Decoder: What Are Super Apps?

A super app is essentially a one-stop app created by a company, bundling a bunch of services or separate apps within it, aspiring to cover every need of the consumer such as social media, travel, cab services, movie tickets, utility payments, insurance, food, fashion, marketplaces, content, health and wellness to name a few. These offerings will often be bound by a common account and a robust in-app payment system.

On the contrary, any other app, in general, will be specialising in one of these services or categories such as Uber for cabs, Swiggy for food and grocery delivery, and Netflix for movies and content.

The phenomenon of super apps gained more prominence in the East, especially China as compared to the West. China’s WeChat is currently the most sophisticated super app globally. It started as a messaging app and now offers social media services, marketplaces, cab-hailing, making dinner reservations, booking movie tickets and so on—all through instant messaging.

 As of 2020, WeChat had over 1.2 billion monthly active users. Alipay too has treaded a similar path in China and has a massive userbase. 

The success of super apps in emerging markets is not a coincidence. According to a report by Sturgeon Capital, “Super apps are strongly aligned with emerging market governments, not least because of their role in shrinking the grey economy. The Indonesian President fired a cabinet member who appeared to be anti-Gojek (the country's super app) and then appointed Gojek’s founder to his next cabinet. This is in stark contrast to the US and EU leaders, who are extremely hostile to the super app ambitions of Amazon, Facebook, and Google.”

Companies in the West, too, have been exploring and adding several services within their apps gradually but not explicitly coming out as a super app.

Article first appeared on Hindu Business Line

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