Of Sand, Goa and a ZICA-licious affair

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Regardless of whether you’re bitten by the travel bug or not, there are barely few activities that  can stand its ground against a the pleasure of a 60km drive through the scenic and coastal roads of Goa.  

Now, what if I said you’d be doing this awesome drive, with a group of fun (and sometimes crazy) bloggers who you’ve known virtually for a while and that you'll be completing kick ass (and bizarre) activities while doing so? Yes, the introvert in me shuddered too, when I first heard it. In fact, I almost decided to back out. But I didn’t.

 

In retrospect, attending it was the best decision I’d taken in a while.

 

So, along with 59 other bloggers who Tata Motors and Indiblogger had decided were #madeofgreat, I set off for Goa on the 5th of December 2015. Despite the fact that all 60 of us were flying in from various parts of the country, the Wizcraft and Indiblogger team who were handling the logistics of the trip, ensured that we all landed in Goa around the same time. Fortunately for me, I also had the company of some of my friends from the virtual world who were travelling from Bangalore. We also managed to connect with a few (about 20 of them!) of our fellow bloggers when we had a stopover at Mumbai airport.

 

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We landed in Goa and were given a warm welcome by the Tata team along with Naveen from Indiblogger. Eagerly grabbing our belongings from the baggage carousel, we hopped aboard the luxury coach that the kind  folks at Alila Diwa had sent for us. We exchanged a quick round of high-fives and niceties with our fellow bloggers who’d also flown in from Kolkata. The 20-min drive from the airport to the luxurious resort passed in a haze, as we all ‘reconnected’ over topics from food and a groupfie.  
A 'busfie' with some really famous bloggers. No, not me
As the coach turned a sharp corner, we had our first glimpse of the resort that would be our abode for the weekend. I’ve stayed in a few different hotels and resorts in Goa, but Alila Diwa would rank among the best that I’ve had the opportunity to stay in. I’ll also take this opportunity to specially mention the tastefully done interiors of the resort, that boasted of immaculately manicured lawns and tastefully done paintings that were bathed in the warm yellow glow of the sun, and gently invited us to explore the resort.   As the courteous Alila Diwa staff took care of our belongings and check-in details, we skipped off to have lunch, where some amazing drool-worthy food was waiting to be devoured. After lunch, we were shown to our rooms - most of us were grouped up together and put up in different wings of the resort. We were fortunate enough to be given a large suite right at the back of the resort, with views of a gorgeous sunset and overlooking a private pool and with a large private balcony.  
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  Sadly, we didn’t get much time to enjoy the amenities of the room; we quickly changed into our beach wear (erm..shorts and tees, I mean - not sure what you were thinking!) and joined the rest of the team in the front of the resort. We were huddled into groups of four and set off for some fun activities at the nearby Majorda beach. The two hours at the beach were quite eventful - ranging from selfies, groupies to an innovative mixed team game of football; What better way to showcase some of the highlights than through the slide show below!
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Sad as we were to leave the beach after a couple of hours, we knew that we had a fun-filled evening to look forward to. After a quick shower and change, we headed to the open patio where the Tata and Indiblogger team had organised a quick-fire ‘Blogging 101’ session; one that was very interactive with lots of hilarious anecdotes - from how blogging helped someone get money back from a group of scam artists to how it felt to be a full-time blogger. As always, Anoop curated the session extremely well and with all the ‘ice’ broken, we were all soon laughing away, while stuffing our face with some amazing snacks that the hotel had provided.

 

After the session, we were all geared up for the session by Tata Motors. Truth be told, we were all a bit apprehensive about what to expect; after all, we were all from different backgrounds and had different blog niches. But we were in for a surprise. As we marched into a ‘purpose-built-locker room set’, our jaws dropped. As the initial pleasant surprise turned into amazement, we looked around the room - only to discover that we all had personalised sections with a ‘Number 10 - Messi’ jersey, along with a bag full of interesting goodies. As the excitement levels in the room rose, all of us took out our cameras and smartphones and went ‘click-click’ in various poses - from the famous duck-lip pouts to ‘Look, I’ve got a Messi jersey’ pose!

