India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Digital services and super apps in the country have accelerated following lockdowns and other disruptions amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Super apps are a single mobile app that offers basic functions such as chat, payment, ecommerce, and food delivery.
Although India’s super apps ecosystem is still in the early stages of development, some services are close to becoming a super app. The emerging contenders face tough competition to become the top super app in India. The list includes major players such as Paytm, Tata Neu, and Reliance.
Paytm, a digital payments app has expanded from its core business to start offering a multitude of services through its app, including online ticketing, financial services, and digital payments for both consumers and merchants. It applied a similar strategy to that of one of its lead investors, Alibaba. Alibaba’s Alipay mini-app store strategy is inclusive of all third-party apps. This allows the user to gain all benefits from various services in one place.
Paytm’s focus is on merchant payments. It has amassed merchants across 26 different services, such as electricity, gas, water, mobile, broadband, credit cards, rent, educational fees, and more. It has its own ecommerce platform (Mall) and a mutual fund service. In November 2020, it launched a mobile gaming platform named ‘First Games’, offering esports and fantasy sports. In 2019, it acquired NightStay Travels (a hotel booking platform).
Tata Group developed Tata Neu as an all-in-one app that offers goods and services across fashion, tech, groceries, finance, gadgets, healthcare, content, hotels, and travel. Top brands such as BigBasket, Croma, AirAsia India, IHCL, Starbucks, Tata 1mg, Tata Play, Tata CLiQ, and Westside are offered under Tata Neu.
The main drivers are the ease of buying across different categories, reward coins, and the overall buying experience. There are plans to expand into micro-financing, micro-insurance, edtech, buy now & pay later, and other services. It is also planning to compete with Reliance and Amazon to become a super app.
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Reliance is also among the contenders. It intends to offer a lot of services within its app and has been on an acquisition spree to meet its target. One acquisition is local search engine Just Dial. The app will offer medicines, groceries, content, and fashion, and it is already offering services such as Jio Mart, Jio UPI, Jio Music, Jio Movies, games, and more through its Reliance Jio app.
Reliance raised $20 billion during the pandemic from investors such as Facebook, KKR, and General Atlantic. It bought an online pharmacy app called Netmeds. It also built up its grocery retail plans through its acquisition of Future Retail.
Major players’ strengths in the super apps race
Paytm will strengthen its position as a super app by continuing its investment in other digital themes like social media and digital media.
Tata Group is already eyeing the beauty and personal care space, as well as categories, like fashion and apparel. In financial terms, it has an existing insurance company as well as a consumer finance arm, which can be easily integrated into its super app.
Reliance has mostly benefitted from the presence of strategic investors such as Facebook. It also has a large subscriber base from its telecom offering Reliance Jio. However, the success of these players will depend largely on their ability to attract and retain a consumer base. Investments and partnerships with digital start-ups will help them maintain a prominent position in the highly competitive Indian market.