RST Software
Editorial Team
Ross Krawczyk
Reviewed by a tech expert

From single service to super apps: how MaaS companies can embrace Asian market trends

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Imagine the bustling streets of Jakarta, where a young professional effortlessly books a ride, orders lunch, and pays utility bills – all through a single app. Across the globe in New York, a similar scene unfolds. This is the era of the super app, and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) companies are at the forefront. But what does the rise of super apps in Asia tell us about the future of MaaS companies in the West? Let's embark on a journey through the world of super apps and explore how MaaS companies can embrace this trend.

Unraveling the super app phenomenon

At the heart of this revolution is the super app – an application that integrates various services and functionalities, creating an ecosystem within a single app. From bike rentals and food delivery to payments and social media, super apps have become an integral part of daily life in Asia. They aim to offer a seamless and convenient experience by eliminating the need to switch between multiple apps. Think of it as a digital Swiss Army knife. For instance, WeChat, which started as a messaging app, has evolved into a platform with nearly 1 billion users engaging in a plethora of services.

Why super apps dominated Asian markets?

Asia has become the breeding ground for super apps. The rapid adoption of smartphones, preference for mobile-first experiences, and the strategy of building ecosystems rather than single products have contributed to their success. But there’s more to it. The lack of regulation and competition, coupled with the need for convenience in densely populated urban environments, allowed super apps to flourish.

The essence of mobile-first app design

In Asia, mobile-first design is not just a trend; it's a necessity. With high mobile penetration rates and a preference for on-the-go services, super apps cater to the demands of a dynamic population. This design philosophy starts with the mobile screen, focusing on core content and functionality, and progressively enhances features as the screen size increases.

For super apps, this approach is vital. It takes into account the limitations and strengths of mobile devices, such as load times, navigation, and location services. This design approach is intrinsic to their success, as it offers a seamless, efficient, and engaging experience that users adore.

The Eastern pioneers: examples of successful super apps in Asia

Through innovation, diversification, and a deep understanding of local markets, super apps have redefined the digital landscape and set the stage for a future where they are an integral part of daily life in Asia. Gojek, Grab, WeChat, Didi, and Alipay – are the torchbearers of the super app revolution that changed the way people live, work, and interact.


Gojek, the Indonesian gem, is a perfect example of how a simple idea can transform into a revolution. Established in 2010 as a call center connecting consumers to courier delivery and ride hailing services, Gojek evolved into an on-demand multi-service digital platform. With its mobile app launched in 2015, Gojek started with four services: GoRide, GoSend, GoShop, and GoFood. Today, it offers over 20 services, including an e-Wallet for easy payments. Gojek is not just an app; it has become a lifestyle for millions of Indonesians.


Grab, the Southeast Asian sensation, started as a ride-hailing service but rapidly expanded into a multi-service platform. From food delivery and payments to logistics and entertainment, Grab has it all. Anthony Tan, the CEO of Grab, envisions it as the super app that empowers Southeast Asians to improve their livelihoods. With a focus on solving local problems, Grab is on a mission to drive Southeast Asia forward. For instance, GrabFood, a food delivery service within Grab, has been a lifeline for many during the pandemic.


WeChat, the Chinese super app developed by Tencent, is a multi-purpose app that has become an integral part of daily life in China. Launched in 2011, WeChat super app has transformed the technology landscape in China and beyond. From social media and messaging to mobile payments and mini-programs, WeChat Pay allows users to make payments just by scanning QR codes.


DiDi Chuxing, commonly known as DiDi, is China's ride-hailing powerhouse. But DiDi is not just about rides; it offers a range of services including taxis, private cars, bike-sharing, buses, car rentals, and even autonomous driving. DiDi is on a mission to reimagine transportation and is a prime example of how super apps can revolutionize mobility.

In 2014, Uber tried competing with DiDi for the dominance of the Chinese market, forfeiting the battle in 2016. If you’d like to learn more, we’ve discussed the clash in our Uber’s failure in China case study.


Alipay, another jewel in China's crown, is a third-party mobile and online payment platform established by Alibaba Group. Founded in 2004, Alipay operates in association with Ant Group and has become one of the world's largest mobile payment platforms. With a focus on financial services, Alipay has expanded its offerings to include a range of services and mini-programs, making it a quintessential super app. For example, Yu’e Bao, a wealth management platform within Alipay, allows users to invest their spare change.

The Western foray: how MaaS companies can approach building super apps

Now, let's cross the oceans and explore how Western Mobility as a Service (MaaS) companies can learn from their Asian counterparts. By expanding into complementary services, leveraging strategic alliances, and addressing data privacy concerns, they can build their own super apps.

  • Expansion into complementary services: Like Grab and Gojek, Western MaaS companies can add services related to their core mobility offerings, such as parking, insurance, and maintenance. For example, Uber has expanded into food delivery with Uber Eats.
  • Leveraging strategic alliances: MaaS companies can form partnerships with other businesses or platforms that can provide additional value or access to their users. For instance, Lyft has partnered with rental car companies to offer rental services through its app.
  • Addressing data privacy concerns: Ensuring compliance with local regulations and standards, providing transparency and control to users over their data usage, as well as adopting best practices for data protection and encryption are crucial.

