Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata said on Wednesday the growth of e-commerce and e-tailing is likely to change the face of merchandising and marketing in the country.
Tata, who has so far invested in about 10 start-ups — mostly e-commerce and technology companies — said he will continue to invest in start-ups dealing in health, connectivity and access to new technologies. “I am interested in enterprises that reach and serve
the common man, start-ups looking at health, empowerment of women and enterprises that use new technologies and those firms who provide access to Internet,” said Tata.
He, however, admitted that valuations are high in the e-commerce sector. While refusing to divulge the amount so far invested in the start-ups, he said these companies need to be nurtured in initial stages. “I had not been involved in the angel funding of start-ups, I come after that and not all start-ups are going to be successful, so it is important to nurture the start-ups, especially the promising companies. I won’t be able to comment how start-ups should be nurtured. I too am learning and you can say that I am fledgling in the e-commerce space”, he said.
Speaking to media persons, after participating in the convocation of Great Lakes Institute of Management, he said the normal brick-and-mortar retail structures do not have the potential to get consumers into a discussion, whereas e-commerce and e-tailing platforms have far more reach as they empower and enable consumers to do the same. “Strong managers and start-ups created a disruptive environment in the US in the 70s and 80s, giving birth to innovative companies like Apple and Facebook. This is now happening in India,” he said.
Taking questions from students, he said he was afraid of making investments when he was at the helm at Tata Group. “When I was in Tata group, I was deadly afraid of making investments in any start-ups because of the conflict of interest within the Group, given the diversity of the group. Now for last three years, I have been a free man and I see great potential in young managers and start-ups and I am making token investments in my personal capacity,” he said.