Mr. Bose graduated National Institute of Design in 1998, then he joined Piaggio & C.SpA, Pontedera, Italian Motorcycle Co. as a designer between 1999 and 2001. He was given a scholarship from the INLAKE FOUNDATION to join Royal College of Art, UK between 2001 and 2003. After graduating RCA, he was hired by Daimler Chrysler, Japan till 2007. Real challenge as a designer and manager of Mr. Bose was given by Tata Motor in 2007. He has been promoted to the current position of Head of Design since 2011. A truly interesting Indian Dream.
Q: Could you explain your current responsibility?
I am currently a global head of Design for Tata brand of Cars, Trucks, and Buses. Tata Motor has three design centers around the world, one in Pune in India, Turin in Italy, and TMETC (Tata Motor European Technical Center) in Coventry, UK. Tata’s design team headcount is around 200 staff in combined three locations, 120 in India, 50 in TMETC, and 35 staff in Italy. Number of staff increased from 40 to 200 in the last 4 years. UK team started from 4 to 50 in the last 7 years or so.
Tata’s passenger car and commercial vehicle development are all under my responsibility. Tata is very committing to develop new passenger cars. I am very ambitious to get high profile from the global market, not only from India. We have already released 3 new models in the last 12 months, and another 3 models in the next 6-8 months. They are all new models, not the minor changes. This is quite unique opportunities and I am grateful to be given this opportunity. For those released this year are Bolt, Zest, and GenX Nano. Zest is a compact sedan (3995mm length), Bolt is hatch back, and GenX Nano is a small car to replace the first generation Nano.
Q. Could you explain your carrier history and educational background, and how did you get interested in car design? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and uncommon career?
Growing up in India in the 70s and 80s, of course, the awareness of car designs was very low. I had a lot of interest in art, painting, or architecture. Architecture was a kind of profession I knew about, something I felt I could focus because it has an artistic and technical side. I did not know anything about car design. Growing up in India was very different from growing up in Europe or Japan, very few cars. Even Bombay, where I grew up, still was able to see imported cars once in a while.
One day, I saw metallic blue Mercedes 280SEL was standing in front of iconic Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay, which was near my resident, and for me that was a very powerful vision. It was a quite sunny day in Bombay. I looked at the building and car. I knew someone designed that building. Then I found someone must have designed that car. At that point I did not know anything about car design. That was how I got interested in car design. That was 1989-90.
Then I joined National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. Very competitive, only 30 positions out of 1000s applicants were allowed to admit. In those days, the world was completely different from now, no internet, no Photoshop. India was a closing market. What was available was watercolors and felt pens!! I think technology is there to support human beings, not the other way around. It is very important for us to remember. What we need is pen and pencil.
None of NID teacher had a lots of in-depth experience being a car designer. So, I had to study by myself. As I said earlier, no PC, no Internet, how I learnt was reading car magazines. Those were delivered to NID by sea mail. So, what we were able to read Car Styling Magazine were 3-4 month old issue!!
After graduating NID, I applied to Piaggio & C. SpA., in Italy. I heard that they were trying to develop scooter for India in 1999. So, I applied. I sent my portfolio, and they sent air tickets for working in Italy. I arrived there on Sunday afternoon, where all shops and restaurant are closed. I couldn’t speak a word of Italian either!
After 6 months, they asked me to stay there longer. I stayed there for another 2 years. So, I did some works on Gilera, Italian Brand, and works on Vespa. It was great 3 years. Then, Yoshi san, of course you know, I wanted to do car design. In 2001, I moved to London. I went to Royal College of Arts, RCA. It was lucky to get scholarship from the INLAKS Foundation. I moved to London, and I learnt a lot of car design in RCA. I had very good teachers, good group of students, and you know a lot of people come from Coventry University who they had already bachelor degree in automotive. My bachelor degree is product design, not automotive, my degree is industrial design.
And, after that, when I was graduating, I was thinking what to do and where to apply. Then opportunities came from Japan. At that point, I was very exciting to see what Olivier Boulay was doing at Mitsubishi Motors. They had launched a lot of very exciting concept cars or, Grandis, a production car in Mitsubishi Motors. Many concepts of Mitsubishi Motors’ doing which I found very stimulating. I thought I’d like to work with this man, Olivier Boulay. He was the head of, MMC. I applied to a sister company called NIMURA Design in Nagoya, which did automotive projects exclusively for MMC.
