Stock - City Centre Deira by Majid Al Futtaim
With Carrefour and loyalty program Share as its base, Majid Al Futtaim can scale up the customer offerings as and when required. Image Credit: Majid Al Futtaim

Dubai: Call it the ‘super’ app. Or the ‘ultra’ app.

Which way you know it by, these are the apps that you step into – say, purchase a pair of sneakers – and then stay on to make a booking for a health checkup at the next available date. Or if the exchange rates are favourable, then send in your next remittances.

Step into the world of UAE super-apps, where these days there’s a lot more of services being offered at the end of your fingertip. “The Middle East and the wider area is about 600 million customers – while the markets are deeply fragments, they are also ready for successful super-apps,” said Joe Abi Akl, Managing Director at Xsight, the digital arm within Majid Al Futtaim group that’s working to super-size its super-app capabilities.

“What these super-apps (or digital assistants) are is offer different verticals for daily needs of consumers. Any business can expand to new verticals and boundaries between them are being blurred by digital advances.

"There are multiple players in the UAE experimenting with their super-app versions, where they want to give their users more reasons to do everything at the same time."

Joe Abi Akl is Chief Corporate Development Officer at Majid Al Futtaim, Holding and Managing Director of our Xsight Future Solutions business. Image Credit: Supplied

Intense battle

Right now, there’s e& with its version of the powered up app, with services that include remittances, insurance and grocery delivery. It also helps that e& recently took a majority stake in Careem Super App. The delivery-focussed talabat is another expanding the scope of what can be offered, while noon is another. Botim’s new owner Astra Tech wants to repurpose the voice call provider into an ‘ultra app’.

Build around 3-4 digital assets

What Majid Al Futtaim and Xsight are setting out to do is create those ‘3-4 digital assets’ that can, conceivably, help users take care of most of their needs. Rather than, for instance, come to do the shopping at Carrefour and then exit. “The Group has about 90 digital assets out of which we will consolidate around the three- or four, such as Carrefour, the Share loyalty program, etc,” said Abi Akl. “To that, there are additional services that we offer through partners, whether or FAB. There are the digital wallet services that’s there.”

Call it the virtual equivalent of getting your consumers to spend more time on the digital platform. And make return visits for a gamut of services they need, daily or of other frequency. Much as what mall managements in the UAE do with their varied offerings – because it’s never only about shopping alone.

Akl is acutely aware of what needs to be done to make the Group’s super-app stay connected. Having Carrefour as a foundation helps, and then other bells-and-whistles can be added.

Partner where possible

What the Group will not do is launch or buy other entities for the strengths they can bring to the super-app. Instead, alliances are the nature of the game, whether it’s financial services, travel booking or more.

Because consolidation within the UAE super-app space will be there at some point. Because there are overlaps in the services being offered by the multiple platforms – and to serve more or less the same customer base.

When that consolidation comes, the Majid Al Futtaim’s super-app want to be among the handful still in the game.