Super app explosion signalling a digital payment revolution

May 20, 2021 | 08:00
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Multi-purpose apps are gearing up for fiercer competition to grab a slice of Vietnam’s fast-growing, mobile-first market.
1544 p10 super app explosion signalling a digital payment revolution
Super app explosion signalling a digital payment revolution, source

At the beginning of May, Gojek announced it will unveil its car-sharing services in Vietnam in the next few months. The move follows its official launch in the country last August after the rebranding of its existing local operation, GoViet.

A representative of Gojek Vietnam told VIR that Gojek’s business is built around transport, food, and pay. “Car-sharing and cashless payment services will be the addition to this triangle in 2021,” he said.

According to Filippo Bortoletti, senior manager of International Business Advisory at Dezan Shira & Associates, Gojek completing its super app is likely to increase the competition in Vietnam’s ride-hailing market. “Scale is everything in such a business and includes creating a base of regular users, who can then be leveraged into other businesses, like food delivery and e-commerce,” Bortoletti said.

In this case, both Gojek and Grab could fight over users with appealing promotions on their apps while competing over local drivers with attractive compensation schemes.

“Potentially, partnering with other tech companies could break the equilibrium between the two super apps, but this is unlikely as Gojek and Grab have been evenly competing in Southeast Asia for years without gaining a clear advantage,” said Bortoletti.

“Also, the competitive landscape of e-wallets may change. Currently, MoMo, Moca, and ZaloPay dominate about 90 per cent of the local market. Gojek’s recent acquisition of Vietnamese e-wallet WePay may also alter the market for ride-hailing and food delivery services which may reduce the number of transactions for Moca who partnered with Grab,” he added.

Market researcher Decision Lab’s latest connected consumer report revealed that Vietnam’s ride-hailing industry could reach $4 billion by 2025 and is one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing ride-hailing markets. Grab is dominating the ride-hailing app scene, while Gojek and Be Group are striving to keep up with traditional taxis. After Grab, Gojek is the second-most popular ride-hailing app in Ho Chi Minh City, while in Hanoi, this position belongs to Be Group.

The latest report by mobile platform provider Appota shows that online food delivery has boomed during the pandemic. The growth of such deliveries on on-demand platforms have skyrocketed 82 per cent in 2020, from 58 per cent in 2018. GrabFood,, GoFood, and Baemin are now main players of the online food delivery competition.

Meanwhile, these platforms also compete in last-mile delivery, which has witnessed surging demand owing to the high growth in e-commerce. The market is highly competitive with the expansion of Tiki, Lazada, and Shopee, as well as other local and foreign logistics service providers such as Vietnam Post, Viettel Post, GHN, DHL, and FedEx.

One segment that the on-demand platforms are focusing their efforts on is e-wallet services. The market is crowded with 37 licensed intermediary payment services, including 34 e-wallets. However, there is vast potential as total transaction value of digital payments is expected to show an annual growth rate of 15.02 per cent, resulting in a projected total amount of $26.37 million by 2025, according to Germany’s data analyst Statista.

The ongoing addition of new services is not surprising for multi-purpose platforms. In January, Be Group joined forces with VPBank to launch an electronic banking solution system and digital bank called Cake, which is available on the Be Group app.

CEO of Be Group Nguyen Hoang Phuong said that one of the ways be differentiates itself is by positioning the company as an open platform. It is veering away from the super app strategy adopted by many other ride-hailing firms, and instead wants to be a mobility-as-a-service provider and is relying on building partnerships with other companies to grow its ecosystem in a sustainable manner.

Be Group offers more than 10 services such as motorbike and car booking, express delivery, grocery delivery, online ticket ordering, and more. The company reached break-even last year and aims to achieve profitability in 2021.

According to Dezan Shira & Associates’ Bortoletti, Vietnam is a fertile ground for development of super apps and an attractive market. Like China a decade ago, Vietnam could be in the early phase of a digital payment revolution. “Cashless payments are on the rise in Vietnam as more people use e-wallets to pay for groceries, taxi fares, phone and electricity bills, and plane tickets,” Bortoletti said.

“The pandemic also fostered the development of cashless payments among locals due to high internet penetration and smartphone ownership. Finally, Vietnam’s banked population is one of the lowest in Southeast Asia, which offers a great opportunity for super apps and e-wallet players to become the next Alipay or WeChatPay,” he added.

By Thanh Van

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