Nimish Kalappurakal fell in love with Fiat cars from his childhood. Today, he has founded the Team Fiat Moto Club, which has 3850 membersPhoto by Manu R. Mavelil
By Shevlin Sebastian
Last year, Nimish Kalappurakal and a group of friends were travelling from Thiruvananthapuram to the hill station of Kodaikanal. There was nothing unusual about them except that in the procession of 12 cars, every single one of them was a Fiat: a Palio or a Punto or a Linea.
Somewhere along the way, a friend of Nimish, Asif Sharief asked whether he could drive his Palio S10. So they exchanged cars. “When Asif was driving I had a feeling that something was going to go wrong,” says Nimish. And it did. The engine suddenly stopped. An inspection revealed a loose wire.
“The car seemed unhappy that somebody else was driving it,” says Nimish. “It has never stalled before.”
Nimish's car always works smoothly, because he looks after it, like a baby. “Every month, I take it for a check-up and water servicing,” he says. “Once in three months, it gets a fresh wax coat.”
The S10 car is also special because it has been signed by former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. “Only 500 cars were manufactured,” says Nimish. And all these cars, painted in yellow, and numbered individually, have been signed by Sachin, on the bonnet, at the back and on the sides.
Asked why he loves Fiat cars so much, Nimish, who owns three, says, “Fiat cars have a different feel to it. It offers more safety features, as compared to other cars. The most important thing is the easy handling. The body is solid and can take an impact well. As a result, the fatality rate is low.”
This love was engendered in his childhood. “It was a household name in my family for a long time,” he says. “The company has had its ups and downs. But, today, it is on a resurgence.”
The Thiruvananthapuram-based Nimish, a human resource professional, worked in Kuwait for a few years. When he returned, he wanted to start a lifestyle club, similar to the ones he had seen in other countries. That was when he got the idea of starting a club for Fiat car lovers.
In May, 2011, he put up a page, the Team Fiat Moto Club, on Facebook. And offered free membership. Over the months, people joined from different parts of India. Today, there are 3850 members.
“The majority are from Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” says Nimish. All of them belong to the upper strata and includes IT professionals, businessmen, doctors, engineers and chartered accountants.
The club is administered by Biju Jose and Jaydev Gopakumar, apart from Nimish. “We coordinate the daily activities and set the dates and agenda for future meetings,” says Biju.
Several of the interactions of the members are online. At this moment, they are talking about the Abarth 500, a 180 bhp, two-door small car, which is expected to cost Rs 25 lakh. However, the existing price range of Fiat cars is from Rs. 3.5 lakh to Rs 12 lakh.
Interestingly, not many people know that the Fiat 1.3 multi litre engine is a big success. “About 13 cars use it,” says Jaydev Gopakumar. “Apart from Tata, Maruti's entire diesel range is based on the Fiat engine.”
Meanwhile, the club members interact regularly with Fiat officials based in India. “They are open and receptive,” says Jaydev. “They give us advance notice of new cars coming to India. Fiat has ambitious plans. They have set up 120 dealerships all over India and several more are in the pipeline.”
Apart from online discussions, there are physical meetings. “We have rides based on certain concepts,” says Nimish. “Last year, we had a winter drive from Thiruvananthapuram to Wayanad, 550 kms away. We posted the event on the club page. People came from Kochi, Chennai, and Coimbatore. It was fun.”
For their annual meet in September, 2012, 60 members, along with their families, went to Ooty. “We met new members and established contacts,” says Biju. “It was time well spent because we are all like-minded people.”
Finally, when asked whether he loves his wife or his car more, Nimish says, with a smile, “I knew my Fiat before I met my wife. But, seriously, I love them both passionately.”(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)