Super-apps gaining rapid traction | The Express Tribune


From ride-hailing services and groceries to financial services and micro-financing, development of super-apps in Pakistan, Middle-East and Africa is gaining rapid traction because these regions provide ample opportunities to the rapidly expanding sector.

A study titled ‘From online bazaar to one stop shop: the rise of super-apps in the Middle East and Africa’ found out that new businesses were seeking to emulate the Chinese-born concept and create regional success stories of their own.

The study, commissioned by Mastercard, examined how population growth, digital access, connectivity, diverse demographics and trust and affordability were contributing to the rapid progress of super-apps in the region.

It also attempted to draw parallels between the ecosystems of China – that drove the rapid rise of super-apps a decade ago – and the Middle East and Africa region, where the sector is showing a promising start.

“While multi-function applications have been popular in Asia for some time, their adoption elsewhere in the world has been slower,” it said.

The study showed that huge amount of consumers in the western counties, Middle East and Africa region and Pakistan were using different applications for messaging, hailing rides, ordering food and paying for things.

Presently, online firms are racing to bundle more features into their applications, according to the study.

With the Middle East and African region projected to become the most densely populated areas in the world, the bloc presents massive opportunity which could be leveraged by regional players, it underlined.

After conducting in-depth analysis into the Middle East and African region, the study found out that locally produced super-apps were thriving, but number of larger cross-regional players remained low.

“Usually, super-apps start off with one basic feature and then evolve overtime,” underlined Savyour Chief Product Officer Saad Gadit. “Aiming for a super-app straight off the bat is an expensive idea to execute.”

He added that the move could lure investors in, but there have been “no such success stories in the technology landscape of Pakistan so far”.

Elaborating further on the success stories, he pointed out that China and Far East Asia had produced the most successful super-apps mainly because of the policies of the respective governments aimed at censorship of external platforms.

“This factor helped local social applications achieve mushroom growth,” Gadit said.

Talking about the transition from just an application to a super-app, he underlined that to achieve that, businesses required backend support through social network, payments or logistics services.

“Binding all three together as the core of a system and then integrating it with other services is the key to success,” he remarked.

“As far as building a local super-app in Pakistan is concerned, we still have a long way to go but with the right approach and mindset, it is very much possible,” Gadit maintained.

Careem Director Communication Madiha Javed revealed that the ride-hailing firm was working on bringing all its current offerings into a super-app – single, unified smartphone application.

She added that it could be achieved because Pakistan possessed high rate of smartphone penetration and young and connected population.

Elaborating about the super-app vision of her enterprise, she highlighted three key areas of services namely mobility of people, mobility of things and mobility of money.

The company has invested around $50 million in the super-app aimed at shaping the region’s technological ecosystem – a significant factor needed for any super-app success,” she underlined.

“In Pakistan, there are currently 800,000 registered captains (drivers) with the super-app and around 2 million listed globally,” she highlighted.


Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2022.

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