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As we settled down on the benches, that Tata team unlocked yet another surprise - a coach for all of us, in the form of the witty and hilarious, Cyrus Sahukar. Of course, there were a few fangirl (and probably boy) moments as everyone cheered Cyrus on, as he ran in dribbling a football. A quick ice breaker session later, which saw many of us laugh and some even blush, he turned over the reigns to Delna Avari - Head of Marketing and the person who was responsible for signing on Lionel Messi as the global brand ambassador for Tata Motors.   Delna regaled us with stories of ‘How she met Messi’ and why they chose him as the best icon for their #madeofgreat campaign and subsequently for the Zica. And having sat through the very interactive and engaging session, it’s quite evident that Tata Motors has successfully managed to build on the existing trust and incorporate the cool and next generation factors into their new Zica car.   As Delna walked away after a rapturous applause from all of us, the Head of Design -Pratap Bose coolly took her place. Once again, a few of us were concerned that things were going to get technical at this point. But Pratap, who by the way is an awesome singer and has a way of commanding your attention, charmed us all with his smile and soon we were being awed by the design journey that the Zica underwent - from paper to 3D models to the actual cars. He even shared some insider details about the design that most automobile firms would probably never share! And honestly, that was a welcome change for a lot of us and reaffirmed our faith in the brand and the way they work.   Of course, no product launch is complete without quick overview of the technology and technical aspects that go into it. And it’s no different for the new Zica either. But wait, actually it was. Despite being an engineer, I find it mundane to trudge through technical specifications. But the Head of Engineering - Anand Kulkarni - managed to keep all our attention and remained focussed on giving us all a birds;eye and layman’s overview of the engineering aspects and technology that went into it.
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Delna soon came back on stage to wind up the briefing with a promotional video for the new ZICA. As the lights were dimmed and the sound systems were cranked up, we were soon immersed in the video, admiring the images of the car. But, the biggest surprise package was still yet to be unveiled.
As the video ended, various coloured lights lit up the room and  the doors of the locker room slid open, to reveal the gorgeous new ZICA - with her curves and resplendent in all her sunburst orange glory. The whole theatrics of this reveal is what made the event even more special. As all of us rushed towards her, we noticed that members of the actual design and engineering team that worked on the ZICA were standing at dedicated stations - each of them ready to tackle any question we could throw at them.
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Personally, I’ve never attended a pre-launch event for a car before. So I was pleasantly surprised by the entire event as  well as how knowledgable everyone there was. Of course, they were the people who worked on the car - but most tech savvy people tend to forget that their audience is actually the common man and woman, who sometimes need to be walked through the specs and how it benefits them. And the entire team did just that.

Here are some of the key features and USPs of the new ZICA, that we were shown. [Courtesy the Media kit from Tata Motors]
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After the event, we were invited to the open patio once again, where all huddled together for one large group photo. This soon paved way for the cocktail dinner and karaoke that a lot of bloggers as well as some of the Tata team took part in. And as the alcohol and wine kept flowing non-stop, and the Alila Diwa team refilled our plates, we all joined in the fun - from posing with a virtual Messi to cheering on Vinita Bahl (aka BlogwatiG) as she belted out Ice-Ice Baby with Cyrus Sahukar.

 

Since pictures talk louder than words, here are a few!

  [gallery type="slideshow" link="none" size="full" ids="3510,3509,3511,3512,3513,3515,3514"]   And as the moon slowly hid behind the clouds, all of us decided to call it a day too. But not before some of us met up for a quick exchange of Secret Santa gifts. As Sunday dawned, we all got our wakeup calls nice and early. After all, it was the big day - the day of the test drive. We’d all been split into 20 teams of 3 members each the previous night itself. Kitting ourselves up in the ‘Messi’ kits, we had a quick pit stop for a sumptuous continental and Indian breakfast in the dining area.  Needless to say, the two ‘biggest’ bloggers in the group - Doc. Roshan Radhakrishnan and me, of course - decided to attack the ‘sweets and dessert’ bar first.
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Once we were all ‘fuelled’ up, we met our team-mates, signed the necessary forms and were handed the keys to our cars. I’m sure you’ll hear every other person say this, but I had a fabulous team - Ekta & Ajay. We test drove the Petrol version of the ZICA. After a few initial briefs and a quick run-down of the navigation system and the very advanced connect next system powered by Harman, we flagged off at around 830 am. Each car was closely followed by a Tata Aria, purely as a support vehicle, in case something went wrong.

 

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The routes were preprogrammed and we were going to cover about 60kms over varying terrains in about 3 -4 hours; thereby giving us enough time to get acclimatised to the vehicle and all of its features. But no road trip is complete with a few challenges. So the teams from Tata Motors and Indiblogger decided to up the ante by giving us 29 challenges to complete and answer - each picked by a Twitter user. They were of varying difficulty levels - from counting the number of hexagons on the front grill of the ZICA to using the car as a prop for a Bollywood dance number.

