The Drive To Design
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As Head of Design for Tata Motors, Pratap Bose leads a large team across three global design studios. His attempts to bring synergy between the three have enabled the Indian automotive giant to introduce a range of passenger and commercial vehicles that aspire to compete in the global arena.

When did you discover your passion for automobiles?

PB: While I was always drawing cars in my text books and journals, my earliest introduction to automotive design was when I saw this beautiful blue Mercedes 280 SEL outside the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. It was a very powerful image and I realized that someone must have designed the car – it was so well thought out in every detail that it couldn’t just be a random exercise of putting things together. I had to find out if there was a vocation that allowed you to do this! This led me to discover NID, which was an important part of building my base on anything related to design.

Tell us about your early days in the field.

PB: I graduated in product design, as in the ’90s there wasn’t yet a specialized course in transportation design. However, I did some projects, including my final thesis, on car design. After I graduated from NID I was lucky to get the chance to do a short stint at Piaggio in Italy. Before I knew it, six months turned into three years.

I had learned how transportation design works and fits in a large company, but I still wanted a formal education in car design. So, I decided to pursue a Master’s in Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London. At RCA, I learnt about the technique and the science behind the art.

Once I graduated from RCA in 2004, I accepted an offer to move to Japan and work with Mitsubishi Motors. From 2005 to 2007 I worked with Mercedes Benz, at their Advanced Design Center in Yokohama. Working in Japan for four years was an incredible experience, an absolute gamechanger. This was the real world and a real job, and I was putting to practice all the passion and training I had gained. And to be a part of Mercedes Benz, after seeing that 280 SEL in Mumbai all those years ago, was very special.

How did you come to be associated with Tata Motors?

PB: In 2006, I attended a networking dinner in Delhi where I bumped into Mr. Ravi Kant, who was the Managing Director of Tata Motors at the time. Very boldly I walked up to him, gave him my card and said, “Sir, I would like to work for Tata Motors. I would like half an hour with Mr. Tata, if possible.” A few days later, I got an email from his office, stating that if I was still interested I could get half an hour with Mr. Tata. I was on the next flight out to Mumbai!

When I met Mr. Tata, I gave him my honest view of the car design world and of Tata Motors design, where it was and where I believed it could go. He was extremely courteous and mentioned that if I could stay till the end of the day he’d like to meet me again. At about 4 pm, Mr. Tata took me for a cup of coffee and said, “While I disagree with some of what you’ve said, I really feel you can contribute to the company. We are opening a new technical center in the UK; would you consider joining us there?”

And that was it. I went back to Japan, finalized the details with Mr. Kant’s office and in April 2007 I was with Tata Motors and in the UK.

As Head of Design, what is the most challenging part of your role at the company?

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