In recent months, there has been a lot of talk about super apps replacing all other apps. Everything from fintech to social apps to groceries and ride-hailing apps is looking to evolve into an all-in-one platform. Super apps are typically single mobile applications designed to provide multiple services under a single virtual umbrella. So, instead of relying on multiple apps for different services, users can have access to a plethora of seemingly unrelated services in a single location on their mobile phones. The idea is to make it convenient for people to use a single login for all possible needs. Worldwide, these platforms are seen as virtual malls, and different geographies respond to the trend differently.
The idea of super apps has been around for a long time. In the West, gamers have been experimenting with super apps for a few years, but they haven’t yet gained speed or mass popularity. It remains to be seen how consumers in the UK, US and Europe respond, when larger players like Meta, etc. has entered this space.
China’s experience is different. The world’s most populous country has been able to measure super apps on Alibaba and Tencent because of their sudden growth in internet penetration — more on that below. But the overall experience across Asia has yet to see any noticeable growth in the super apps space. Although India is still new to the space, super apps are unlikely to be considered revolutionary disrupters in the mobile B2C space. There are several reasons for this:
To start, the scenario of super apps in India looks a bit discouraging as there are already solid leaders in the industry for different product categories. Distracting current leaders in their categories is difficult, due to the deep capital and investments people have made.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, except in China, the global trajectory of super apps has not been the most encouraging. So far, no one company in the world has been completely successful, everyone embraces the super app model. Players like Salesforce and ServiceNow worked hard to design ecosystems that started with core offerings, but soon found solutions and services that were logical partners in its bouquet of applications.
The Chinese players who have made traction have a lot of contextual history to their credit, starting with their journey to digital penetration across China. Tencent, the Chinese tech behemoth and leader in the super app realm, did just that with its WeChat app — the messaging services app that served as a virtual platform for enabling life online in China. WeChat first successfully introduced the concept of a super app. Soon, it became more than just a social networking platform and offered its over billion users an entire ecosystem of services that included payment services, gaming, doctor consulting, financing and loan services. , hotel reservations, and car purchases.
But China’s experience is different for another reason. China has been able to scale the super app model due to weaker regulations. India, on the other hand, is a highly regulated country especially when it comes to fintech, lending, peer-to-peer or marketplace models.
Super apps are also likely to face challenges because they are not enough to commit to generating value for partners. The foundation of any digital ecosystem is to generate profitable growth for each participating partner. Most super app models today have become monopolies or at best duopolies and this makes their long-term future questionable.
Moreover, it is important for a successful digital ecosystem to develop customer-centric offers and for this not only the volume of user interaction but also its stickiness. For developing real customer value proposals, a large amount of investment needs to be made.
It’s important for super app aspirants to understand that one person can’t reign in multiple segments and still provide the best user experience. It is not possible to be a leader in every category. There are special apps for travel, shopping, payment and more where companies provide the best experience to their users. This is not for super apps to provide.
Another thing that super app gamers don’t take into account is that diversity is the spice of life. Shopping is an experience users value. There are recreational elements in shopping or engaging services that people want to experience. Super apps can look valid and monochromatic to a user. While reducing ease of use, they eliminate the convenience of visiting different online retailers or brands to understand the diversity and many options available.
Furthermore, in a country like India, customer trust — especially in online spaces, where people are relatively wary of virtual scams — plays an important role. The consumer should not be ignored. Finally, for users to trust a platform with all their information, the robustness of the platform’s security framework needs to be more than commendable. It’s undeniable that super apps offer some benefits to customers and present new opportunities for business, but for super apps to have a fighting chance against users ’favorite standalone apps that Indian, they just don’t need to offer a seamless user experience in the marketplace with strong customers. appeal, but they should also offer more than solid cybersecurity commitments to data and information payments. With the super crowded internet ecosystem and many apps vying for people’s attention, a super app needs to cut the clutter and prove itself as a necessity rather than a luxury to be incorporated into people’s lives and not only grab but keep attention. A tough question by any standard.
(Upasana Taku is Co-founder and COO of Mobikwik)