India’s FORGOTTEN ‘People’s Cars’

Owing to the large population that India has, it is without a doubt one of the largest markets for the automobile markets in the world. It is constantly rising and coming up with innovative technologies to up the game. During all this while, when manufacturers tried the hit and trial methods and permutations and combinations, there were many cars that came and went off the market with the blink of our eyes.


You may not know about the Aravind brand name but it is India’s first all-indigenous car. It all started in the 1960s when the King of Thiruvithamkoor, Sree Chithira Thirunal wanted an exotic car from America and Europe and visited Goa for the same. After not able to find a suitable car for the king, his secretary, K A Balakrishna Menon, who was an automobile engineer designed a car for the king inspired by the design of the cars present in that era. Menon worked on a 1939 Cadillac Fleetwood that was lying in the king’s garage and after working with six blacksmiths, the car was ready and Menon got a reward for the same. A prototype of the car was made, which was expected to be launched at a price of Rs 5,000 but the plan never took off due to various reasons.

Meera Mini

Meera 1

Tata Nano is the first microcar to suit the needs of bike buyers and wanted to buy a car. It was launched to a market where the purchasing power lied in the hand of people belonging to the ’90s in India. However, long before Tata Nano was even thought of, Mr Shankarrao Kulkarni conceptualised the first microcar in 1945. The first prototype was ready by 1949 and was the first two-seater car made in India. To lower the cost of the car, it came with an all-rubber suspension and an air-cooled engine, to save from the cost of spare parts used in the conventional suspension system.

It came with a mere 19 Bhp engine in 1951 and could go to a maximum of 90km/h. It gave a mileage of 21km/l which is pretty good for those times. Mr Kulkarni was resilient with this car and kept on making different changes to upgrade it before launching it for the masses. The last known version was ready in 1970, with a V-twin engine producing 14 Bhp power. It was decided to be sold with a price tag of around INR12000. However, by all these years Maruti Suzuki entered the market with the 800 and completely changed the market for this segment of cars.


Reva is still a well-known name when the subject of electric cars comes up in conversation. It is almost a synonymous name to electric cars. It was also the first electric car to be launched in the market and hence had the first movers advantage. The Reva-I was launched in 2000 and was a two-seater electric car. It was made and launched by Chetan Maini but later the brand was bought by Mahindra Group.

The Reva-I was made to cater to the segment where the customers wanted to get a vehicle to use for short distances and comfortable to take through heavily crowded places and narrow lanes. Since this segment is so small, for car buyers thinking of it as a practical purchase, no one paid enough attention to it. The Reva got a few changes and facelifted versions and is finally discontinued and replaced by Mahindra E2O.

Sipani Badal

Three-wheel cars took the European market by storm, back in its days and hence the manufacturer saw no harm in testing the waters in India as well. Sipani Badal was just a rebadged version of the Reliant Robin. The Sipani Badal was unfortunately a huge failure in the Indian market. It came powered with a 198cc two-stroke engine that powered the two rear wheels. Even the fibreglass body of the vehicle failed to appeal the Indian buyers, leading to eventual discontinuation by 1970s.

Sipani Dolphin

The Sipani Dolphin was another version that was brought in the market only to go neck to neck with the Maruti Suzuki 800. It offered a four-cylinder engine which was an upgrade from 800’s three-cylinder engine. The Sipani Badal was also made out of complete fibreglass making it much lighter than the Maruti Suzuki 800. However, the car didn’t offer complete safety and wasn’t reliable at all. With this, Sipani shut its operations in India in the early 1990s.