Then in 2005, Mitsubishi dissolved the partnership with Chrysler as you know, Olivier left the company, and when he was leaving, he offered me the position in Mercedes-Benz’ Advanced Studio in Yokohama. I took that opportunity, and joined Mercedes-Benz. I had three years of extremely memorable experiences working with Mr. Boulay.We did a lot of advanced works like show cars for internal use in the company. We also had some just vision cars for production models. Generation S class, SLK, or GLC. It was a wonderful time.
Then, I wanted to move on. I wanted to work for Indian companies somehow. I had a chance to see the Managing Director of Tata Motors, Mr. Ravi Kant. We happen to meet at an industry conference. When I saw him, I told him that I would like to change Tata Motors Design. And, asked him “Can I have a half hour with Mr. Tata?” I just asked him like that. He looked surprised, almost saying, “Who are you? Are you crazy?” Anyway, he asked me my contact. I went back to Japan after the conference in Delhi, I continued working. One day, I got an email from Mr. Kant’s office saying that please come to Bombay on so and so date. I still remember the date, May 5th, 2006. Please come to Bombay to meet Mr. Tata for half an hour.
I could not believe it! I thought it was a spam, or a fox mail, but it was true. I brought my portfolio together, and I made vision statement for what Tata Design should be, should do, and should stand for. I went to Bombay, and met Mr. Tata. He listened to me very patiently. He was a very legendary gentleman.
Q: Amazing Indian Dream!
In my case worst thing which could happen was Mr. Kant say, “Forget it.” But fortunately he said, “Yes!” There is always 50:50 chance that someone say yes to your proposal. So, in life, always take a chance. And as long as there is a right reason for thinking of something, or doing something. Most of the time, people say Yes.
After I told Mr. Tata what is needed in Tata’s design, he said, “I disagree with most of the thing you said about Tata Motors and Tata Motors Design, but I appreciate that you really spoke your point of view, and I believe you can be a very helpful addition to the company.” That was the greatness of Mr. Tata.
With that, I went back to Japan, and I spoke to Boulay san, I spoke to professor Pfiffer who was visiting Japan from Germany. I said I really want to challenge, and they encouraged me “Absolutely go ahead and do it. “ By May 2007, I had already moved to UK. I started working here as the designer in UK. In 2011, I was made of the head of design for whole company. Just about 4 years. You can see already the result of that, 3 or 4 concept cars. We also have now 3 cars in production as I said earlier. Next year we will launch 3 new cars. Everything you see now on is the result of works we have done.
And any advice to our CDA students?
For me, nationality and etc. is not important. Designer can come from anywhere. I have no problem with that.
The level of skill, I still believe that drawing and visualization skills for designer is very fundamental, and is very important. Because you have to communicate your idea to a lot of people, but in case of students, you have to communicate the idea, only to yourself most of the time. Where in the professional you can make the sketch, but you need to communicate with a CAS modeler, you need to talk with a clay modeler, you need to communicate with management, with engineering, with marketing, a lots of people you have to communicate your idea if you want your idea go anywhere. I still feel the power of good drawing it is very important because picture can replace many words, what we say. So for me that is very important, the skill level of the student.
Second like I said, the way they think about something, the way they approach to design is important, because design is not about only a flashy rendering. Also, idea and concept are behind what you are doing. Sometimes new way of thinking about things and world.
Sometimes people send me very thick portfolios. But sometimes only need one page which has a complete drawing and level of understanding. Because car design always starts from proportion, and then you go to surface, and then go to detail. Many students don’t realize this. They go very quickly to the detail. They immediately go to the surface without standing back and see the overall proportion. Car design is like seeing the car from the distance almost 100 or 200 meters away. You can only see proportion and volume, then you walk closer to the car and see the surfaces, then even you closer, you can see the detail. More and more I see portfolio sent to me, they go quickly into the detail. And all they do a lot of surface, design light and shade. They forget to step back overall car, somewhere they forget. I would say car design is different from designing cell phone.