Sanjay Gandhi was an automobile aficionado. He loved cars and he was even provided an internship at Rolls Royce by friends of his mother. He did not last a month in England and returned back to India.
Turns out his similarities with Hitler do not end with eugenics and torture. He also wanted to create an Indian car that was a car of the people.
He started a company called Maruti Motors Limited. He had his mother, then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi call the Chief Minister of Haryana Bhansi Lal who promptly vacated a village worth of people to provide Sanjay land to build a factory in Gurgaon.
Sanjay Gandhi produced a prototype of the car with very little money and then wanted to raise money to build a factory and start production. His Softbank was the Government of India. The government of India forced several banks including the Punjab National Bank to pour significant amounts of money as loans into the project after diverting government funds to it. The greater the money infused the farther away he seemed from his goal of producing the car. The project floundered.
Sounds like a lot of Indian startups.
Eventually, he died in a plane crash in Delhi trying to execute a full loop.
Indira Gandhi lost the 1977 general elections. Maruti Motors Limited was put on ice. She came back to power in 1980. This was when the project was picked up again and studied. Having determined that there was an absence of know-how to take the prototype to a production-ready vehicle, a partner was sought. The company was freshly incorporated as Maruti Udyog Limited and it entered into a joint venture with Suzuki Motors from Japan.
For anyone who lived during the 80s or 90s India, a car meant Maruti. The effect that Maruti Suzuki had on the Indian automobile industry is comparable to that which Ford Model T had in the USA.
The Indian government exited the company completely in 2007, today the company still known as Maruti Suzuki is a subsidiary of Suzuki Motors.
Those are the strange origins of India’s largest car manufacturer.
One man’s vanity project turned into a manufacturing behemoth!