In 1983, Maruti Udyog, as the carmaker was called then, rolled out India's first all-Japanese hatchback, the Maruti 800. It was small compared to the soap dish-like Ambassador and the Fiat-designed Premier Padmini but partner Suzuki's technology made the it zippy, easy to drive and, relatively speaking, club-class comfortable. And, cheaper: some Rs 45,000, less than half the cost of an Ambassador then.
The car grabbed the middle class Indian's imagination and before the decade turned, it was the preferred choice among cars made in India; today, one in two cars sold in India has the Maruti badge. Not just that, the credit for a robust automobiles industry whose output makes for about five per cent of India's GDP is mostly with Maruti Suzuki, as the carmaker is called since September 2007. Five years earlier, the Indian government had sold a controlling stake in the venture to Suzuki.
By Anusha Subramanian, Anand Adhikari, K.R. Balasubramanyam, Rajiv Bhuva, Josey Puliyenthuruthel,G. Seetharaman and Sunny Sen