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Tata's Croma stores launch online shop

Erika Kinetz, AP Business Writer

MUMBAI, India (AP) -- Ratan Tata and his designated successor stood side by side Monday to launch the Tata Group's online electronics goods shop, their first joint public appearance in India.

Tata, the 74-year-old chairman of the venerable Tata group, is expected to hand over power to Cyrus Mistry, 43, by year's end.

Monday's announcement had all the trappings of a coming-out party, with pretty girls in blue saris, banks of theater lights, and posters of larger-than-life appliances, PlayStations and home entertainment systems.

Tata's Croma stores are making a somewhat belated entry into e-commerce in India.

Two alums of Amazon.com launched the popular online site Flipkart.com in 2007. Amazon itself launched a watered-down version of its online shopping portal, called Junglee.com, in February. The Future Group, a large Indian retailer, already has an online marketplace for electronics and other goods. Tata Group company Landmark also sells books and music online.

Internet penetration in India is still low. India's e-commerce market is expected to grow from $10 billion in 2011 to $200 billion by 2020, as the number of Indians with Internet access expands eightfold to 800 million, according to Technopak Advisors, a consulting company based in New Delhi.

Mistry and Tata wore matching black suits amid the swirling lights and throbbing music.

Tata ordered three Xolo smartphones from www.cromaretail.com. Two delivery boys in white caps promptly trotted out and delivered the phones, a choreographed show of efficiency despite a 90-minute delay in the start of the news conference.

Mistry announced his first major hire earlier this month. Madhu Kannan, the 38-year-old charismatic chief executive of the Bombay Stock Exchange, will become group head of business development at Tata Sons, the holding company that oversees the Tata empire, and report directly to Mistry.