Suggestions that Indian industrial conglomerates Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata were targeting Jaguar and Land Rover initially caught a few commentators by surprise.

But dig a bit deeper and it begins to make sense. Firstly, the two firms are big enough - Tata group has 96 companies with a combined turnover of $21.9 billion, Mahindra & Mahindra is no slouch with sales of about $4.5 billion.

Both firms have aspirations to be global players and having these two brands on board would surely help.

Add in the residual affection in India for Land Rover in particular and it becomes apparent that these two are going to give the private equity firms already in the frame a run for their money. But why would they be interested in taking on two companies which between them lost Ford £159 million before tax last year?

If Ford couldn't make a profit out of the pair (well, Land Rover is profitable but Jaguar isn't) - what chance the Indians?

Also it seemed strange when you looked at their previous activities in the automotive market.

Tata has been talking about producing lower cost cars, it's so called One Lakh car is planned to retail for $2,500 and targeted at India's lower income market.

One analyst said: "If I was Tata, given my ambitions to be a mass market producer of an affordable car, the idea you should devote your energies to turn around a niche upmarket car producer in England seems a bit strange."

If it is the technology the Indians are after, there are surely cheaper ways of doing it than buying two whole companies for an estimate price of around £1.5 billion.

But the Indians do have the advantage over private equity bidders who have been hit by the sub-prime lending crisis in the US, and would be seen as more likely to cut jobs.

This is no mere sentimental attachment by Ford as it leaves behind the two marques - it is seriously concerned about its global image and doesn't want to be seen as handing over to some slash and burn operation.

A move by Mahindra & Mahindra could be more strategic.

The company is among the top 10 industrial houses in India and the only Indian company among the top four tractor manufacturers in the world and is the market leader in multi-utility vehicles in India.

It claims about half of the Indian market for utility vehicles, and has laid out ambitious plans to launch an SUV into the US market within a few years.

Acquiring Land Rover and its established sales network could give Mahindra easier access to the US and European markets.

One of the major problems to face Land Rover in the coming years could be the need to reduce carbon emissions to fit in with EU directives and also reduce fuel consumption as petrol prices increase.

Mahindra's technology could help them do that - it is certainly going to be facing the same problems itself.

They've also worked in the UK - and number Stokes Forgings (UK) which has sites in Walsall and Dudley - among their global assets.

The Indians are serious players - and could well emerge the winners.