 

Since I didn’t drive, I was in charge of navigation and periodically checking the WhatsApp group for any updates and challenge notifications. There were 29 in total - if I’m not wrong, we completed 25 or 26. So not a bad job. Here are a couple of sample tweets of the challenges we completed!

https://twitter.com/iwrotethose/status/673382133793087488

https://twitter.com/iwrotethose/status/673379004217352192

 

And finally, the much awaited prelaunch review of the ZICA.  Or rather, what I thought about the car itself.

What was #fantastico about it

 

  • The overall designBoth the interiors and exteriors of the car is pretty awesome. In fact, as much as I don’t enjoy driving or being driven in a hatchback, I would say the ZICA could singlehandedly bring back the cool quotient for hatchbacks. Each part - from the arrow shaped door handles to the sleek curves of the rear / brake lights. It’s very evident that a lot of hours. love and hard work has gone into finalising the details of the car; Designers from Tata’s three design studios across Pune, Turin and Coventry have collaborated to make the car more expressive and exciting, and it shows
  • The ConnectNext infotainment system by HARMANThis is hands down one of the best features of the car; from the jukebox app that connects everyone in the car to the music system to the parking sensors and the eight speaker-system is in fact, a category first. The sound quality is exceptional and I specially love the way the volume of the song automatically lowers when there is a navigational message
  • The two modes for drivingThe ZICA has two modes that caters to make it an all round car and help with better fuel efficiency. The Eco mode is an intuitive mode that helps  you maximise fuel efficiency by preempting gear-shifts and speeds. The city mode is what I’d call the ‘zippy mode’ - perfect for open roads and when you want to push the vehicle to higher speeds. We tried the car in both modes
  • Location of controls and accessibilityBoth these features rank high for me personally as a driver, and the ZICA quite literally ‘hits the nail right on the head’ with these. The controls are easily accessible  and whereas a lot of other cars in this category give a very cramped feel when it comes to controls, it isn’t so for the ZICA. Even the dashboard is finished smartly with just enough details to tell the driver about the important details, but not too much to act as a distraction. I also love that it has more than enough space to place your tablet, phone, bottles, cups and of course, the chilled glove compartment totally takes the drink..i mean..cake
  • PerformanceThis is based on the general feedback I got from the drivers, since I didn’t test drive it myself. Both the Petrol and Diesel variants seemed to perform very well on Goa roads; of course, in a traffic-congested and pothole-filled city like Bangalore, things may be different. Most drivers were impressed with the power steering as well as the control of the car at high speeds. A couple of them even mentioned that the suspensions and shock-absorbers were remarkable and they hardly realised when they either sped atop some speed bumps or a few minor potholes.
  • StorageThe Zica also wins hands down for storage and boot space. Usually hatchbacks tend to get really cramped for space; not with the ZICA. Not only does it have ample boot space, but even plenty of leg room inside the car.

 

If I needed to be picky, the only think I'd say that needs to improve is :

  • The navigation systemWe’re not sure if this was a temporary glitch, but almost every one of the 20 cars that were test driven ran into navigational trouble at some point. In fact, a couple of them even got lost, simply because the navigation system refused to operate effectively

 

While the pricing hasn’t been revealed yet, the Zica will need to be competitively priced in order to win in this segment.

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Overall, my personal view is that the new ZICA from Tata Motors is definitely a front-runner in the ‘race of the hatchbacks’, and truly grabs all the right attention with its #fantastico design.

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And as I wrap up this post, I’d like to extend my gratitude to the entire team of Tata Motors - especially Delna, Pratap and Anand - for giving us so many insights into the new ZICA.

Thank you Team Indiblogger - Vineet, Swati, Naveen and Anoop - you guys have been fabulous and we all truly had an amazing time.

Also extending my thanks to the team at Alila Diwa for some great hospitality.

 

And last but not the least, while every blogger who attended the event is truly special and #madeofgreat in their own way, I need to mention a few special bloggers-turned-friends who really made this a #fantastico event and trip for me personally.

 

Roshan Radhakrishnan, Vinita Bahl, Anindya S Basu, Zainab Attari, Ankita Bhatia, Ankita Singhal, Vaisakhi Mishra, Uttpal Khot, Rahul Prabhakar, Pooja Mahimkar, Ajay Kontham, Anita, Shilpa Garg, Ekta P,  Senthilkumar R, Arunraj R.

 

Good lord! That’s starting to sound like an Oscar speech! ?

 

Thank you for reading this 'rather long and detailed' post about the event. If you get to test drive the ZICA when it launches, please do! You may well fall in love with it.

Thank you Goa and Zica for a great event. Img courtesy: Tata Motors

While this is entire event was sponsored by Tata Motors, I assure you that all opinions here are mine and entirely honest. I really liked the car and think it could be a definite winner for the hatchback category.