Shes got the look

Written by Jyoti Verma | Updated: Jan 27 2008, 04:16am hrs
Holy cow! you may say. But for Brijesh Khumaar, product designer at Bangalore-based MS Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies, a cow was the inspiration for the car that he designed. The logic comes from Hindu mythology where a cow (in the form of Nandi) is believed to be the vehicle of Shiva, he reasons. Next, meet Chaitanya Rajwade, a student of UKs Coventry University. Rajwade has turned to the Ashok Chakra and a chariot to help him create the wheels for his dream car, Indus.

You might label these creations crazy or desi, but for auto expert Dilip Chhabria, this is the age when design must get freedom of expression. And for him, India is very much on track. He believes those in the auto business are letting their designers create something that could make you stop in your tracks the wackier the better. Honda, Suzuki, in fact all the companies are aggressively stretching this paradigm. The shift towards curves, couture, colours are all visible. And if not this, value additions in the interiors or smart fuel technologies have been promoted. We all want to own a car that has striking features. The underlying principle, however, is to think a decade ahead, says Chhabria.

Rajiv Mitra, spokesperson, Hyundai Motoring India, couldnt agree more. The recent concept car QarmaQ from his companys stable was made of plastic. An advanced technology demonstration vehicle (ATDV), the crossover coupe made in alliance with SABIC Innovative Plastics has over 30 different environmentally progressive technologies. For U Venkatakrishnan, automotive general manager India & emerging markets, SABIC Innovative Plastics, QarmaQs real stroke of design lies inside. The interior design has been developed to give a practical and interactive space, which wraps around the occupants. The driver-oriented cockpit, which combines functionality with organic sculpted shapes, creates a fun-to-drive atmosphere, says a member of the team which included Rob Butterfield and Geert Jan Schellekens from SABIC, and Thomas Brkle and Raphael Bretecher from Hyundai.

Talking about his latest creation, 27-year-old Rajesh Kumar Gogu, a product designer with Maruti, says, In A-Star, we have experimented a lot. In exteriors alone, we have come up with a floating grille, teardrop roofline, rearview mirrors to highlight the daylight opening, boomerang-shaped LED tail lamps, and panels with motifs like paisleys.

Dilip Chenoy, director general, SIAM, who was a jury member at an auto styling competition at the ninth Auto Expo, stresses on the personal. Choice of materials like leather in upholstery, space for gizmos like an LCD, surround sound music system, etc, or two-door cars all appear absolutely personal. So there are buyers for limited edition concepts like the Amberoid. There are takers for the Rs 4 crore ultra luxury car by Dilip Chhabria as also for the Tata Nano. Both are high on design steroids, yet are very personal.

With design at a premium today, auto companies like General Motors, Renault, Tata, Bajaj, Maruti and Mahindra are going full throttle at finding out what sells. This means opening and acquiring new design centres, working on exterior and interior details, adding listening posts across the country to read the customers pulse, organising regular conferences and participating in mega auto shows to display their wares and take feedback. But according to Chenoy, its a long road ahead for India to become a design Mecca. The idea is to be non-conformist, he says and adds: they can even start by having bamboo-laden interiors. Now that's a starter on a road less travelled.