Elif Merve Topal

Miniature Operating Systems for Life: “Super Apps”

☕️ 4 min read
Would you like an application that allows you to communicate, shop online, order cars, read books, play games, take out food, and pay for everything? In fact, these super apps already exist! WeChat, Alipay, GoJek and Grab (maintain its own “app store” that hosts mini apps); with almost more than 1 billion monthly users and 1 billion active users annually, have become an integral part of the Chinese and Asian mobile ecosystem. Super applications provide financial services, including payment, insurance and investment, as well as bicycle rental, grocery delivery, shipping service, and the list goes on.

After the significant successes of WeChat and Alipay, many companies around the world have decided to adapt their super app models. With its proximity to China, Southeast Asia has become one of the first regions where super-apps have started. Singapore and Indonesia’s vehicle-call services Grab and Go-Jek are no longer just a vehicle application, they are now offering many services, such as food ordering and payment, so, earned billions of dollars. In India, PayTM has developed into one of the country’s leading applications, especially after Tapzo was acquired and closed down by Amazon last year. Not every super application is the same. While Alipay, which originated from e-commerce company, focuses more on financial services, WeChat started as a messaging application, later added many daily services such as e-commerce, games and travelto the app. In South Asia, Go-Jek and Grab started as vehicle call services, and then included delivery and financial services. Although PayTM started as a digital wallet platform, it now offers financial and daily services to its users.

‘China Internet Report 2019’, South China Morning Post The research series titled “Reshaping the Banking Experience” by KPMG, an international consultancy, audit and tax firm, point out that Super Applications, which have become a part of daily life in China and Asia, will reshape many sectors, especially finance. In the article, it is emphasized that financial sector executives should closely follow super apps and develop strategies against them for the following reasons: They take banks out Applications such as WeChat and Alipay offer basic banking services such as savings and investment. In this way, they have the potential to drive customers away from traditional financial institutions. Big data advantage Super applications have a huge amount of data on their customers. This data is processed to provide better services to customers. Traditional banks have difficulty processing their data with the same efficiency. They use brand reputation Super applications rely on the popularity and reputation of their brands while providing financial services to their users. (WeChat’s payment system is WePay, and Alibaba’s AliPay and Ali Financial). In this way, they can reach more new customers. Sinem Cantürk, from KPMG Turkey, said that the change in consumer behavior plays an important role in the emergence of super apps in Asia and China, and that such apps will be seen in the US and Europe in the near future. She also stated that; “Our research shows that the divergence and fragmentation in services has been reversing for almost 10 years. People want a single application instead of using different applications to order food, pay or call vehicles. What they want is the harmony and simplicity offered by the Super Applications.” Although, in the US and Europe, such services are offered separately for users. When Amazon was first launched in 1994, it was only selling one product (books). Since then, the company has been selling everything from clothing to electronics. As a result, people started using Amazon.com firstly, to look for what they needed. In fact, 44% of US e-commerce sales were produced by Amazon in 2017. What’s more, it offers its own hardware such as cloud computing (AWS), Prime Video and Kindle devices and a smart personal assistant (Amazon Alexa). In 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods and entered the grocery industry. We know that Amazon does not have an all-in-one application. However, the way a single company uses its large user base and uses every aspect of our lives is similar to WeChat’s success in China and GoJek in Indonesia. As a result of all these success, achieved by super apps, major changes in the way people live and do business have occurred. Before I finish my article, I’m adding the ad that I watched with great admiration of GoJek’s work.

If these applications continue to spread at this rate, it is very likely that the future will be governed by only one ‘super application’!