‘Ferrari of the digital world’ is how Gautam Adani, industrialist and the chairman of the Adani Group, referred to the newly incorporated Adani Digital Labs Pvt Ltd (ADLPL). The Adani Digital Lab, a wholly-owned arm of Adani Enterprises which is yet to commence operations, aims to transform consumer business. As per the company statement, ADLPL will create an omnichannel, an integrated platform that will enable customers to interact with all B2C businesses of Adani Group.
With ADLPL, the Adani group makes inroads into the list that contains names like Tata, Reliance, and ITC, which offer multiple services through a single window — also called the super app.
Adani’s Super App Bid
The idea to create a super app was first conceived in January when a mockup version of such an app was demonstrated to the head honcho. As per the statements made by Adani to the press, it seems he is gung-ho about the whole idea. He said that it took him less than 30 minutes to come onboard with the super app idea in an interview. He aims to make this super app the ‘greatest, most influential, and the most profitable in the world’, with an aspiration to become a trillion-dollar company by valuation. “
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The Adani group has over 400 million consumers that engage with its services on different platforms, including Adani Airport, Adani Total Gas, Adani Wilmar, Adani Electricity, etc. Adani said that building a super app was a ‘no-brainer’ to unify the digital platform-based approach to leverage ‘unprecedented possibilities’ in this space. The team currently has close to 80 employees. Nitin Sethi has been appointed as the chief digital officer (he took over the office on April 1, 2021).
Adani also said that the traversal to the super app domains is very natural for the company to tell the users about their ecosystem of personalised offerings. The level of personalisation offered by their super app is supported by unmatched algorithms based micro adjacencies.
Jumping on the Super App Bandwagon
China’s WeChat can be considered one of the major super apps of the world. Here users can chat, pay bills, and even order food. Indian companies are now chasing the trend of super apps to replicate WeChat’s success. It has become a dominant player in the Chinese internet ecosystem. WeChat maintains its own ‘app store’ where several mini apps are hosted.
The concept of super apps is relatively new in India. It started gaining traction in India only during the pandemic owing to faster digital transformation. Experts believe that the trend will reach a fever pitch in 2021. Alibaba-backed Paytm is a super app used extensively by Indian users to carry out functions like making digital transactions, shopping, buying flight and rail tickets, among others.
Traditional business conglomerates like Tata Group and Reliance Industries have also entered the field by launching their own super apps to gain an early bird advantage. The slew of acquisitions made by these companies in recent years also points at an attempt to complete the missing pieces in the super app puzzle.
For example, Tata acquired majority stakes in BigBasket and online pharmacy company 1mg. Tata Group reports in talks for investment in Flipkart’s parent company Walmart ($20-25 billion).
Reliance is also a major player in the super apps arena. Its subsidiary Jio Platforms offers several digital services, including payments, online grocery, etc. The company also raised $20 billion from an impressive line of investors like Facebook, KKR, and the sovereign of UAE and Saudi Arabia, among others.
(With inputs from different sources)
Not just Indian companies, players like Amazon, Facebook, and Google are extending their super app offerings to Indian consumers.
Amazon Pay service offers its customers a range of payment features; Amazon even acquired Indian startup Tapzo to offer integration with popular services like Ola, Uber, and Swiggy.
Facebook is trying to tap into its 250 million WhatsApp users base. Whatsapp had launched a pilot payments program in India in 2018, however, it is still awaiting government approval for a nationwide rollout. Facebook is also heavily investing efforts on the Messenger app’s ‘WeChatisation’ without much success yet.
The Indian government’s draft rules on e-tail could possibly dampen the super app aspirations. The major underlying aspect of these draft rules is that they prevent related parties from selling online marketplace platforms, including super and normal apps. Further, these apps cannot have sellers that share the same brand name, forcing conglomerates to have different names for their super apps or not have any names that sellers share. The company also cannot use and share customer trends and behaviours to cross-sell or develop offerings customised to user needs.
With the sea of opportunities available, peppered with equally challenging policy-level restrictions, it would be interesting to watch how super apps will play out in India.