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Tata Steel's digital home solutions springs a surprise

By Ishita Ayan Dutt
October 30, 2019 09:00 IST

Aashiyana, the digital platform for home solutions by Tata Steel has impressed the century-old steel giant, not just in terms of the commercial potential it has unlocked but also by opening up new trails for customer engagement with a younger demographic., says Ishita Ayan Dutt.

IMAGE: A Tata Steel sign outside their plant in Scunthorpe, northern England. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

With Rs 100 crore as revenue within a year of inception, Aashiyana, the digital platform for home solutions by Tata Steel has sprung a surprise on the century-old steel giant, not just in terms of the commercial potential it has unlocked but also by opening up new trails for customer engagement with a younger demographic.

More than 10,000 customers have availed Aashiyana's services so far and Tata Steel is looking at upping its digital presence significantly, the company said.

Aashiyana is poised to end the current year with revenues of Rs 250 crore, said Peeyush Gupta, vice-president, steel (marketing and sales), Tata Steel, and by 2025, it would grow to Rs 1,000 crore.

In the first six months of the current year, it has already clocked in revenues of Rs 100 crore.

However, even as steel finds its sheen under the digital spotlight, the big challenge hereon is managing customer expectations.

Especially in a market without borders where the customer is always online.

Who buys steel online?

Typically, the profile of an Aashiyana consumer is a person in the 30-45 age group, a working professional building her own house in a metro-semi-urban town and often, people of Indian origin who have made their home in various parts of the world.

"Through the portal, we have received orders from consumers based outside India, when she is building a home in her home town,"Gupta said.

Tata Steel launched the early engagement e-commerce platform in July 2018, to address the varied needs of individual home builders (IHB), a core customer segment for its Rs 5,800 crore retail Brand, Tata Tiscon (rebars).

The platform also hosts its other retail brands Tata Wiron (wire), Tata Structura (tubes), Tata Shaktee (roofing sheets), Tata Agrico (hand tools) and Pravesh (doors and windows), most of which address IHBs as the major consumer segment.

More than 10,000 customers have bought material from the site, many are NRIs.

"Aashiyana is an e-commerce engine that provides a platform for Tata Steel's branded play to come in,"Gupta said.

But Aashiyana is much more than just an e-selling platform for Tata Steel products.

It hosts over 5,000 service providers that help the customer build a home with Tata Steel acting as the anchor.

From a large range of architectural designs to browsing for a trusted service provider in their locality, Tata Steel is gradually turning into an anchor for the home builder.

And what started off as an online product purchase platform has now donned the mantle of a trusted influencer.

Tata Steel has been steadily beating its path close to the customer's door for about 15-20 years.

The first step was building a retail footprint.

Gupta explains, "We are now present in 10,000-11,000 shops around the country which are standard retail shops that sell various kind of products including Tata Steel.

"Some have chosen to be exclusive Tata Steel retailers.

"But still India is a vast country and Aashiyana reaches out to customers anywhere," added Gupta.

Tata Steel started branding steel about two decades back to break the commodity cycle and for stronger cash flows with a premium pricing.

The company however believes that the branding journey ought to be traced back to as far as back 1925 when agricultural handheld implements were branded Tata Agrico.

The major leap, however, was in 2001-2002, when Tata Steel began labelling and packaging basic steel products like sheets, construction bars and even coils to stand out in a fragmented and undifferentiated market.

In 2003, Steelium, a branded cold rolled product, was launched.

Alongside, the packaging underwent an overhaul and customer-centric campaigns such as Customer First-Har haal main (always) were launched.

The strategy paid off even in a depressed market at the time.

Today, to keep its brand relevant and on top of a volatile market, the company is putting its might behind the digital platform.

It will not be a substitute for the physical retail network that it has built over the years but work in tandem, Gupta says.

Even if the product is ordered online, servicing of the order is through the physical store.

This works well for customers and for the business lines, a win-win formula for all.

Ishita Ayan Dutt in Kolkata
Source: source