’s largest conglomerate produced the car and priced it at a mere $2,200, believing that the low sticker price would attract a large number of buyers.  But as reported by the Washington Post, Tata’s Nano is “barely seen on Indian roads” today. The article states:

For India's newly middle class, owning a car is the ultimate sign of status, and the Nano is synonymous with something cheap, said Ashish Masih, assistant editor of India's edition of What Car? Magazine. "It's seen as a poor man's car," said Masih. "People don't want to take that image along with them. If they change that feeling, sales might pick up again."

General Motors and Suzuki have overtaken the Tata Nano with strategic marketing of slightly more expensive cars to India's growing young families and call-center workers.

What is most interesting about this case is that while one might predict that Tata would more accurately know what marketing messages would resonate in India, it was actually two non-Indian companies that better understood how to market to India’s new generation of consumers.