Before Tata Nano, There Was Another People’s Car ‘Meera’ That Cost Just Rs 12,000
Tata Nano is a revolutionary piece of automotive engineering, considering the fact that with the Nano, Tata was able to do the one thing that none of the other automakers could achieve since forever, i.e. to make a car available to the public within a price point of Rs 1 Lakh. However, in case you think that the Tata Nano was the first car to feature such absurdly low price point, think again.
Many might not know this but the Nano has an ancestor which also had its origins in India. Shankarrao Kulkarni, a businessman of his time, had a similar idea of making a car which would appeal to the masses simply based on its low price tag. The price tag he aimed at was a meager Rs 12,000.
This was back in 1975, by when Kulkarni had already created 5 models of his affordable 5-seater named ‘Meera’. The journey had started way back in 1949 when Kulkarni came up with the first prototype of the car. The subsequent two-seater model of the car that came into being was passed by RTO at the time, with the registration number MHK 1906. Kulkarni and his small car had become a familiar sight in Pune during the 1950s.
The name ‘Meera’ came into being with the production of the last fully working model of the mini car in 1970. The model received the registration number MHE 192. As per Hemant Kulkarni, grandson of Shankarrao, the Meera had a lot in common with the present day Tata Nano. “They both feature single wiper, rear engine, similar mileage (20 km on petrol) and come with 5-seater capacity” he mentioned.
The Meera was never a commercial success though, partly because it never became a commercial product. As per Hemant, “red tape and bureaucracy” stopped this dream of Shankarrao from becoming a reality. Shankarrao drove the car to Mumbai, where the Jaysinghpur municipality had offered him free land and a manufacturing plant for the car.
Things went downhill when Shankarrao approached the central government, which rejected his proposals by 1975, as there were plans of Suzuki to enter the Indian market right around the time. Hemant says Shankarrao had already spent around Rs 50 lakh on the car by the time and could not pursue the matters with the government post this.
Shankarrao had 5 fully developed models of the car by that time but they were not permitted on the road as the excise duty had not been paid on those.
Shankarrao might not have been able to achieve his dream in his lifetime but his lineage is happy about the fact that Tata made it possible through the production of Nano. Had it not been for the bureaucracy back then, the Nano might actually have had a real-life ancestor which could have potentially shaped the way of the entire automotive industry in the following years.
For now, it looks like even the Tata Nano is fading into oblivion as Tata has already stopped the production of the car. The car is being made on order now and is not readily available.