This SUV owners' group straddles adventure and philanthropy, and has even got the CM's attention

Sep 16, 2018, 09:15 IST | Anju Maskeri

Meet Mumbai TUVians, a group of 88 car owners with a self-professed love for all things automobile. Their activities have not only been noticed by Anand Mahindra, but also Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis

This SUV owners' group straddles adventure and philanthropy, and has even got the CM's attention
The TUVians at a social meet-up

Each time chef Varun Ramachandran steps out of his Shivaji Park home, he ensures there are a clutch of visiting cards on him. The bad**s cards — bathed in black — have nothing to do with the professional life of the 35-year-old, who heads a food and lifestyle television channel. It reads: "Congratulations on owning a TUV. We are a group of passionate owners and would like you to be part of this journey. Join us on WhatsApp..." The cards have been printed with the sole purpose of networking with fellow owners of the Mahindra TUV, the luxury SUV manufactured by the automobile brand.

Interestingly, Ramachandran was the first Mumbaikar to buy the model when it launched in 2014. Since then, there have been three upgrades with Mahindra TUV 300 Plus being the latest in the market. "The one I drive with 80 bhp doesn't exist anymore. But, it doesn't matter which version you own, as long it is a TUV," he says. His love for the car is such that if he spots one, he makes it a point to go over and hand the card to the owner. "And if it's in the parking lot, I simply place it on the windshield," he laughs. More often than not, he receives a call back from curious owners eager to learn more.

A step up
Meet Mumbai TUVians, a group of 88 car owners with a self-professed love for all things automobile. Their activities have not only been noticed by Anand Mahindra, chairman and managing director of Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, who often retweets their posts, but also Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, whose office has invited them for a chat, on learning that they recently adopted three villages in Pen, a town in Raigad district So, what is it about a car that is making Ramachandran and his group build a community around it?

Co-founder Varun Ramachandran
Co-founder Varun Ramachandran

"This is about every person who always dreamt of owning an SUV because at one point of time in India, say even three years ago, the SUV was reserved for the cream of society. It was like the American dream," he says. For Ramachandran, the transition from a hatchback to a SUV was a chance to tread terrains that were initially out of bounds. "Finally, I had to the opportunity to go offroading and drive on practically roadless areas smoothly, which is not always possible with a small car," he says.

No business, please
The conversations on the group revolve strictly around cars — from hacks that customer service won't tell you to identifying anomalies and fixing them. As a rule, the group forbids anything that is done with a commercial interest. Despite owning an SUV for the first time, most members of the group aren't first-time car owners. But none remember being part of a group comprising owners. Banker Jatin Lakhani, who joined the group last December, believes it comes from the fact that they are sailing in the same boat. "It's a relatively new car. We were new SUV owners, and any source of knowledge on the car was welcome," he says.

Lakhani, like most on the group, is obsessed with his machine. "If it's not behaving properly, I need to get to the root of it. And here was a group where I could find like-minded people," he says. But the fact that the group has people owning different variants invariably leads to raging debates on which car is better. "Of course, it's not done with condescension. Whatever we discuss here is done with good intent," says Ramachandran.

Taking it forward
The group makes it a point to meet every month. "At our meets, you'll see children and even grandparents, after all it's a seven-seater," says fellow founding member and credit policy consultant, Ajay Nadkarni. Their first meet was at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in January. The following trips to a resort in Raigad, an old-age home, and then to Pen, saw numbers swelling. They no longer need the cards to spread the word. "People started enquiring when they saw our videos on Twitter," says Nadkarni.

The philanthropic turn of events, though, was a natural progression. "Since we considered ourselves as family, there was a need to do something more selflessly," Nadkarni says. It's this activity that caught Mahindra's attention, who wrote a personal mail to Nadkarni and Ramachandran lauding the initiative. "He said your activities are inspiring, and I'm happy that your group has been able to sustain it," he smiles.

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