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India’s most popular services are becoming super apps

Truecaller, an app that helps users screen strangers and robocallers, will soon allow users in India, its largest sell, to borrow up to some hundreds of dollars.

The crediting option will be the fourth feature the nine-year-old app adds to its service in the last two years. So far it has added to the service the ability to text, record phone calls and mobile payment features, some of which are only available to users in India. Of the 140 million daily active customers of Truecaller, 100 million live in India.

The story of the ever-growing ambition of Truecaller illustrates an interesting phase in India’s internet market that is seeing a number of companies mold their single-functioning app into multi-functioning so-called super apps.

Enliven by China

This may sound familiar. Truecaller and others are trying to replicate Tencent’s playbook. The Chinese tech giant’s WeChat, an app that began life as a messaging service, has become a one-stop solution for a range of features — gaming, payments, social commerce and publishing platform — in recent years.

WeChat has become such a dominant musician in the Chinese internet ecosystem that it is effectively serving as an operating system and getting away with it. The service maintains its own app store that hosts mini apps and lets users tip writers. This had put in place it at odds with Apple, though the iPhone-maker has little choice but to build peace with it.

For all its predominance in China, WeChat has struggled to gain traction in India and elsewhere. But its simulate today is prominently on display in other markets. Grab and Go-Jek in Southeast Asian marketplaces are best known for their ride-hailing services, but have begun to offer a range of other features, including food give, entertainment, digital pays, financial services and healthcare.

The proliferation of low-cost smartphones and mobile data in India, thanks in part to Google and Facebook, has helped tens of millions of Indians come online in recent years, with mobile the dominant platform. The number of internet users has already exceeded 500 million in India, up from some 350 million in mid-2 015. According to some calculates, India may have north of 625 million customers by year-end.

This has fueled the world image of India, which is both the fastest growing internet and smartphone sell. Naturally, neighbourhood apps in India, and those from international firms that are present here, are beginning to replicate WeChat’s model.

Founder and chief executive officer( CEO) of Paytm Vijay Shekhar Sharma speaks during the launch of Paytm pays Bank at a function in New Delhi on November 28, 2017( AFP PHOTO/ SAJJAD HUSSAIN)

Leading that jam-pack is Paytm, the popular homegrown mobile wallet service that’s valued at $18 billion and has been heavily backed by Alibaba, the e-commerce giant that challengers Tencent and crucially missed the mobile messaging wave in China.

Commanding attention

In recent years, the Paytm app has taken a foliage from China with additions that include the ability to text shopkeepers; volume movie, flight and qualify tickets; and buy shoes, journals and just about anything from its e-commerce arm Paytm Mall. It also has added a number of mini games to the app. The company said earlier this month that more than 30 million consumers are engaging with its games.

Why bother with diversifying your app’s offering? Well, for Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of Paytm, the question is why shouldn’t you? If your app provides a certain number of transactions( or involvements) in a period, you have a good shot at disrupting many business that produce fewer transactions, he told TechCrunch in an interview.

At the end of the working day, companies want to garner as much attention of a consumer as they are able to, said Jayanth Kolla, founder and partner of research and advisory firm Convergence Catalyst.

“This is similar to how cable networks such as Fox and Star have built various channels with a wide range of programming to create enough hooks for customers to stick around, ” Kolla said.

“The agenda for these apps is to hold people’s attention and monopolize a user’s activities on their mobile machines, ” he added, explaining that higher those engaged in an app is in accordance with higher income from advertising.

Paytm’s Sharma agrees. “Payment is the mote. You can offer a range of things including content, amusement, lifestyle, commerce and financial services around it, ” he told TechCrunch. “Now that’s a business model … payment itself can’t attain you money.”

Large-hearted companies follow suit

Other industries have taken note. Flipkart-owned pay app PhonePe, which claims to have 150 million active consumers, today hosts a number of mini apps. Some of those include services for ride-hailing service Ola, inn booking service Oyo and travel booking service MakeMyTrip.

Paytm( the first two images from left) and PhonePe offer a range of services that are integrated into their payments apps

What works for PhonePe is that its core business — payments — has amassed enough customers, Himanshu Gupta, former associate director of marketing and rise for WeChat in India, told TechCrunch. He added that unlike e-commerce giant Snapdeal, which attempted to offer similar gives back in the day, PhonePe has tighter integration with other services, and is built using modern architecture that gives consumers virtually native app experiences inside mini apps.

When you talk about strategy for Flipkart, the homegrown e-commerce giant acquired by Walmart last year for a cool $16 billion, opportunities are arch rival Amazon is also hatching similar schemes, and that’s indeed the case for super apps.

In India, Amazon offers its customers a range of pay aspects such as the ability to pay phone bills and cable subscription through its Amazon Pay service. The corporation last year acquired Indian startup Tapzo, an app that gives integration with popular services such as Uber, Ola, Swiggy and Zomato, to boost Pay’s business in the nation.

