- The race between Grab, Gojek and AirAsia is heating up in Southeast Asia when it comes to regional super apps and their offerings, especially outside of each company’s core business.
In China, superapps are permeating almost every aspect of people’s digital lives, and before we knew it, the same concept was quickly gaining traction in Southeast Asia, South America, and even the West. Outside of China, however, the only place to see tremendous success with superapps is Southeast Asia, where companies like Grab, Gojek, AirAsia, and even a handful of others have successfully pushed the idea of an app that offers a single point of access to a diverse range of products and services.
One of the prime examples of a successful superapp actually comes from China. Known as WeChat, the platform powered by Tencent has evolved from a simple messaging platform to the world’s first and most widely used superapp. To date, the app has amassed over 1.2 billion users with an ecosystem of more than a million widgets within its app. As with any super app, WeChat also started out as a single-service app with payment integration, but increasing customer demand opened the door for further development through the integration of a variety of other services.
Inevitably, pandemic buying also led to the rise of superapps as people appreciated their simplicity and convenience. In fact, many companies around the world wanted to repeat WeChat’s solid success. In the second year of the pandemic, big names in Southeast Asia like GoJek, Grab, and even AirAsia themselves have snagged a slice of the superapp pie — all by allowing their users to do almost anything in their ecosystem.
Corresponding a report Released jointly by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company earlier this year, a surge in digital service usage hints at a forthcoming “digital decade” in Southeast Asia, in which the internet economy could reach a gross merchandise value (GMV) of US$1 trillion 2030. “Of these digital services, e-commerce and food delivery are the main growth drivers; Both services are the mainstays of superapps, pointing to their outsized role in bringing about the digital decade,” according to the report stressed.
Tech Wire Asia took a look at three of Southeast Asia’s leading superapps – Gojek, Grab, AirAsia – and carved out their unique propositions to understand what sets them apart.
Singapore’s Grab: From e-hailing to everything in between
A Singapore-born unicorn, Grab was founded in 2012 as a ride-hailing service. The company eventually expanded its operations in not only in the ride hailing sector, but also in new business areas such as grocery delivery, grocery shopping, logistics delivery, financial services and countless others depending on the Southeast Asian country in which it operates.
Among its key services is Grab, which is known for its QR code-based mobile payment application called GrabPay, which is available in all six Southeast Asian countries where it operates, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the USA Philippines. The payment, made primarily to supplement ride-hailing and grocery delivery services, supports all in-store purchases and money transfers.
GrabPay eventually expanded its financial services offering postpaid and installment options in some countries to capitalize on the “buy now, pay later” trend. Added and as part of its strategy to establish itself as a superappGrab also began offering meal delivery services under the GrabFood name in May 2018. The service is now offered in more than 200 cities in several Southeast Asian countries.
The most valuable thing in Indonesia: Gojek
Unlike China’s WeChat, which started as a messaging service, Grab and Gojek both offer ride-hailing as a core service and quickly became must-have apps in the regions. In recent years, the two companies have burned billions while striving to establish a dominant position across the region and outperform world-class competitors.
Gojek was founded in Indonesia in 2010 as a call center for motorcycle hailing and courier services and launched its app in 2015. Today the company also operates in Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. Despite its international expansion, Indonesia, the largest single market in the region, is the epicenter of Gojek; The country accounts for over 90% of its city operations.
Corresponding a blog entry By Gojek, the superapp has so far garnered more than 125 million downloads, nearly half the population of Indonesia, with a total order volume of 6600 times in 36 months. Gojek already has over two dozen products, and every year the company adds more ammunition to its arsenal. Gojek sees its payment services than its largest moat. “Once you handle money for a user, you can build a castle of services within it,” it said.
For comparison, GoPay is accepted by nearly 300,000 online and offline merchants in Indonesia and processes an annualized Gross Transaction Value (GTV) of up to $6.3 billion, if not more. Just last year, Gojek completed the acquisition of Tokopedia founding the GoTo Group, Indonesia’s largest technology group. The merger between the two tech giants is the largest in Indonesian history.
Experts believe the deal, which combines Tokopedia’s e-commerce business with Gojek’s ride-hailing and payments businesses, forms a “WeChat of Southeast Asia.”
The ASEAN App: AirAsia Super App
As the world stood still during the pandemic, travel and aviation were the sectors hardest hit by the lockdown measures. As the most popular low cost airline in Southeast Asia is AirAsia saw the setbacks caused by the pandemic as an opportunity to accelerate its digital transformation and align its business to more than just one airline.
To address the challenges of operating an airline during a global pandemic, AirAsia decided to focus on developing its digital and other non-passenger airline business. This is how an AirAsia superapp was born in several Southeast Asian markets – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. In these countries, AirAsia provides food delivery, ride-hailing services, airline ticket and accommodation booking, grocery shopping, financial services, e-commerce platform and cross-border e-commerce logistics through its super app.
The company has also been vigorous in its expansion in the region and even had acquired Gojek’s Thai operations as part of his plan to spread his wings. What separates AirAsia from Gojek and Grab is the fact that it has a wealth of data from years of being a low-cost airline that has allowed the company to grow and adapt services based on consumer wants and needs at a rate a lot faster than Grab and Gojek.
That being said, all three superapps have their strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, consumers are finding these apps more and more convenient for them. It remains to be seen which will be the best in the region, but as the competition grows, these apps will only add more consumer features in the future.