Scaling from a single service to a Super App: the opportunities and challenges

Portret Matilde
Written by
Matilde Cantinho
Digital Content Producer
Oct 30, 2023 . 12 mins read
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In the ever-evolving landscape of digital services and applications, the concept of a “Super App” has emerged as a promising frontier. Aspiring not just to be a game-changer but a future-shaper. As we venture further into our exploration of Super Apps, we are heading deeper towards what opportunities lie ahead for this innovation: exploring their potential growth, the technologies and trends that are shaping their trajectory, and their pivotal role in the digital economy.

However, as with any revolutionary concept, there are challenges to overcome. In this blog, we also touch upon the design challenges and considerations that come with the journey towards a Super App status. Such as the delicate balance between user privacy and data security, the complexity of designing for large geographical areas, and the increasing competition.

The future of Super Apps

Super Apps like Careem are not just about technological advancement – they are about enhancing the way we live, work, and connect in an increasingly digital world.

We will explore three key areas where we believe Super Apps are heading towards and shaping their evolution.

1. Potential growth and expansion into new markets

Super Apps like WeChat, Grab, Gojek, and Careem have shown significant potential for expansion to new markets. This is driven by their diverse range of services and the adaptability of their ecosystems. Careem, starting as a ride-hailing service in the Middle East, has developed into a multi-service Super App active in over 10 countries, from Pakistan to Morocco. The purpose is to simplify and improve people’s lives across the region, and to reach this, Careem aims to accelerate the Super App strategy by expanding its service offering and reach. 

This example illustrates how flexible Super Apps are to adapt and expand into new markets based on their local needs and preferences, making them a powerful force in the digital landscape. Undoubtedly, the potential for growth lies in their ability to cater to a wide range of user requirements, all within a single, integrated platform. 

Some key areas for development as Super Apps include:

  • Emerging markets: by providing essential services such as digital payments, e-commerce, transportation, and more to a previously underserved population.
  • Financial services: by offering banking services, digital wallets, microloans, and insurance, Super Apps can become financial hubs, especially in regions with limited access to traditional banking.
  • Healthcare: by offering telemedicine services, health tracking, appointment scheduling, and access to medical professionals, Super Apps can jump into the healthcare sector.
  • Travel and tourism: by including travel booking, hotel reservations, and tourism information services, Super Apps facilitate trip planning and provide a comprehensive travel experience.
  • Education and e-learning: by offering online courses, virtual classrooms, educational materials, and language learning resources, the education industry is a promising add-on to Super Apps.

2. Emerging trends and technologies shaping the Super App landscape

It is fair to say that the Super App landscape is continuously evolving, driven by emerging trends and technologies that are reshaping the digital realm. But, what are the trends and technologies influencing the Super App development?

Here are a couple of key ones:


  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

These capabilities are being increasingly integrated to personalise the Super App user experiences. This includes recommendation engines, chatbots for customer support, and predictive analytics for targeted marketing.

  • Security and Privacy measures

With growing concerns about data privacy, Super Apps are implementing robust security features, biometric authentication, and transparency in data usage to gain and maintain users’ trust.

  • Blockchain and Cryptocurrency

Some apps are exploring blockchain technology to improve security, transparency, and trust within their ecosystems. Additionally, there’s a growing interest in incorporating cryptocurrency and digital wallets for seamless payments and transactions.

  • IoT integration

The Internet of Things (IoT) is making its way into Super Apps, allowing users to control and monitor their smart devices, home automation systems, and wearables from a single app interface.

  • Voice and natural language processing

Voice-activated features and natural language processing can become popular within Super Apps, enabling users to interact with the app through voice commands and conversations with virtual assistants.

  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR):

Super Apps are leveraging AR and VR technologies for interactive and immersive experiences. This includes applications in gaming, shopping, virtual tours, and more.

  • Hyper-personalisation

Super Apps are increasingly focused on delivering tailored content and services. This involves analysing user behaviour, preferences, and location to provide personalised recommendations and experiences.

  • Health and wellness integration

Super Apps will incorporate health and wellness features such as fitness tracking, nutrition planning, and mental health support, to cater to users’ trend of holistic well-being.

  • Multi-channel engagement

Super Apps are expanding their presence across multiple channels, including social media, messaging platforms, and smart speakers, to reach users wherever they are.

  • Sustainability and green initiatives

Finally, Super Apps adopt sustainable practices and promote eco-friendly products and services as environmental concerns become increasingly important to users.

Accordingly, Careem is a great example of how the Super App era is shaped by emerging trends and technologies. As a result of quickly evolving its service into an app and using its technology and mobility infrastructure to expand its service offering. Firstly, food and grocery delivery were added to the app, boosted by the demand for e-commerce driven by the pandemic, kickstarting the following launch of the Super App strategy.

3. The role of Super Apps in the digital economy

Super Apps play a multifaceted and significant role in shaping and influencing various aspects of modern life. In the end, they offer a wide variety of services to make everyday life simple for their users, which influences the digital economy.

We display some of the ways they contribute:


  • Economic growth and global expansion

By providing a platform for various businesses and services, super apps can stimulate economic growth. They can generate new job opportunities where they are based and support small and medium-sized enterprises. Even more, Super Apps can contribute towards bridging cultural and geographical gaps. Given that they are well-positioned to expand globally by offering their services in multiple languages and adapting to local markets. This global reach enables them to tap into diverse user bases.

