The Indian conglomerate Tata Group, a $103 billion company whose business spans across multiple industries from salt, software, telecom to steel, is ready to embrace consumer technology. The 154-year-old giant has been working – and internally testing – its audacious plan to offer a range of services from e-commerce, grocery to hotel stay in one app to take on the likes of Walmart-owned Flipkart, Amazon and Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms. The culmination of the years of effort, called the “superapp” Tata Neu, rolled out to the public on Thursday.
Tata Neu packs nearly a dozen properties that are either owned by Tata Group or in which it has a significant stake. The services include online grocer BigBasket, electronics store Croma, pharmacy service 1mg, luxury brand Cliq, streaming app Tata Play, as well as ticketing with AirAsia and food and beverages with the coffee chain Starbucks. The app also includes Tata Pay, the giant’s own UPI payments service, which it is debuting with the launch of Neu.
Tata has been working on the app for at least three years, but it has been eyeing a bigger play in e-commerce and startup investments for at least six. News outlet The Information reported earlier discussions between Tata and Alibaba that came to an unceremonious end after the surprising departure of Cyrus Mistry, then chairman of Tata Group.
Inside the firm, many executives were still not on the same page as recently as January on how Tata Group plans to position the app, according to two people familiar with the matter. TechCrunch got early access to a February build of the app, which was plagued with bugs and strange design lapses at the time. The new version of the app – 2.0 – sees a significant improvement, according to tests on Thursday.
Tata Neu marks a significant step in the group’s ambition to take on the growing universe of digital services from the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Walmart to local billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s empire. At stake is a India’s e-retail market that is estimated to be worth nearly $150 billion in the next four years.
“Tata Neu is an exciting platform that gathers all our brands into one powerful app. Combining our traditional consumer-first approach with the modern ethos of technology, it is an all-new way to discover the wonderful world of Tata,” said N. Chandrasekaran (pictured above), the chairman of Tata Group, in a statement.
“Our aim is to make the lives of Indian consumer simpler and easier. The power of choice, a seamless experience, and loyalty will be at the centre of Tata Neu, delivering a powerful One Tata experience.
“As the Tata Neu app goes live today, it makes me proud to see so many of our trusted and loved brands Air Asia, BigBasket, Croma, IHCL, Qmin, Starbucks, Tata 1Mg, Tata CLiQ, Tata Play, Westside on the Tata Neu platform already, and Vistara, Air India, Titan, Tanishq, Tata Motors soon to join.”
To incentivize customers, Tata is offering them “NeuCoins” as reward, where one NeuCoin is equivalent to one Indian rupee. The firm plans to eventually phase out different loyalty offerings by BigBasket, 1mg and other services, and use NeuCoins universally across all its services, a person familiar with the matter said.
The rewards is one of the major focuses for Tata Group as it attempts to build a “connective layer” for its services that operate in a wide range of categories. If successful, the giant is positioned to conjure up the largest loyalty program in the country. On top of the rewards, the firm is also offering cashback and big discounts on items across all of its properties on the app.
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