Santro: The Car That Built a Company

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‘There’s no business like the car business!’ 

Within months of its launch in late 1998, with every well-known global automobile brand jockeying for a foothold in a small-car market almost monopolized by Maruti Udyog, Hyundai Motor India’s debut production, the Santro, emerged as a force to reckon with. 

The first car to be conceptualized and designed for – and then developed and manufactured in – India, the ‘Sunshine Car’ outshone its competition in every sphere, winning awards and setting standards in technology, quality and trust that are yet to be achieved by any other small car in the Indian market. Over a period of sixteen years it set the record for the quickest small car brand to go from zero to a million units sold, achieved profitability for Hyundai at unprecedented speed and made an impressive global impact as a ‘made in India’ automobile in markets as diverse as Algeria and Zimbabwe, Western Europe and North America. 

In Santro: The Car that Built a Company, B.V.R. Subbu, who spearheaded much of this success, reveals the hitherto untold story of how this small car made such a big impact and firmly established a relatively unknown Korean car manufacturer as a market leader in the Indian automobile industry. Vivid anecdotes detail the thrills and challenges of introducing a new product in a new market; the canny business decisions that overthrew the competition; the unforgettable marketing campaign with Shah Rukh Khan that made the car the household name it became; and the high-stakes power battles and everyday drama that characterize corporate India.

A story about a car-like-no-other, B.V.R. Subbu’s narrative is by turns revelatory, insightful and thoroughly entertaining. If there’s one business book you read this year – let it be this one.


About the Author

BVR SUBBU began his career in Tata Motors where, among other things, he led teams that first conceptualized and then successfully launched the Tata 2213, a truck that metamorphosed the freight industry in India. In 1997, Subbu moved to a freshly minted Hyundai Motor India, joining initially as director, sales and marketing, and later taking on the role of president. Presently, Subbu manages a boutique strategy consulting firm, Beyond Visual Range, advises PE funds and serves on the governing board of the Shriram Institute for Scientific & Industrial Research, New Delhi, as well as various technology and automotive companies."

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