  • Data and insights collection

Super apps gather a vast amount of user data across different services. This data-driven approach can benefit businesses by offering a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour and preferences. Later on, these insights can be leveraged to improve services, create personalised experiences and targeted marketing, and drive business decisions.

  • Cross-selling opportunities and partnerships

With numerous services available on a single platform, super apps provide businesses with ample cross-selling and upselling opportunities. Collaborating with other tech companies and forming strategic partnerships to enhance their offerings can lead to integrations with third-party services and technological advancements.

  • (Disruptive) innovation

Super apps can act like innovation hubs by continuously adding new services and features to meet the evolving needs of consumers and challenging traditional industries when offering more efficient and convenient alternatives. Additionally, they not only drive the adoption of technologies like AI, IoT, and blockchain, setting trends for the broader digital ecosystem, but also disrupt sectors such as transportation, finance, and retail by introducing innovative digital solutions that cater to changing consumer preferences.

  • Financial inclusion 

Most Super Apps have financial services at their core. Consequently boosting financial inclusion since it provides users with access to digital banking, payments, and lending services. This is particularly beneficial in regions with limited access to traditional banking.

Super Apps are central players in the digital economy, providing users with versatile, integrated solutions while influencing industries, economic activity, and technological advancements. Their impact extends beyond convenience, contributing to the ongoing transformation of how businesses and consumers interact in the digital age.

However, let’s not forget that maintaining a top-notch user experience when offering this many services in one app is far from simple. Once again, this is where design comes in. To guarantee a future-proof, scalable, and most of all, a first-class user experience, companies like Careem are investing in design and innovation to go along with their technology.

The design challenges you encounter when scaling from a single service to a Super App

While the future of Super Apps is promising, some challenges and considerations should be taken into account when we look from a design lens.

It is time to explore how design empowers innovation by building user-centric Super Apps that provide exceptional experiences to people and communities.

1. Balancing user privacy and data security

By nature, Super Apps handle a large amount of user data. This data is crucial for providing personalised services and making data-driven decisions. But with data comes big responsibility as well. 

It’s equally important to ensure that this data is handled securely and that user privacy is respected. This involves implementing robust security features and transparent data-handling practices from a design perspective. Design has a powerful impact by assuring user-friendly interfaces that allow users to control and customise their privacy settings, and implement clear and concise privacy policies and notifications to keep users informed about data usage.

Let’s take, for instance, Careem. As a Super App in a complex, multifaceted business environment, it faces the challenge of maintaining a unified app experience while having 15+ different services in the app and handling the data of its 50 million registered users with utmost care, ensuring their privacy while also using the data to improve and personalise their services.

2. Navigating regulatory, legal frameworks and cultural context

Super Apps often operate across multiple countries and regions, which implies navigating a complex web of regulatory and legal frameworks. Each with its own requirements and compliance standards. Evidently, this can be a big challenge for design teams as they must adapt the user experience to meet these diverse needs.

A solution is to create flexible and adaptable user interfaces. For example, by designing modular components that can be customised to meet specific legal requirements in different markets. 

Careem, operating in over 10 countries and 70 cities in the Middle East, has to be up-to-date and navigate the regulations and legal frameworks of each. Which not only surfaces regulation issues but also cultural ones.

Designing a product for a large geography can be very challenging given the differences in culture, habits, logistics, lifestyle, iconography and language. Catching a ride in overcrowded and messy Lahore can be very different from Dubai, where infrastructure and internet coverage are good quality!

Overall, this teaches us how design is crucial to developing meaningful services by understanding and adapting to the context you’re designing for. You should source local talent with knowledge about the local culture and context, boost their knowledge of human-centered thinking & design where needed, and specify the experience to tailor to local needs while guarding the global experience.

Careem - The Everything App

3. Overcoming Market Saturation and Competition:

As you might have noticed, the digital landscape is highly competitive, with many companies fighting for user attention and retention. Your Super App needs to offer a unique and compelling user experience that stands out from the crowd and keeps users coming back. This could be through offering a wide range of services that meet local needs and preferences, innovative features, or creating a superior and unified user experience. 

A strong design team can help differentiate a Super App from its competitors by creating an intuitive, user-centric interface that simplifies complex processes and provides an enjoyable and efficient user journey. User feedback mechanisms and usability testing can help identify pain points and optimise the design to address specific user needs.

Together with Careem, we developed a Design System that serves as a guide to maintain a consistent and scalable experience throughout the app. We elevated each service tied up within the app to look and feel like an integrated part of the Careem universe.

Careem - The Everything App

In essence, while Super Apps are a technological marvel, it’s user-centric, accessible and scalable design that truly makes them ‘super’.

It’s design that turns the complexity of offering multiple services into a simple, unified, and efficient experience. It functions as the bridge between the technical capabilities of the Super App and the user’s experience, making it a powerful tool for success.

As Super Apps continue to evolve and integrate emerging technologies, the role of design will only become more critical in shaping their future and ensuring they thrive in the digital realm. 

Make sure you get the most out of what we are doing around Super Apps:

Portret Matilde
Written by
Matilde Cantinho
Digital Content Producer
Oct 30, 2023 . 12 mins read
Share this article