Why India will NEVER have a Super-App

We are always interested in pulling one another down rather than growing together. Such thinking will never allow a super-app to rise.

Recently, I was listening in on a conversation about the Fin-tech eco-system in India and China when one of the speakers Rui Ma made an important comment. She said - a super app is an app that has few functionalities but lets others develop on top of it, based on market demand to make it possible to cater to every need of the customer. It is a platform rather than one app that offers all functionalities or businesses.

Take Paytm, for example. Paytm was a wallet app. They slowly got into the business of e-commerce, travel, ticketing, etc. They did not play the role of an enabler where MakeMyTrip or Cleartrip build their solutions on Paytm. 

More to the point, it is about creating an eco-system of services around your product. It has been impossible for Samsung to create its own operating system (OS) not because making an OS is hard. It is because of all the apps that are there on Android. If I gave you a phone with an OS that did not have the apps that you are so used to, would you use it? Getting several developers to develop for your OS requires critical mass, and this becomes a chicken and egg story.

Thanks to the Indian education system, we are a status led country where everyone wants to come first. In order to be first, you need to push someone to second. This also implies that we will not work together because then the possibility of someone else moving to the first position because of your efforts become possible.

Tata, Reliance, Paytm and WhatsApp all want a super app, but they are not creating a developer ecosystem. They are trying to buy and own every business that is a functionality of the app.

E-Commerce - Check

Grocery - Check

Payments - Check

Travel - Check

Gaming - Check

This makes the proposition far too expensive and also the entire franchise far too risky.

When you let others develop on your app, their inputs make you better. Besides, when you create a developer eco-system - you could have three grocery players, three travel players, etc. The fortunes of those businesses do not affect yours, you are merely a conduit to them. If one travel business fails, you could just add another upcoming one. 

When you decide to do everything yourself, you will only rise to your highest level of incompetence. This is where India is headed.