Aishwarya Ramesh & Benita Chacko

In with the 'Neu': analysing Tata's foray into the super app space

Can the newly launched app help build customer loyalty?

Tata Group launched its super app Tata Neu for the public on April 7. It aims to be a one-stop destination for shopping, ordering medicines, and booking services like flights and hotels.

Tata-owned brands including BigBasket, 1mg, Croma, AirAsia, IHCL, Qmin, Starbucks, Tata Cliq, Tata Play, and Westside will be available on the super app initially. Vistara, Air India, Titan, Tanishq, and Tata Motors will also be added soon.

The app was officially unveiled in November 2021, but was accessible only to the employees of the 154-year-old Tata Group at the time. It was officially unveiled to the public on April 7 in the -midst the IPL, which is sponsored by the Tata Group.

The app offers a feature called the Neu Pass - which incentivises customers by bringing together existing loyalty programmes offered by individual brands under one. Any money spent on Tata Neu will give users cashback in the form of Neu Coins. These Neu Coins are then redeemable across all services listed on the super app.

It also has a dedicated tab called ‘Stories’ that includes buying guides and stories from IPL. Being the main sponsor of IPL 2022, it has access to special videos and articles on IPL teams and players to attract cricket fans.

Simply put, a super-app is an integration of different types of apps all on one platform. That is from shopping to ordering food to booking flights- all can be done on one platform. It is a common concept in China. For example, Tencent’s WeChat is used to message friends, buy groceries, hail a ride, and even book a doctor's appointment. telecommunication apps like Jio, Airtel and Vi are also experimenting with it in India.

In a press release, Pratik Pal, CEO, Tata Digital said, “The journey of Tata Neu has begun with a cumulative consumer base of 120 million users, 2,500 offline stores, along with an 80 million app footprint across our digital assets. We have over a dozen consumer facing brands ranging from electronics, fashion, travel, hospitality, groceries, pharmacy, and financial services.”

Mahesh Murthy, venture capitalist and head of Pinstorm, a digital marketing firm enumerates that there are two kinds of integration that make super apps successful. “The first is brand integration - where consumers believe they're buying from one reliable source. And the second is platform integration, where third parties can build freely on top of whatever is there. For instance, the success of Tencent is entirely due to its open API and hordes of developers jumping on it,” he says.

He argues that Tata Neu doesn't do either. “Not too many Indians will know that Air Asia, Big Basket, Croma, Westside, IHCL are all Tata brands. It's a strange omission to have Tata's potentially unifying logo missing from all these vendor screens. Makes it appear like a random collection of stores,” he opines.

Mahesh Murthy
Mahesh Murthy

Murthy also points out that there really isn't an ability for third parties to build on the platform. “One could imagine someone creating a gift store with items from Croma, Westside and Taj. Or a travel offering with Taj, Ginger, Air Asia and Air India. Letting that idea and entrepreneurship free could have ignited the platform. But as of now, neither is there. So Tata has to offer a bribe of 5 per cent loyalty rewards across the stores to get us to use this place as opposed to using them separately. Currently that virtual discount is the only reason to use the app. There are many more reasons to buy online than rewards points,” he elaborates.

He thinks that the response will be less than an effort like this deserves. “Tata is trying to be a player in digital India. I don't think this step is enough of a play, though. Tata just doesn't have a compelling offering that could help it win the game,” he shrugs.

Suman Srivastava, a brand consultant, founder and innovation artist at Marketing Unplugged adds that this is more of a play to gain users’ loyalty than it is to get new users. “Many of the brands that are part of a Tata Neu app – most people don’t even know that say, 1mg is a Tata brand or Vistara is a Tata brand. There is no synergy between these products. This could be an attempt to get synergy and get that loyalty.” he opines.

Suman Srivastava
Suman Srivastava

Srivastava also adds that in most parts of the world, the concept of a ‘super loyalty’ program hasn’t worked, save for a few countries. “The ultimate goal would be if the consumer continued to use Tata products because of the loyalty program. Marketers love the thought of everything under one roof. Consumers, not so much. In the mobile world, it barely matters. Installing an app is a low effort exercise,” he explains.

He mentions that a solid way to create synergy between these brands is to create a common store of points that can be redeemed across brands.

Ramdas Shenoy, a brand consultant asks - "Tata Neu will provide all their services on one app - from booking flight tickets to from Big Basket. When consumers are already used to doing these things on other apps what will be their incentive to move to Tata Neu? Actually unless there is a clear differential and incentives, it is difficult to make the transition."

He agrees that, Tata is too late to this game. "Tata strategically could have a different game plan or could acquire other apps, so that it becomes a comprehensive app. With Tata trust element, people could then move to it as a one app offering," he concludes.

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