The popularity of super apps is exploding...and they are set to go global

Published: Fri 25 Feb 2022, 4:08 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 Feb 2022, 12:59 PM

Super apps are forging a new revolutionary path in how we interact with online services. This may seem like a bold statement but the evidence is all around us. Their popularity has grown to the point that in Asia they are used every day without a question. Super apps essentially serve as a single portal to a wide range of virtual products and services. They bundle together services such as online messaging, social media, marketplaces, banking functionality and other features such as hailing taxis and ordering food. And all from one app. One app, one sign-in, one user experience, for virtually any product or service a customer may want or need. It’s due to this unrivalled versatility, that super apps have quickly become ingrained into users’ daily lives. They are building a strong brand reputation in financial services. Super apps have access to an unprecedented amount of customer data, and they are using this to deliver better customer experiences across the board. It’s hardly surprising then that globally, the super app trend is very much in a growth phase. And with e-commerce and digital payment methods growing in adoption, super apps are poised to become a truly global phenomenon in 2022 and beyond. Let’s take a look at some of the most promising super apps in Asia that are driving and defining the super app trend.



Kaspi – Kazakhstan, Central Asia

Kaspi has cut a swathe through the territories it operates in with a business model divided across three platforms: payments, marketplace and fintech. Within these platforms, there are services that range from P2P payments to a shopping club, location services, an online 24/7 personal finance management tool and more. Kaspi has certainly notched up impressive figures. To date, it has 9.3 million active users using its payment services, 4.1 million using its marketplace and 4.5 million using fintech services. The number of merchants interacting with the super app currently stands at 182,000. The draw for merchants is illustrated by Kaspi Travel which reached 1 million in ticket sales by Q3 in 2021. Strong top line growth, significant profits and potential for further margin growth is reflected in its impressive market capitalization of $17.7 billion.

HUMANS.uz — Uzbekistan, Central Asia

HUMANS.uz super-app brings together a fintech service, mobile phone cellular services, and an online payment system that also provides a cashback function. It’s the first and only super app in Uzbekistan and its impressive success since launch reveals a hunger for super app tech. HUMANS.uz provides a raft of essential services in one place including a simple digital bank, a mobile operator which provides services that are clear and straightforward, and an easy-to-use cashback service. All elements of the super-app are interconnected so, for instance, the phone balance is combined with a bank card account. Users receive cashback for top-ups, savings, transfers, purchases and paying utilities and public service.

Launched in November 2020, the app became the most downloaded app in the country within the first six months. As of 2021 it has acquired 1.6 million active users and garnered over $25 million in revenue. In 2021, almost half a million users made a purchase through the marketplace at least once and over 550,000 Humans visa bank cards have been activated, and all in a country of just 35 million people.

Gojek — Indonesia, Southeast Asia

The Gojek super app provides more than 20 services such as transport, payments, food delivery, logistics, and more. It was founded in 2010 in response to Jakarta’s traffic congestion, starting out as a call center for a fleet of 20 motorcycle-taxi drivers. It’s growth since then has been remarkable. It connects users to over two million registered partners, and 500,000 GoFood merchants. It has registered more than 190 million downloads across the region and has also helped boost financial inclusion with its financial service offerings.

Line — Japan, East Asia

Line is a super app that started life as a communication tool in 2011 in South Korea. It was launched three months after, and in response to, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan. The aim was to provide people with a reliable line of communication during disasters, but it soon became an everyday messaging tool. Since its launch, Line has become the leading social platform in Japan, with roughly 68 per cent of the population on the app and a near unrivalled presence on the Japanese market, YouTube to one side. Its mission is to become a ‘life infrastructure’ for users and today it includes news, social feeds, banking and healthcare services. It’s available in 17 languages to cater for the main language groups in Japan and language sub-groups as well as English and Korean.

Data goldmines

One of the compelling benefits of super app development is the data that is gathered on customers and how this data can be used to deliver better customer experiences. For instance, data insight can improve operational processes, such as social media and transactional data can be used to risk-assess loan applicants and better target financial products to customers, at the exact time they need them.

In contrast, traditional banks, with their siloed data and mainframe technology estates, are struggling to get as good a view of their customers. In fact, super apps are building their brand reputations in financial services. Successful and growing super apps have strong relationships with banking arms who are using the super app’s brand reputation and reach to access new customers and build trust in financial services.

Offering payment services within the app may not seem standard but a marketplace without a payment mechanism may be doomed from the start. This is why payment services such as MercadoPago and AmazonPay for instance are becoming ever more popular as a preferred payment method on third-party sites. This illustrates the importance of centralising a super app around financial capabilities and embedded payment services.

Going global

Of course, it would be easy to dismiss super apps as an Asian phenomenon, but the reality is they are emerging in almost every market around the world, and as seen with the examples above, also coming from unconventional places. Super app innovation is coming to Western Europe. Companies in almost every industry that do not want to lose out to a super app are thinking about how they can integrate several services together within one app, rather than focusing solely on specialisation, in order to tap into this growth potential.

This also dovetails with evolving consumer preferences. After nearly a decade of fragmentation and unbundling of services in their lives, Western consumers are starting to revert towards bundled services. Instead of having multiple apps for ordering food, ride-sharing and payment options, they want just one.

They may not be specifically demanding super apps, but they certainly want the convenience and simplicity that super apps can offer. To leverage this demand, the Humans super app for instance is set to launch in Germany soon. As an early entrant into a receptive market, it will likely have a significant impact. Simplicity and convenience are the reasons for the outstanding success of super apps across Asia. In a fractured world of multi apps, the same needs are set to provide a launchpad for similar success in the West.


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