Friday 8 January 2016

Tata Group knocks on startups’ door for e-commerce venture

MUMBAI: India's largest conglomerate the Tata Group is seeking the help of startups to help it roll out its much-awaited e-commerce venture. Group firms such as watch-to-jewellery retailer Titan Industries and electronic goods seller Croma are talking to startups for technology inputs, a move that will expedite the rollout and also reduce their dependence on IT company, Tata Consultancy Services.

Technology and ecommerce executives in both companies have met startups working in customer data analytics, payments, mobile application design and website optimization, two people with knowledge of the Tata's group's technology plans told ET. The rush is needed as rival group Reliance Industries has already rolled out their venture 'Jio' for their employees in December and an official rollout is expected by April.

"The idea is that the startups will be able to deliver quicker because they typically have APIs that speed up integration. It also makes sense to diversify providers and not be solely dependent on TCS for the technology and services that will be needed to drive ecommerce," one of the persons said.

The person added that it would also be better to work with startups in areas of technology -- such as a smooth digital payments system, or granular customer analytics -- as they would have siginificant expertise and focus on that specialization.

The second person said that Maneesh Mittal, head of e-commerce for Infiniti Retail, and Kuruvilla Markose, chief digital officer for Titan, were interacting with startups. Infiniti Retail is the Tata Group company that runs the Croma electronics chain.

In an emailed response to ET, Croma's Mittal said that while the company has been talking to some startups, there was no conscious decision to work with them.

"We are in various stages of discussions with many technology, payments and analytics companies -- these include some established players as well as many startups," Mittal said.

He added that TCS was the company's technology partner in its ongoing migration to a new e-commerce technology platform and was helping Croma in developing the first phase of its upcoming native mobile application. TCS has also helped the company identify suitable technology partners. 

"The relationship between Croma and TCS obviously goes beyond the commercial arrangements which may change from time to time and project to project," Mittal said.

Titan had not responded to ET's request seeking comment at the time of going to press. TCS declined to comment, saying it was in its silent period ahead of its third-quarter results next week.

The talks with the startups come as the Tata Group's e-commerce venture enters its final phase. Tata Unistore, the unit spearheading the online retailing project, will work with the group companies through liason teams, ET had previously reported.

The salt-to-software conglomerate is in advanced talks with top brands across categories to complete the integration with their offline stores, with major focus on smartphones, consumer electronics and fashion, which account for 80% of ecommerce sales in India. Experts say that Tata Group is not alone in tapping startups for expertise in the new ways of doing business online.

"This is not unique to Tata and in fact more and more large conglomerates are building an eco-system of startup as angel investor or stakeholders so that they can drive innovation in their organizations. These are new technologies and some of the specialized niche firms will do better than the existing ones. If not in-house, then it is better to source is from external parties," a technology partner at one of the big four consultancy players said. He declined to be identified because he works with some Tata Group companies.

No comments:

Post a Comment