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Why the Tatas must be careful in merchandising its legacy

The Managing Director of Inexgro Brand Advisory explains why the legacy of the Tata brand must be nurtured carefully as the group goes into rampant expansion

Shivaji Dasgupta

Most recently, Tata Digital picked up a 64% stake in BigBaskest, India’s largest e-commerce grocery platform. In rapid sequence, the newly acquired brand resorted to full-page advertisements across major dailies, reinforcing the legacy of the reputed House and quite blatantly claiming due lineage. 

For starters, I must confess to being a passionate fan of the Tata Group, having been professionally and personally associated with many organisations for decades. Its commitment to meaningful influence is legendary and this can be verified by both process and action, in the marketplace and to employees. Legacy and trust, in my view, are outcomes of time and intent, the former being the greatest proof of its potency. Thus the older companies in the stable can lay claim to these values in a truly integrated sense, while the newer associations can certainly offer them as a process adhesive. 

So, when BigBasket is duly acquired by the Tatas, the first and foremost part of its connection must be a highly ethical and state-of-the-art process management, across policies and spheres. So it is believable that corporate governance will be made top-class and in tune to the group’s strengths but it is rather incredible that every aspect of customer delivery will overnight resonate with this legendary legacy. So, if a common citizen expects the precision of a Taj Hotel or the smartness of a Tata Harrier in daily deliveries of milk and eggs, then there is clearly a mismatch of expectations. As an aggregator such as BigBasket is dependent on a flexible value chain to ensure the accuracy and quality of products and not much more than delivery can be guaranteed with reasonable certainty. 

So, it does stand to reason that the legacy of the Tata brand must be nurtured especially carefully as the group goes into rampant expansion. It makes enormous sense for the sporting associations such as the Dorabji Tata Hockey Centre in Bhubaneswar where the process parameters are controllable but perhaps a lot more difficult in the Teleservices business, which is ruthlessly performance oriented. In the Tata Cliq luxury ensemble once again, there is reasonable control over experience but a lot less so in a Teleconsultation business which Tata Health is foraying into. In cases where the last-mile consumer delivery is a lot more subjective, only the passage of time can assure the presence of legacy and trust and the one exception is perhaps Vistara Airlines, where the obsessive perfectionism of Singapore Airlines was a perfect foil to the trust and tradition of the Indian inspiration.

Thus, in sum, as a fanboy of the Tata heritage, I feel a strange belonging having experienced its magic across engagements over time. Perhaps, the association with legacy, at least in public speak, should be preserved more diligently and be permissible only for businesses which blend demonstration with intent. In other cases, the connection can well be with the bigness and commitment of the Tata empire, which by itself is a great source of credibility and confidence. BigBasket will certainly flourish and grow even further but while business is rapidly acquired, legacy must be slowly earned. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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