Tata Group set to crowdsource ideas for new watches, maybe even cars


December 16, 2015

Devina Sengupta & Jochelle Mendonca, The Economic Times

Mumbai, 16 December 2015

Consumers could have a say in the watch or even car produced by the Tata Group as its companies strengthen social media and digital platforms by crowd sourcing ideas.

Titan, which sells watches and spectacles, will be among the first to start asking consumers for detailed inputs in the next few months. The plan may be replicated across consumer-facing units such as Trent and Tata Motors.

Such companies use listening tools based on social media feeds to manage brand and reputation, said a data analytics partner at one of the big four accounting and consulting firms that’s working with Tata on the plan. Titan and other Tata group firms are taking this to a new level, the person said.

Consumer feedback will be used to inform product design and service delivery, said the partner, who didn’t want to be named.

Crowd sourcing is a way of getting ideas and feedback from a large group of people, primarily those who are online, rather than from employees and suppliers.

"Titan is already doing it for some of its brands," the company said in an email.

More companies are looking at this to increase engagement with customers. Over the last two years, they have been resorting to crowd sourcing to identify features and product names. Sony decided to use the method to choose the name of its new speaker range last year, while McDonald’s asked UK customers to suggest recipes for its menu.

Tata MotorsBSE 2.05 % is no stranger to such exercises.

"We involve our audience in all our new launches, by creating content and communities built around their interests which resonate with the values of the car," a spokesperson said in an email. "Crowd sourcing and social play a key role in our awareness campaigns as we recently saw in the Zica name unveil campaign, where a multi-city scavenger hunt fuelled by digital was used to reveal the name." Zica is the latest model in the Tata Motors range.

Lifestyle and retail company Trent did not respond to queries.

Unfiltered inputs mean the management team can quickly connect with what the customer is seeking.

"With growing internet penetration, the ability to aggregate such inputs has expanded dramatically while the costs have dropped," said Devangshu Dutta, CEO of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight. "Certainly, it also makes the business and the brand more approachable and friendly, if done right.

It also helps provide a different perspective.

"Businesses can get locked into familiar strategic analyses and predictable behaviour and crowd-sourced ideas can provide perspectives that may be way outside the management team’s conventional thought processes,” Dutta said.

Tata group chairman Cyrus Mistry has been focusing on digital over the past few years and all group companies have been asked to get more consumer centric.

ET reported earlier that the conglomerate had mandated customer-facing businesses to appoint chief digital officers to improve their offerings. Former Citigroup executive Deep Thomas was named head of customer analytics in February.

The new push is in line with the group’s aim to become one of the top 25 global brands in the next 10 years and double its total market value to $350 billion. The group’s total revenue stood at $108.78 billion in the year to March.

The Tata group is expected to launch its ecommerce venture in December based on the marketplace model, similar to that of Flipkart, Amazon India and Snapdeal. It will offer both Tata and non-Tata products, mainly related to electronics and lifestyle.

(Published in The Economic Times.)