A US aircraft manufacturer coined the term KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid — as it churned out bombers by the dozens at the height of the Second World War. An Indian company in the 1940s adopted the mantra and “concentrated on one simple diet of doing what they started with” by assembling Willys jeeps to grow into one of the countrys largest makers of SUVs, says a new book on the company and which is perhaps the first definite work on Indias automobile industry.
“The most obvious fact is that M&M have concentrated on one simple diet of doing what they started with and improving that from time to time. This genetic link has been seen visually and functionally played out in the various models from 1945 to the present and it is this symbiotic aspect that no other manufacturer has in its arsenal,” author Adil Jal Darukhanawala told IANS in an interview of his book “Timeless Mahindra” (DJ Media).
“Whether it was from luck or design or such this has stood the test of time and since the last three decades at least I have seen the M&M management realise this, grudgingly at first, and now steadfastly to realise that the neo-retro theme is one that even an Indian OEM with legacy can play in modern day times. How has it been so successful? The answer to that is in the sub-title of the book: ‘Workhorse. Nation Builder. Heart-throb. Defender. Adventure Tool’. No other vehicle made by any Indian OEM can carry these attributes like the Mahindra vehicles have and continue to do so,” Darukhanawala added.
To this end, the book is a celebration of the wide-reaching and multi-faceted impact of Mahindra utility vehicles for every known application – and some which not many can think of! The 75-year journey of the company has gone hand-in-hand with the evolution of the early Willys vehicles – through their many forms, applications and roles – all as ingenious and innovative as the unique Indian spirit of making things work.
Brimming with insightful stuff masterfully written with so many hitherto unheard of stories woven into these pages and illustrated with never-seen-before photographs to illuminate the path, this journey of Mahindra & Mahindra from the first civilian 4×4 to the 21st century second-generation Thar also mirrors the rise of a nation, and the aspirations of its people!
How did this book come about?
“It came about thanks to the book I had penned on the history of Ideal Jawa to coincide with the re-launch of Jawa motorcycles in India by Classic Legends after a gap of nearly 20-22 years. It was the first time any book had been written on the history of an Indian automotive manufacturer and (M&M MD) Pawan Goenka saw this and was impressed enough by it to ask me to do the same for Mahindra & Mahindra,” Darukhanawala said.
In a way, the book has been a lifetime in the making.
“It was easy in a certain way for I had lived the period from my formative years as an automotive enthusiast in the 1970s to writing on cars and bikes from the 1980s onwards. My own accumulated one helped. But then there were the blind spots from the earlier period from 1945 onwards till the late 1980s when not much was known as to how Indian industry functioned and there wasn’t much chronicled stuff available.
“The easy and only thing was to get to meet and interview a lot of people associated with M&M (if they yet remained) from that era and luckily there were a handful who shared a lot of knowledge and threw a great deal of light on the subject. Then there were enthusiasts of the marquee who had hands-on knowledge of these cars so these were another source of valuable technical information on the variou models made by M&M,” Darukhanawala explained.
There were also “hidden unheralded gems” within M&M itself who came to the fore with their own stories and experiences.
“A lot of information was gleaned from the firm’s annual reports but you had to know what you were looking for and also where and when that happened. The hard graft was all about meeting people, pursuing leads, joining the dots, sifting folklore from reality, and pouring over the subject over and over again,” the author added.
How did he get bitten by the automobile bug?
“There is way too much to say on this but then how can a Parsi bawaji not love bikes and cars? I was always surrounded by bikes and cars from as far as I can recollect (from about 6-7 months from my birth indicated by images of me with my father’s Norton motorcycle and other cars in the family) and this love affair has raged and raged and doesn’t see it ending at all.
“Learnt my craft with motorcycle racing in my early years in Pune (we used to build our own bikes and cars for racing), started writing on motorsport in 1977 and was the first in the country to have my own weekly column in a mainstream Indian newspaper on automobiles from 1980 onwards,” Darukhanawala said.
He conceptualised and started India’s first automotive enthusiast (not trade) magazine Car & Bike International in June 1987. He helmed it till June 1998 when he stepped out to conceptualise and head Overdrive magazine from September 1998 till April 2005. He conceptualised the country’s first 360-degree subject focussed media vehicle for automobiles for the Times of India Group with ZigWheels which he headed from November 2007 till March 2014. Thereafter, he was with the Zee Group till May 2016 and then on his own penning books and doing events.
He has penned 15 books to date and find the time to yet drive, ride and comment on the latest crop of motorcycles and cars.
What’s his next project?
“There is a book on the centenary of an automobile association in the country which is in its final stages. Another book is on the history of motorsport in India and yet another one being discussed is on the history of another Indian automobile manufacturer. As you can see I have my hands full plus yes, my YouTube channel is one other detail that I am exploring,” Darukhanawala concluded.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)