These strategies are not just theoretical; they are practical steps that can drive the evolution of MaaS companies into super apps. However, it’s essential to understand that what worked in Asia might not have the same effect in the West due to cultural, regulatory, and market differences.

Examples of American and European companies building super apps

As we turn our gaze westward, we find a new generation of trailblazers. These aren't the legends of old, but rather corporate giants that are reshaping the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) landscape through the creation of super apps. Let's zoom in on these innovators who are not just tracing the steps of their Asian forerunners but are also blazing their own trails.


Bolt, emerging from the fertile grounds of Estonia, is racing through the European market with the speed and intensity of a lightning bolt. Labelled as “Europe's leading mobility platform and first super app,” Bolt recently raked in a staggering €628 million in funding, with Sequoia Capital and Fidelity among its backers. This funding frenzy has rocketed Bolt's valuation to an electrifying €7.4 billion. The mastermind behind Bolt is Markus Villig, who, at the tender age of 19, founded the company with a modest €5,000. In under a decade, Bolt has branched out to 45 countries and over 400 cities across Europe and Africa.

 With a cavalry of 65,000 drivers in the UK alone, Bolt is crusading against private car ownership and championing shared mobility through ride-sharing, e-scooter sharing, car-sharing, and delivery services. Bolt's rapid ascent, despite a €44.9 million loss in 2020, signals a future as bright as lightning.


Now, let's talk about Uber, the synonym for ridehailing. However, Uber's throne is heating up due to competition from the likes of Bolt. Uber diversified into food delivery with Uber Eats, but Bolt's recent funding and aggressive expansion have positioned it as a formidable contender. Markus Villig of Bolt claims that they are refining the gig economy model that Uber pioneered by offering drivers more flexibility and better earnings.

Uber super app, valued at $88.52 billion, is still a giant compared to Bolt, but Bolt's rapid growth and super app strategy are causing ripples. Uber needs to think outside the box and possibly adopt a more integrated super app model to keep its edge.


Not to be outdone, PayPal, the virtuoso of the financial world, is orchestrating its own super app symphony. Starting as an online payments system, PayPal has evolved into a multifaceted platform. It has embraced the super app blueprint by integrating a plethora of financial tools, including direct deposits, bill payments, digital wallets, peer-to-peer payments, shopping tools, and even dabbling in cryptocurrencies. With a market value of $75.98 billion, PayPal's super app is a testament to its unwavering commitment to delivering a seamless and comprehensive financial experience to its users.

As you can see, Bolt, Uber, and PayPal are the vanguard of the super app movement in the West. Through relentless innovation, adaptation, and an unwavering commitment to user value, they are reimagining the MaaS landscape.

The crystal ball: will super apps conquer the US and European markets?

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room – will super apps take over the US and European markets? The concept is still fledgling in the West. Cultural variances, data privacy qualms, and market fragmentation are hurdles. However, the early triumphs of Uber and PayPal hint at the potential for their growth in the West. The secret sauce lies in tailoring the super app model to resonate with Western tastes and regulatory frameworks.

Here’s a glimpse into what the future might hold – in the next three to five years, we could witness the spread of super apps in the West. Companies in social media, ridesharing, and payments are more likely to crack the code compared to traditional banking or insurance firms. However, unlike Asia, where a single app like WeChat reigns supreme, the Western market is likely to be a mosaic of multiple players.

For instance, transparency in data collection and usage will be paramount. Users will want to know how their data is being used, and companies will need to be upfront about it. Cryptocurrency could also play a pivotal role in driving the growth of super apps. The B2B space is another area where we might see the emergence of super apps.

In summary, the West is ripe for the advent of super apps, but with a twist. The focus will be on transparency, innovation, and catering to the local market dynamics.

Conclusion: the Odyssey ahead for MaaS companies

As we reach the end of this exploration, it's clear that Mobility as a Service (MaaS) companies in the West are standing at the crossroads of evolution. The meteoric rise of super apps in Asia offers a window into the realm of possibilities when diverse services are bundled into a single platform. For MaaS companies, this is a golden opportunity to evolve and meet the ever-changing demands of consumers who crave convenience and efficiency.

But let’s not put the cart before the horse. The Western market is a different beast compared to Asia. Cultural nuances, regulatory frameworks, and consumer preferences play a significant role. Data privacy is a hot-button issue, and companies must navigate the labyrinth of regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

Nevertheless, MaaS companies should seriously consider super apps as part of their long-term strategy. However, this must be done with cultural sensitivity, adherence to regulatory norms, and a genuine commitment to adding value to the consumer. For entrepreneurs, this is a call to action to think big, innovate, and maybe even create the next super app that will take the world by storm. If you're inspired to embark on this journey and need a trusted partner to guide you, RST software house is here to help.

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