NEW DELHI — In yet another example that age is no bar to modernity, the 143-year-old Tata Group has thrown its gauntlet into the etail ring, launching the e-commerce venture Tata Cliq.
The $108 billion company — which has a strong foothold in the automotive and steel industries as well as a host of retail holdings, including department store chain Westside — has been growing its brick and mortar presence over the last decade. It also has a deal to launch U.K. retailer Tesco in India; a joint venture with Spanish company Inditex, which has shown huge growth in India with Zara, and a joint venture with Starbucks that has shaken up the retail mix in malls and markets across the country.
But the launch of Tata Cliq means taking on established e-tailers such as Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal, Amazon, Jabong and eBay.
It also brings new terminology to the field with words like “phy-gital” to describe Tata’s new focus — physical plus digital, which means combining online orders with possible product pickup from its 500-plus brick-and-mortar stores, as well as the retail stores of the venture’s 12 partner brands at launch time.
Tata Cliq has made a clear move into the luxury market with an exclusive tie-up with Genesis Luxury Fashion Pvt. Ltd., which sells luxury brands including Coach, Burberry, Furla, Tumi, Hugo Boss and Jimmy Choo in India. Ashutosh Pandey, chief executive officer of Tata Cliq, said this move would help strengthen the site to launch new luxury brands in India, including those that are not currently part of the Genesis portfolio.
India’s e-commerce market is expected to grow fourfold by 2020, to $100 billion, with fashion e-commerce contributing 35 percent.
Other brick and mortar retailers have made similar moves into e-tail in the last six months. Earlier this month, Arvind Ltd., the biggest textile firm in India, launched its e-commerce site Nnnow.com. Arvind Brands, a subsidiary, has global brands including Gap Inc., Aéropostale, Calvin Klein, Gant, Nautica, US Polo, The Children’s Place and Sephora.
“Nnnow.com will integrate online and in-store shopping with same-day delivery, store pick-ups for online orders, same-day returns at stores and countrywide inventory access to customers,” said Kulin S. Lalbhai, executive director of Arvind Ltd., speaking at the launch. He said that the company expected 10 to 15 percent of its business from online sales in the next three to five years.
The site was launched through a separate division of Arvind Ltd. called Arvind Internet Ltd., with plans to invest $10 million. The customer advantage of deliveries within four to six hours, and pick up at the nearest store is part of the attraction for new customers.
The other new feature available from brick-and-mortar retailers turned into e-tailers is seamless returns and refunds at the nearest store. Most online sites refund the money into bank accounts, rather than pay cash back, for which they need customer information. Products also have to be packaged and returned and the process takes several days.
“We have seen a distinct positioning for ourselves with omnichannel and hyper-local business models as both of these require a sound offline operating system,” Lalbhai said. “We are curating fashion stories and content to instill conversation with the consumers online.”
In April, the $62.2 billion Reliance Industries Ltd., which has the largest retail network in the country with more than 3,000 stores, launched into fashion e-commerce with Ajio. The site launched with more than 200 brands — including domestic, global and private brands — cashing in on the strong supply chain and retail operations that the company has already established. The launch focused on everyday apparel with affordable brands targeted at 18- to 34-year-olds.
The launch by Aditya Birla, a fashion portal, in October was focused on a model without discounts, and fewer options. “We were choosy about what we put on the portal,” said Kumar Mangalam Birla, group chairman. New features included a 3D trial room, and starting out with 55 brands.