MUMBAI—Tata's joint venture with Singapore Airlines has hired IPAN H+K Strategies to oversee public relations as it prepares to start flights in September.

Tata-SIA, which is 51% owned by Tata and 49% by Singapore Airlines, selected IPAN following a competitive review that featured Edelman and three other firms — Adfactors, Avian Media and MSLGroup.

The assignment is thought to mark the first time in several years that Tata has put a PR brief up for pitch. The group's domestic PR remit is overseen Rediffusion-Edelman, following the shutdown of local firm Vaishnavi in 2011.

Tata-SIA spokesperson Sanjay Singh told the Holmes Report that the JV "decided to see what was available" in terms of PR agencies,

"The Indian skies are not very friendly to a new airline," said Singh, referring to the public scrutiny the venture has received from the country's aviation regulator, following objections from other domestic carriers.

Those objections have been dismissed, but IPAN will still be expected to focus on winning public support and addressing public affairs issues, said Singh.

"We need the strategic advice and we also need people to look out for key data - we wanted somebody who would think like us and stick by us," said Singh. "[IPAN] had a very concrete plan for the first 6 months."

Tata-SIA will become India's third full-service domestic carrier, alongside Air India and Jet Airways. It is Tata's second airline venture, after the conglomerate previously took a minority stake in AirAsia's low-cost Indian airline, which will compete with a several domestic budget carriers.  

The PR assignment is also welcome news for IPAN H+K, which recently lost key account Microsoft to Edelman.

While Singh noted that IPAN's lack of airline experience had put it at a disadvantage in the pitch, the agency recently handled the successful launch of Mumbai's new international airport terminal.