Tata – The Evolution of a Corporate Brand by Morgen Witzel
Tata, as a business group and as a brand is a study in itself. Being old, it has a long, well defined and well documented history. It has multitudes of brands as they make and service anything from Salt to Steel. They have dealt with various eras in India, the British Raj, the young democratic setup, license Raj, Nationalization and finally the liberalization and globalization. Not many industrial houses can boast of this, at least not in such a varied and wide way. Then they have dimension of variety of industries, from hard-core engineering to multi format retail to services as wide as hospitality to information technology. They have businesses that carry Tata names explicitly, some not so explicitly and some not at all. They all are owned and cross-owned businesses with Tata sons being the parent or umbrella company which in turn is owned by a series a trusts.
Author begins by giving the brief history of Tata group and its founders. He talks about the reputation of Tata and brand Tata. The Reputation has been built over a century of running key businesses in the country. A brand has been consciously built over last couple of decades. Brand itself is not a single brand but consists of many sub brands, at least one for each segment of business they have. Author has tried to study the co-existence and inter-relations between these brands, the relationship of each major brand with the corporate brand and existence of brands that do not carry the Tata name but belong to the group. He has also looked at perceptions about the group and the family.
He talks about the multitude of connections that various segments of people have with the various brands of Tata group. Not with much depth, but he has tried to look at what went into creating those brands. The reputation he says is based on the long association of Tatas with the society through their social work and investing in educational and research institutes. It is also based on the work that they do for the societies in which they exist e.g. tribals in Jharkand where Tata Steel is located. He looks at the brand from the point of view of various stakeholders like consumers, employees, financial community, media, society and politicians.
Some core brand characteristics of Tatas are honesty, responsibility and fairness, which this country kind of believes in as and when they deal with Tata. Since last few years they have added the dimension of Innovation to this brand through products like Tata Nano and by entering into new age segments like IT and Telecom. Author still does not see them as aggressive and youth oriented brand, but as he says it takes ages to build a brand and I would add it takes more than that to re-align the brands.
One key aspect he has looked at is the Brand Tata in India and outside India. This is extremely important as the Tata group goes global in a more visible way. He very broadly looks at the key markets outside India where Tata are expanding their footprint and how they are perceived there. In most cases though they are more or less starting on a clean state with no image to deal with, which in my opinion is a good place to begin. A question that I would have liked the author to explore or find out is how should or how do they plan to position themselves as a brand in international markets. An Indian brand that is global like Coca-cola that is present across the world but essentially remains American in character or a Global brand with no particular association with the country of origin. I would like to see them as Indian brand going global, I think Indian-ness is in the DNA of the brand and it must remain there. Looking at the juncture at which Tata Group is today, I think this deserved a little more analysis.
The book makes an easy and quick read, with not much of data or jargon thrown in, making it a comfortable read for anyone. But as a complete book on one brand I would have expected a little more depth and something that is not known in public domain already. It is a good book for people who want a first level introduction to the largest business group in India.
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