• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Uber’s quest to become the west’s first super-app

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In 2015, Gojek launched its motorcycle taxi app with hopes of being the Uber of Indonesia. Now, the tables have turned: Uber is betting it can become a Gojek of the west.

The US group has long seen itself as more than just a ride hailing app. Four years ago it launched Uber Eats to connect customers with on-demand takeaway food in cities across the United States. In 2018, it acquired Jump, and bright red e-bikes proliferated around Europe.

But now, having posted a $5.2bn loss last quarter and with its mainstay business coming under threat from regulatory burdens, it is looking to expand its vision even further. “We want

Uber to be the operating system for your everyday life,” said chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi in September.

This month, Uber purchased Cornershop as part of a push into delivering groceries. In Mexico, it offers bank cards. In San Diego, it is testing food delivery by drone. In Chicago, it is connecting people with temporary shift work. In lower Manhattan, it offers $200 helicopter rides to JFK airport. Even snuggling-as-a-service has emerged in dozens of cities via Uber Kittens, letting users book 15-minute “play dates with adorable kittens at the tap of a button.”

The idea is for Uber to provide, within a single app, access to transport, groceries, hot meals, banking and more. In short, it wants to be a “super-app” modelled on apps like Gojek, whose food and payments features have already overtaken its transport business by revenue.

It’s an ambition that Jason Davis, professor of entrepreneurship at Singapore-based business school Insead, describes as “a product diversification strategy on steroids”.

The ‘operating system for everyday life’

Uber’s rivals in Asia have already provided a path to follow. Gojek — partly funded by Visa, Google and Tencent — now offers 20 services to its 25m users, including video streaming and digital payments. Grab, a Malaysian competitor with investment from Softbank’s Vision Fund has expanded into business loans and insurance