Interview with Pratap Bose

How important is the UK design centre for Tata Motors?

The UK has the best design talent and skill base you can find anywhere in the world. The Royal College of Art, London, and Coventry University are widely regarded to be among the top five global schools for automotive design. There will be very few companies in the world whose head of design won't be from these two institutions.

The UK also excels in the field of clay modelling and digital modelling. Our UK studio has direct access to these talent bases, and this has made it the centre of advanced product creation within the network of Tata Motors' design studios.

The proximity to London, which I regard as the global design capital, is another fantastic element that contributes to the design work that originates at our UK design studio.

How has Tata Motors moved from using external design houses to having its internal design team?

We had previously used the services of consultants in most areas of car development. The design function was also outsourced to specialist design agencies, mainly in the UK and Italy. However, more recently, we have been building and enhancing capacity and capability internally in most areas of development, and design is one of these.

It is very important to be able to control the design output so that a consistent brand message is communicated to our customers through the exterior design and the interior design experience. The DNA of our products needs to be defined by us within the company, and we have come closer to doing this by using the Tata Motors design centres network in India, the UK and Italy. This doesn't mean that we won't use the services of consultants in the future; getting an outside perspective is always refreshing, and it keeps challenging our own internal teams.

What are the challenges of designing for new generation low carbon vehicles?

For me, challenges are actually opportunities. Low carbon vehicles are an inevitable reality in the automotive graph so we need to embrace the challenges and see them in a different light.

Weight reduction, tougher aerodynamic requirements, smaller or hybrid propulsion systems, the use of newer materials, etc., can all lead to a unique design language and expression for the new generation of cars. We will move from an era of transplanting low carbon propulsion systems in conventional steel bodies with traditional design cues to new lightweight bodies that better express the propulsion system underneath the skin.

What role does Design have within Tata Motors' corporate strategy?

The future of Tata Motors' products will be built on three primary 'pillars':

1. Stunning design
2. Exhilarating performance
3. Connectivity

So, we can see that for the first time, design has a stated strategic objective for our future products. Design today has the support and commitment from the highest authorities within the company - this wasn't necessarily the case earlier. The voice of design has today become stronger and more influential in guiding the future of our company.