| | The First Indian Scooter: Atlanta
Circa 1961, Atlanta was born in a small shed at Kaimanam near Trivandrum. It was the time when the now vintage lambrettas and Vespas ruled the road. Atlanta is an indigenously built 2 wheeler by P.S. Thankappan, an Engineer in the labor department, who hails from Chathannoor, Kollam district, Kerala . The Atlanta was the brainchild of N.H. Rajkumar who was the joint director of the labor department. He was later awarded IAS for his professional excellence. He passed away in 2007. After completing a training in Japan In 1957, N.H. Rajkumar was highly motivated and the idea of an Indian built scooter was conceived and it is from here, the Atlanta was born on papers.
Since the attempt to form a public limited was failed, Mr. Rajkumar started a company by himself and named it Ranjan Motor India after his beloved sons Anil Ranjan and Vinayan Ranjan. The Travancore Royal family helped by taking the first shares in the company and it was worth 2 lakhs INR. The total capital of the company was 5 lakhs INR. The body of the Atlanta was made of fiber. The only foreign parts in Atlanta were the Carburetor and the dynamo. The rest of the scooter were indigenously made, including the piston .Dr. Vinayan still remember his dad's sleepless night's working on Atlanta's sketches and the pre-production prototype paper works. He also remembers driving his dad's dream circa 1976-77. The same Atlanta is still with Dr. Vinayan.
To get the license for the bulk production of the Atlanta from central Govt., Mr. Thankappan took the scooter to New Delhi in train. It was in 1966 when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister of our country. P.K. Vasudevan Nair and the ex- Palakkad MP Mr. Balachandra Menon where the ones who arranged the meeting with Indira Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi. Thankappan also drove the Atlanta to the Prime Minister’s residence in style.
Indira Gandhi herself asked Mr. Thankappan to remove certain parts and asked him to explain in detail. As said by Thankappan, Mrs Gandhi had a good knowledge about automobiles. As per the instructions from Mrs Gandhi, Mr. Dinesh Singh’s (former central labor minister) planning advisory committee was appointed to look in the technical aspects of the Atlanta. The technical committee had 28 members and they had many discussions with Thankappan for few days and at last a Sardar with heavy physique asked Thankappan to ride the Atlanta with him as pillion. Thankappan still remember that journey as he ride the Atlanta in front of India gate along the steep road. Within time, Mr. Thankappan returned from Delhi and the approval for the bulk production of Atlanta was given to start in Trivandrum.
The production model cost was 1500 INR with 30 kmpl of petrol. The production forecast was 22,5000 per year. There were dealers at Kolkata, Madras and Hyderabad.
But Atlanta was not a big success. By 1971, Atlanta was took over by the Engineer's co-operative society named 'ENCOS'. It was the labor issues which compelled Mr. Rajkumar to leave the company as said by Dr. Vinayan. Later ENCOS focused on manufacturing three wheelers. In between, Birla group showed interest in taking up the Atlanta but T.V. Thomas (former labor minister) opposed it as he needed Atlanta to be functional from Kerala. Later ENCOs was transformed to Kerala Automobiles LTD. (KAL) and Atlanta became history. Mr. Thankappan later retired as joint director from the Labor department and also was the first MD of artisan's corporation.