Another U.S. giant, Microsoft, is also aboard the super train. The Redmond-based company has added a batch of brand-new aspects to SMS Organizer, an app endure out of its Microsoft Garage initiative in India. What began as a texting app that can screen spam messages and help users keep track of important SMSs recently partnered with education board CBSE in India to deliver quiz outcome of 10 th and 12 th point students.

This year, the SMS Organizer app added an option to track live develop planneds through a partnership with Indian Railways, and there’s support for speech-to-text. It also offers personalized discount vouchers from a variety of companies, affording users an incentive to check the app more often.

Like in other sells, Google and Facebook maintained a dominant statu in India. More than 95% of smartphones sold in India run the Android operating system. There is no viable neighbourhood — or otherwise — alternative to Search, Gmail and YouTube, which countings India as its fastest growing market. But Google hasn’t inevitably made any push to significantly expand the scope of any of its gives in India.

India is the biggest market for WhatsApp, and Facebook’s marquee app too has more than 250 million consumers in the commonwealth. WhatsApp launched a pilot pays program in India in early 2018, but is yet to get clearance from the government for a nationwide rollout.( It isn’t happening for at least another two months, a person familiar with the matter said .) In the meantime, Facebook appears to be hatching a WeChatization of Messenger, albeit that app is not so large-scale in India.

Ride-hailing service Ola too, like Grab and Go-Jek, plans to add financial services such as credit to the platform this year, a source very well known the company’s plans told TechCrunch.

“We have an abundance of data about our customers. We know how much money they spend on goes, how often they frequent the city and how often they order from eateries. It builds perfect appreciation to give them these valued-added features, ” the person said. Ola has already branched out of transport after it acquired food delivery startup Foodpanda in late 2017, but it hasn’t yet make major ripples in financial services despite rendering its Ola Money service its own dedicated app.

The company outlook Ola Money as a super app, expanded its features through acquisition and tie up with other musicians and offered dismiss and cashbacks. But it remains behind Paytm, PhonePe and Google Pay, all of which are also offering discounts to customers.

Integrated entertainment

Super apps indeed come in all shapes and sizes, beyond core services like pay and transportation — the strategy is showing up in apps and services that entertain India’s internet population.

MX Player, a video playback app with more than 175 million users in India that was acquired by Times Internet for some $ 140 million last year, has large-hearted desires. Last-place year, it introduced a video streaming service to bolster its app to grow beyond simply being a repository. It have now been commissioned the production processes several original shows.

In recent months, it has also integrated Gaana, the largest neighbourhood music streaming app that is also owned by Times Internet. Now its parent company, which challengers Google and Facebook on some fronts, is planning to add mini plays to MX Player, a person familiar with the matter said, to give it additional reach and appeal.

Some of these apps, especially those that have amassed tens of millions of users, have a real shot at diversifying their provides, psychoanalyst Kolla said. There is a bar of entry, though. A big user base that engages with a product on a daily basis is a must for any company if it is to explore chasing the super app status, he added.

Indeed, there are examples of companies that had the vision to see the benefits of super apps but simply couldn’t muster the requisite user base. As mentioned, Snapdeal tried and miscarried at expanding its app’s offerings. Messaging service Hike, which was valued at more than$ 1 billion 2 years ago and includes WeChat parent Tencent among its investors, added games and other features to its app, but ultimately learnt poor engagement. Its new strategy is the reverse: to break its app into multiple fragments.

“In 2019, we continue to doubled down on both social and content but we’re going to do it with an evolved approaching. We’re going to do it across multiple apps. That intends, in 2019 we’re going to go from building a super app that encompasses everything, to Multiple Apps solving one thing really well. Yes, we’re unbundling Hike, ” Kavin Mittal, founder and CEO of Hike, wrote in an update published earlier this year.

And Reliance Jio, of course

For the rest, the race is still on, but there are big horses waiting to enter to add further competition.

Reliance Jio, a subsidiary of conglomerate Reliance Industry that is owned by India’s richest male, Mukesh Ambani, is planning to introduce a super app that will host more than 100 features, according to a person familiar with the matter. Local media first reported the development.

It will be fascinating to see how that works out. Reliance Jio, which almost single-handedly interrupted the telecom industry in India with its low-cost data plans and free voice calls, has amassed tens of millions of users on the posy of apps that it offerings at no additional cost to Jio subscribers.

Beyond that diverse selection of homespun apps, Reliance has also taken an M& -Abased approach to assemble the pieces of its super app strategy.

It bought music streaming service Saavn last year and quickly integrated it with its own music app JioMusic. Last-place month, it acquired Haptik, a startup that develops “conversational” platforms and virtual helpers, in a bargain worth more than $ 100 million. It already has the user basis expected. JioTV, an app that offers access to over 500 Tv canals; and JioNews, an app that additionally offers hundreds of publications and newspapers, regularly appear among the top apps in Google Play Store.

India’s super app revolution is in its early days, but the trend is surely one to keep an eye on as the country moves into its next chapter of internet usage.

Read more: techcrunch.com

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