Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Impala is a car

We did not even know the Fortune is a magazine; but we knew that General Motors is the top Fortune 500 company. This was when I was in school / college - my memory does not take me back to the exact point when I got interested in world beyond me and exactly when I heard of GM. But before than there was the Impala. In our childhood this was the ultimate definition of a luxury car.

"What cars do filmi heroes drive?"
"Impala!" would be the prompt answer.

Impala was the status symbol. This was the early seventies. The India of Ambassadors and Fiats.

We did not even know that Impala is actually an animal. To us it was a car. I remember when I told a few of my friends that Impala is actually a deer, they laughed.

Then some years ago, I heard that a Japanese bank had dethroned GM from the top of the Fortune 500 list. For about two years or so. I think GM briefly regained its position but if someone has to fix a date when the slide began it was then.

But in my mind the decline started a few years before that. I happen to meet an ex-colleague's relative who worked at GM India. I was naturally thrilled. The first question I asked him was - can you believe it; how dumb could I be - "Have you heard of Alfred Sloan?" I guess I was trying to impress him. After all he worked in GM. His response: "duh?"

"You mean they don't tell you about Alfred P. Sloan during your induction training."
"Who is Sloan?"
I thought I had mispronounced his name. So I tried different versions of 'Sloan'.
Blank face.

In my mind, a company who had forgotten Alfred Sloan was already in decline.

The past half a decade has been filled with GM struggling. So it is no surprise that today they are the verge of bankruptcy. Kind of sad. But my memories of GM will always be fixed to a White Impala driven by a Bollywood hero wooing his lady with a romantic song.

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