Tata-Singapore Airlines Seeks Catchy Brand Name

The proposed airline has approached two advertising agencies to suggest a new brand name ahead of its launch.


Feb. 24--MUMBAI -- Tata Sons Ltd and Singapore Airlines Ltd's (SIA) joint venture has asked advertising agencies to create a catchy new brand name that will reflect the freshness of the proposed full-service airline instead of using the established and trusted Tata or Singapore Airlines brands.

The proposed airline, which is awaiting final clearances from the government, has approached two advertising agencies to suggest a new brand name ahead of its launch, according to two people close to the development who declined to be named.

In September, Tata Sons (51%), the holding company of the Tata group, and Singapore Airlines (49%) teamed up for a third time to start an airline after their plans were thwarted twice before. In December, the venture applied for a no-objection certificate from the aviation ministry and is working towards starting the airline by the start of the next financial year, although experts anticipate delays because of regulatory red tape and a national election that is due by May.

Spokespersons for Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines declined to comment on the development.

The new name will not bear the names of the two partners, but will reflect freshness and connect to Indian flyers, said one of the people cited above.

"Tata-SIA has asked (two advertising agencies) to explore a different and fresh name," said the second person cited above. "Nothing has been finalized about naming the airline." The branding will happen only after achieving certain milestones including receiving clearances from the government, he added.

The Tata-Singapore Airlines venture has opted to operate Airbus A320 planes and plans to lease 20 such planes.

On the face of it, it is foolish not to leverage the brand of Tata or Singapore Airlines, according to Ramesh Jude Thomas, president and chief knowledge officer at Equitor Management Consulting (Pvt.) Ltd, a brand value management firm. However, he added that the companies may want to avoid complications linked to owning a brand at a later stage.

"By opting for a new name, they may be aiming at two things. Firstly, to avoid too much attention. Secondly, they want to offer a fresh service with no brand baggage. But they would be offering back-end capabilities of both groups," Thomas said.

To be sure, Tata Sons had named its original airline venture Tata Air Lines, till it was converted into the national carrier. On 29 July 1946, Tata Air Lines was renamed Air India Ltd, and later in August 1953 it was nationalized with J.R.D. Tata as its chairman.

On the other hand, Singapore Airlines has not given its name to associate airlines. For instance, its regional airline is named SilkAir (Singapore) Pte Ltd and low-fare unit is named Tiger Airways Singapore Pte Ltd, in which Singapore Airlines has a 40% stake. Both these airlines fly to India already. Singapore Airlines's ultra-low fare airline is named Scoot Pte. Ltd. Scoot also plans to fly to India.

In an interview to Tata Review, the Tata group's internal publication, Mukund Rajan, a member of the group executive council and brand custodian of Tata Sons, said: "Early flag bearers who had the Tata name were allowed to continue using it; second-generation companies leverage the parent's name; third-generation companies present their names in a certain manner; and new companies may or may not be given the benefit of using the Tata name."

Rajan told Tata Review that his group is revisiting its brand equity and business promotion document to discuss issues of using the Tata name. "For example, it has been suggested to us that by not allowing new businesses to use the Tata name, we deny them the opportunity to take advantage of our brand equity," Rajan said in January.

"In an ideal situation, a brand name must reflect or give a flavour of the core belief or philosophy of the brand. For example, Nike is the Greek goddess of victory and Nike is all about winning. Or Meru (cab company) is the unshakeable mountain and Meru is all about dependability," said Kiran Khalap, co-founder, Chlorophyll Brand and Communications Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.

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