With an aim to launch its super app for India’s 907 million internet users, the digital arm of Tata Sons—the country’s one of the largest multinational corporations—Tata Digital, is in talks with 25-year-old online listing company JustDial to explore a strategic partnership that includes buying stakes in the latter.
“Both sides have met for discussions, but it is too early to say anything has been finalized. A lot also depends on how things evolve between the two parties,” a senior Tata official who was aware of the meeting, told local media Economic Times.
JustDial was started in 1996 by VSS Mani as a phone-based service that allowed users to find and contact local businesses. The platform was digitized with an app and a website only in 2007 that offered online listing of businesses disrupting the traditional classifieds industry which was then limited to newspapers.
Partnering with JustDial that offers a bouquet of service, would bolster Tata’s plan of launching a super app—a single platform for all kinds of services including buying groceries, apparel, booking travel tickets, and paying utility bills.
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Tata has been working on launching a super app since late last year. What works in its favor, is its leading position in the retail segment, which include food and grocery, fashion, jewelry, consumer electronics, consumer durables, financial services, education, healthcare, and bill payments, among other things. Currently, it’s working on bringing all these verticals on one digital platform.
In addition, Tata Digital is also aggressively looking to acquire online companies that are leaders in their respective categories. It has been in the market talking to a bunch of players to fast-track its super app dream.
It recently bought a majority stake in online grocery major, Big Basket for reportedly USD 1.2 billion and is waiting for approval from the Competition Commission of India. It is also in an advanced stage of discussions to pick up the majority stake in online medicine delivery company 1Mg.
It is to be noted that Tata started building its digital products in 2017-18 to tap India’s growing internet population. It already operates an online healthcare platform, Tata Health, that allows tele-consultation with doctors, medicine deliveries, and scheduling lab tests. It also operates StarQuik, an online platform to order groceries from. However, these platforms have not seen the kind of uptick it would have liked to, and thus is relying on digital startups like Big Basket and 1Mg to drive its super app endeavor.
“That’s the path they can take because it is a little late for them to start building an e-commerce arm. They don’t have time to build that expertise, and they have to raise funds also,” Satish Meena, senior forecast analyst at Forrester told KrASIA in an earlier interaction.