The superapp is making an appearance in the global app market in a big way. There are several up and coming apps that are gaining popularity in the Asia-Pacific region, including Grab, MoMo, and Robinhood.
The term ‘superapp’ was originally coined in 2010 by Mike Lazaridis, the founder of BlackBerry, when smartphones were starting to become more common. He described a superapp as, “a closed ecosystem of many apps that people would use every day because they offer such a seamless, integrated, contextualized, and efficient experience.”
Essentially, a superapp is a single application that enables the user to utilise several different services on one mega platform. There are already existing examples of superapps, for example, WeChat and AliPay, both of which are eWallets from China. WeChat has several other built-in applications like messaging, shopping, gaming and more, while AliPay is mostly centred around financial interactions like transferring money, issuing payments, and purchasing transportation and other goods and services. Both have become industry standards for the superapp concept.
WeChat started as a messaging app that now encompasses the entire scope of online services, allowing users to pay for products in stores and online, take out loans, book taxis, make hotel reservations, game, and much more, all the while acting similarly to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
WeChat also allows developers to build mini-apps on it, mostly centred around commerce, allowing it to generate US$240 billion in 2020 alone, more than double from the previous year.
Mike Lazaridis predicted correctly, as we are currently experiencing the rise of superapps, not only coming from China, but also from across the globe. Many apps similar to WeChat have begun to spring up in the past few years and are gaining traction, all competing to be the ultimate superapp. The more functionality an app has and the more services offered, the more they will draw users away from other apps, and onto their platform.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is also encroaching on superapp territory with its purchase of Whatsapp and Instagram, incorporating tools from one to the next. Meta will also introduce virtual reality (VR) to these platforms.
There are several superapp contenders popping up in the APAC region, including Grab from Singapore, MoMo from Vietnam, Robinhood in Thailand, Gojek in Indonesia, among many others. The industry is expected to expand due to the extremely large customer base available in the APAC region. Furthermore, Grab and GoJek are currently the biggest and best funded, incentivising other companies to invest in this trend.
Superapps are a popular business choice, as the ultimate goal is to increase screen time on one singular app, which is more possible when the app has multiple functions. Continue reading to learn more about each superapp.
Singapore-based Grab may be at the forefront of these contenders with a valuation of US$40 billion. Originally a food delivery platform, Grab now enables all kinds of deliveries, a digital financial service called GrabPay that offers a physical card, enterprise tools, and a merchant platform, as well as a ride-hailing service.
According to Grab, “these services connect consumers from all walks of life with everyday entrepreneurs, providing delightful experiences, and fulfilling the everyday needs of millions across 428 cities and 8 countries.”
The company has recently appointed a new Chief Operating Officer, Alex Hungate, former CEO of HSBC Singapore, to manage the growing company’s mobility, delivery, and newer financial services arms, as well marketing and user satisfaction. Grab’s financial arm is the newest, and working to fill service gaps for their users, after Grab Financial Group Head Reuben Lai noted, “that six out of 10 people across South East Asia are underserved by banks.”
Thai food delivery platform Robinhood is also looking to expand into superapp territory by planning a complete digital upgrade this year, and by using its network of delivery drivers to deliver orders from supermarkets and e-commerce platforms. Robinhood recently won the Nikkei Award for Superior Products and Services, most likely because, compared to other food delivery services like Grab, Robinhood does not charge restaurants commission fees.
The app has attracted 2.3 million users since its October 2020 debut in Bangkok. According to Robinhood app developer, Purple Ventures managing director, Srihanath Lamsam has stated that the app will continue to develop into “an online travel agent with bookings for hotels, air tickets, travel activities, car rentals, and travel insurance as an option for small and midsize enterprises to save costs on online travel agency commissions and fees,” called Robinhood Travel. In addition, they are hoping to launch Robinhood Mart for food delivery, and Robinhood Express, a goods delivery service.
Gojek in Indonesia is another serious contender for the next big superapp, having planned a merger with Indonesian e-commerce giant Tokopedia valued at US$18 billion, allowing the company to go head to head with main competitor Grab. Gojek began as a motorcycle ride-hailing app, but now includes services like food and grocery delivery, parcel delivery, movie ticketing, and more.
The app now has over 2 million drivers, and is active in 5 countries – Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines – with over 20 different services on one platform. According to Gojek, the app has contributed a value of US$7.1 billion to the Indonesian economy in 2019. The app has been downloaded over 190 million times since 2015, and has over 900 thousand GoFood merchants, their online food delivery service. Gojek is working on expansion outside of their current markets, securing their place as a top contending superapp in the Asia Pacific region.
MoMo is an up-and-coming superapp that is currently operating in Vietnam. MoMo offers financial services such as their eWallet, insurance, money transferring, and bill-payments, as well as food and grocery delivery, gaming, and flight ticket purchasing. The services this superapp provides are very extensive, and the eWallet has recently been granted unicorn status, having raised US$200 million in its latest funding round.
The app, unlike the many others that started as delivery or ride-hailing services, began as a SIM card app, allowing users to transfer money to their cards and even purchase scratch cards. The app has 31 million users in Vietnam, and is looking to expand its reach into more rural areas of the country, making e-commerce and all its other services more accessible to the wider population.
According to CEO Nguyen Manh Tuong, MoMo’s goal is “to improve the life of the Vietnamese people and merchants through technology, by giving them access to superior, simpler and affordable financial solutions.”
If anything, this demonstrates the good superapps can do – making their services more accessible to those who may not be in central locations. Their main efforts at this moment are focused on expanding in Vietnam.
The superapp industry is still a growing one, particularly in the West. However, we are already seeing great strides being made here in APAC. As investment increases in superapps, global interest and user bases are expanding, which may lead to a future where the majority of your screen time could be spent on a single app.
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