The Indian conglomerate Tata Group plans to launch its “super app” as soon as next month, bringing together many of its established and recently acquired consumer services for the first time as the salt-to-software giant attempts to go head-to-head with rivals, including Jio Platforms and Amazon.
The firm originally planned to launch the app, called TataNeu, to consumers early last year and has been testing it with its employees for several quarters. It plans to launch a major marketing blitz at the IPL cricket tournament in April this year to promote TataNeu.
There’s only one hiccup.
Despite the delays, TataNeu looks anything but modern and executives at the firm are still scrambling to figure out how they can draw customers to the super app, according to two people familiar with the matter and materials provided to TechCrunch.
The app includes online grocer BigBasket, in which Tata Digital acquired a majority stake last year, retail chain Croma, entertainment service Tata Play, luxury portfolio TataCLiQ, flight ticketing with AirAsia, IHCL, which operates Taj hotel, and food and business offerings from Starbucks, which operates in India in a joint venture with Tata Group, and many more services.
TataNeu also offers the ability to send people money and pay broadband, electricity, water and satellite TV bills and secure loans. (The payments hook is interesting. Tata is additionally also one of the key players that is bidding for the NUE license to help build and leverage a new Indian payments infrastructure that is positioned to compete with widely adopted UPI.)
But the app is comically buggy, horribly slow and the integrations merely point to different Tata services via an in-app browser — sometimes with the desktop view on a phone.
The app that Tata is testing with its employees is the same it plans to offer its consumers and no major revamp is in the works, a person familiar with the matter said.
To incentivize customers, Tata plans to offer them “NeuCoins” as reward, where one NeuCoin will be 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.
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 155-year-old giant is positioned to conjure up the largest loyalty program in the country.
“TataNeu is a unified platform that connects several brands across the Tata universe like never before. Designed to be a super-app, TataNeu offers everything from daily grocery, electronics, finance solutions, flights, holidays, and more. Each brand on TataNeu is connected by a common reward called NeuCoins, which can be earned across all brands online and at physical locations and can be used similarly as well,” Tata says.
But customers can accrue NeuCoins by shopping with BigBasket and other Tata services directly and don’t need to use the TataNeu app for it, according to Tata’s current plan. And the firm, which reaches hundreds of millions of consumers in India, is struggling to get some brands, including Starbucks and others in which its ownership or partnership is limited, to fully or even partially participate in the new loyalty program, according to one person briefed on the matter.
A lot is riding on Tata’s consumer digital push. It is targeting a GMV of $10 billion for the fiscal year ending in March 2023, Indian news and analysis publication the CapTable reported earlier this month.
Like Reliance Industries — which raised over $27 billion from scores of high-profile investors including Meta and Google for its digital and retail empires two years ago — Tata Group is also in the market to raise money for its super app. At last two major investors have already made up their mind to not invest, according to people familiar with the matter.
A Tata Digital spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment this week.