Things of Internet: Tata Neu feels like a missed opportunity

Things of Internet
Things of Internet: Tata Neu feels like a missed opportunity
By Deepak / Chuck • Issue #93 • View online
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of - if not tried - the much-vaunted “SuperApp” by the Tata Group that stitches together all the group’s customer-facing services. Here’s my take on it.

A solution searching for a problem
Before I start, though, let me mention that I really wanted this to succeed. There was much scepticism around the need for an app like this, but the Tata Group has decades of experience proving everyone wrong. I too, was sceptical, but hopeful.
Sadly the app didn’t just underwhelm, it felt like a headless chicken. Disparate services all brought together with nothing more than than a parent linkage. That, and… Neu Coins. According to The Ken’s scathing and entertaining analysis (₹), Neu Coins will make sure the app will have the worst possible core audience - deal-hunters.
Here’s a few reasons why Neu feels like a missed opportunity for me.
No real raison d'etre
Putting all Tata companies together seems like a nice idea for an MBA project or a smallcase, but doing so on a single app seems awkward at best. It’s certainly admirable that as a group, the Tatas have both an e-grocer and a luxury hotel chain as viable businesses, but is that enough reason for them to be within two tiles of each other on the same app? As Obvious’ Dhruv Saxena told The Ken in that analysis, it looked like “they had shipped their org chart”. Perhaps the Tata app just willed itself into existence to take on Reliance, which I think is the wrong objective.
No real core offering
Indonesian superapp Gojek was built on the back on maximising a core service of delivery personnel on bikes. In the US, Uber is mulling a superapp as well, all tied together by delivery. There are rumours that Airbnb wants to solve for all travel. All reasonable - if not immediately viable - use cases.
Otherwise, it’s about giving a lot of services to a large audience - the playbook of WeChat and Paytm - but both began with a strong core offering before expanding - and importantly to the same audience (Paytm Mall has the same audience as Paytm wallet)
Neu has neither a ‘space’ nor a large audience hooked to a core feature. Importantly, the audiences are disparate: The Taj Hotels user certainly won’t be deal-hunting beyond a point on Croma. And really, are there such Tataholics who would want to restrict their flight searches to AirAsia and their food delivery from Taj? I’m sure such an audience exists - but wouldn’t they just prefer to use the native apps instead of going through this clunky interface?
Schizophrenic
Long ago, it was joked that a Tata superapp would be designed by 10 different departments and it certainly feels that way - each offering essentially linking out to a respective microsite. There are different fonts, different UXes, all awkwardly clumped together like a PPT made by five people. Ultimately, I fail to see why someone who uses BigBasket would prefer Neu when the former’s own app is a far superior experience (doesn’t help that Neu thinks that BB is not available in my area). In the middle, there is editorial content that while well-written seems weirdly placed. Tellingly, there’s no one wesbite for Tata Neu beyond a microsite compelling you to download it.
However: There are some recipes that have a “shop all ingredients” which leads to a curated list on BigBasket. This is a terrific idea, though one can’t help but wonder if that would be better served as a native idea.
The biggest missed opportunity: branding
What really cheeses me off about the app is not the clunky UX, but the fact that they chose to so heavily go down the “deals” route. Here are the three emails I received from Tata Neu this week: Email 1, Email 2, Email 3. All of them feel generic, offer-laden, and SO badly Photoshopped. They look like an email version of a Big Bazaar brochure. And that to me is what is most disappointing.
Oh the Photoshopping is strong in this one
Oh the Photoshopping is strong in this one
The app could have really come out of the gate with strong branding, and something memorable. If nothing else, why not leverage on the Tata legacy? Many say that Tata has enough fans (and had enough hype going into this) to download and hit DAU targets on the app. I say great - there’s your core audience right there, and leverage on it. An app that seems like a mish-mash of different businesses could still make sense with a layer of the Tata story on top of it. I mean, it doesn’t solve some of the issues above, but we live in a day and age of packaging and narrative - the irrational solving for the rational.
For all the content on the app, I don’t see anything celebrating the rich legacy of the Tata group. No note from Ratan Tata. Nothing about the company’s role in building India. There are 9 top banners - NINE! - all with some deal or the other. The launch ads all focus on deals. Can you blame The Ken for thinking the app’s core audience is a deal-seeker?
Instilling pride using the group history was, frankly, low-hanging fruit. As someone who is a fan of the Tata group (who isn’t?) and observes technology, Neu left me deeply frustrated not because of poor UX or the fact that both Android and iOS buttons on the emailer leads to the Play Store (really). It’s because here was an opportunity to create a larger narrative, sitting right there.
