Will Super Apps Usher in a Cashless Asia?


All around Asia, using cash for everyday transactions is diminishing at a rapid rate. A new way of making payments has arisen in the mobile phone world. Super-apps are on the rise and as mobile phones have become more available in Asia, more people are using super-apps. This article explores this rise and the apparent fall of cash in Asia.

What Are Super Apps?

A super-app is an all-encompassing mobile application that offers assistance with every aspect of daily life. A user of a super-app would be able to do a variety of things within that app like ordering a meal, sending out or accepting meeting invites, having actual meetings, calling cabs, sending or lending funds, paying utility bills, setting reminders, and so forth. All these things can be done in-app and the app essentially becomes an operating system of its own. This style of app is taking the Asian market by storm.

Examples of Super-Apps

A good example of a super-app is the Chinese app, WeChat. WeChat began as a messaging app in 2011 but rapidly evolved. Now, available in twenty different languages, users of the app can send each other messages in the form of text and media, can have large user group chats, make and share videos and have conference calls and communicate in a wide variety of ways. Users can also play mini-games, purchase insurance, track their running progress, pay for items using WeChat Pay and send money to their friends.

Are Asians Using Them?

While these super-apps may seem too good to be true, a vast number of Asian consumers are adopting them and relying on cashless and less. WeChat, as discussed above, currently serves at least one billion users every month. Another good example of a super-app is Grab, which originated as a ride-hailing platform in Singapore, and has evolved into a super-app with 125 million downloads as of 2018, with estimates this number could double by the end of 2019.

These days, in China, most people make payments by scanning QR codes on their phones. Even roadside sellers prefer to take payment via mobile than to ask for cash.

Are There Incentives to Use Cash in Asia?

With the wave of mobile payments available via super-apps, there is an increasing number of people willing to accept mobile payments. In countries like Singapore, more individuals are choosing to accept either mobile payments or pos payments using credit cards.

As mobile phones (and super-apps) become more and more widespread throughout Asia the need to carry cash as a means of payment is declining. Will these super-apps be the reason Asia goes fully cashless within the next few decades? Only time will tell.