A hodgepodge & lack of unity
As a user of at least 5 of Tatas’ consumer-facing businesses, I was surprised I got zero emails / SMSes by any of them saying they were excited to be part of Neu, check it out, etc. There are so many unanswered questions - what does this do for existing loyalty programs? Is the priority a native app or Neu, from a group perspective?
Ultimately, Tata Neu feels like a kichdi. And one suspects that this was how the app itself was built. I hope that changes, though. This has potential, and I want a Tata superapp to succeed.
I have no doubts creating the app was an achievement and kudos to the team who pulled it off - it must not have been easy at all. But in its current avatar, it just feels like it solves no real problem or need.
As for me, now that “research” for this newsletter is done, I can finally unsubscribe from the spam that Neu sends me. Only, I have to wait 5 days, it seems. So much for digital first and all that.
The updates section
  • Speaking of superapps, its poignant that this week, Gojek had a really strong showing during its IPO. BTW, a case study on their employer branding I wrote for The Hard Copy in 2020.
  • FIFA launches its own OTT - FIFA+ - which has a lot of leagues (Mongolian 2nd division!) and results. All free as of now. This should be interesting to observe.
  • Google’s new ‘multisearch’ (using Lens) blends text and images. This is a move away from keyword-based search. This should be interesting to observe.
  • LEGO is partnering with Epic Games (the makers of Fortnite) to create a metaverse safe for kids.
  • Ogilvy will no longer work with creators who edit their bodies / faces for ads. Well, wow!
  • Americans’ trust in Big Tech firms reaches a new low.
  • An experiment to watch out for in the Indian e-commerce space is ONDC - a sort of “UPI for ecomm”. It’s idealistic, complicated and perhaps even unnecessary. Still, let’s see how it goes.
  • Fortnite maker Epic raised $2 billion from Sony and Kirkbi, Lego’s holding company.
  • Netflix is introducing a double thumbs up!
  • GenZ has a new app - it’s called BeReal and limits you to one post a day. It forces authenticity by setting a time limit too!
  • Some Goans are unable to access pensions because government systems are unable to process (or have made errors with) surnames like D'Gama, D'Costa and so on. Scroll has cheekily titled their article on this D'Prived.
  • Last year, someone bought Jack Dorsey’s first tweet as an NFT for $2.9M. Recently, he tried to auction it for $48M. The top bid ended up being $280. Looks like the NFT bubble is finally popping.
The reads section
  • The world of the metaverse / NFTs cannot afford to exclude women. (And initial reports of harassment of avatars give us one more piece of evidence why)
  • Russia is not necessarily losing the misinformation war - those who think they are need to look beyond liberal western bubbles.
  • How Russian content creators are now struggling.
  • How Fortnite maker Epic Games’ Unreal Engine could change the future of gaming and the metaverse.
  • Why Netflix should sell ads - an interesting perspective that shows how difficult maintaining momentum in content is difficult, even for the biggest of the lot.
  • The lovely concept of “digital rest stop” (signupwall) - calming videos / images on your social media feed that are meant to be an escape from consumerism and doomscrolling. (Also, a pretty neat term: Cottagecore)
  • Slightly related: The importance of TikTok for fashion trends. Key line: “No age group has ever had as much historical fashion knowledge and primary sources to draw from as young people do today, with the entirety of the last twenty years documented online.”
  • Pretty neat tool for calculating banking carbon footprint.
Check out my new branded content! :D
I’m pretty thrilled to announce this - I’m hosting a new show for cult.fit. It’s a podcast called One Rep At A Time - where I look at various aspects of fitness. I interview folks, do some research and aim to demystify and deconstruct healthy living. With a little humour and trivia along the way.
It’s tailored for folks who are looking to kick-start their fitness journey. I’d love it if you gave it a try! There are 4 short episodes + 1 long episode every week totaling to around an hour.
Check it out on Spotify | Apple Podcasts.
Things of Things of Internet
Last week, I encouraged you to write in with projects you’re doing! Please send them across, I’d love to showcase them.
This week: Good friend, long-time collaborator and Things of Internet reader Tony Sebastian would like to share his new podcast, Bits & Pieces. The friendliest cricket podcast, it features a rotating cast of hosts and guests all talking about the game in a friendly, non-expert way. It genuinely feels like I’m a fly on the wall while some Bangalore friends are drinking at Toit. Check it out: Spotify | Apple
See you next week!
Agreed with my take on Neu? Have a project you’d like to share? Send it across. Hit that reply button. I love hearing from you.
PS: Things of Internet will be on a break for 2 weeks in May as I am finally taking a vacation. I’ll try to schedule some reads for you in my absence - else will extend all paying members’ subscriptions.
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Deepak / Chuck
By Deepak / Chuck

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