Who is winning in 2021, and reasons why

When I went abroad for my studies in 2018, digital wallets weren’t that popular in Malaysia. I remember seeing stores accepting Alipay and Touch ‘n Go eWallet transactions, but their use was not yet widespread.

But when I got home at the end of 2020, I was shocked to find out just how incentive e-wallets had become. So many cashbacks, discounts, discounts and coupons have been offered.

I was overwhelmed with all the different promotions and rewards programs from all the different apps. So, a question came to me: which app is the best?

What is a great app?

The term “super app” was first coined in 2010 by BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis, and he defined it as a closed ecosystem of many apps. This means that a super app is essentially an integrated app that provides a variety of different services and offerings in a transparent way.

Today, the top apps in Malaysia that fall into this category include Grab, Shopee, Touch ‘n Go eWallet, Boost, and most recently airasia Super App.

These great apps have made their way into the public consciousness by excelling in a particular field. -wallet, and AirAsia is, of course, the most famous for being a renowned airline.

As we know, however, one of the criteria for being a great app is that each of these apps must offer a plethora of services. Grab not only offers ridesharing services, but it also provides food, packages, groceries, and even home services that you can pay for through its GrabPay e-wallet.

Shopee has also expanded beyond e-commerce to deliver food and groceries while offering its own e-wallet.

Who is winning in 2021 and reasons why
ShopeeFood’s user interface when we reviewed its services here

Touch ‘n Go eWallet now also acts as a popular eWallet that bundles a bunch of other third-party services together. Like the Touch ‘n Go e-wallet, Boost has also broadened its scope by offering third-party services such as online shopping, food delivery, insurance and even investment services.

And now airasia Super App has joined the chat. The airline has heavily marketed the app as “ASEAN’s super app” in the hope that it will take off in the region.

The company took action by acquiring Gojek’s Thai business and DeliverEat food delivery service in Malaysia, and it also launched its online calling services in Malaysia.

AirAsias ride hailing service in Klang Valley drivers and pricing
The airasia ride team at launch / Image credit: airasia ride

With AirAsia kicking off, Malaysia’s super app marathon has gotten more serious than ever, and it’s definitely worth a watch.

What is the best super app in Malaysia and why?

Based on the reach, funding and popularity of these awesome apps, there is one particular app that is clearly leading the way: the Grab super app. How did we come to this conclusion?


First, with regard to its core electronic calling business, Grab dominates the market. There are a few other companies out there, but Grab is still the go-to.

“Taking a Grab” has become synonymous with taking a ride. There are even specific drop-off and pick-up points for Grab cars across the country.

Grab has performed its core business exceptionally well, and the same probably can’t be said for all of the other competitors.

On this solid foundation, Grab has grown further to cover a huge service bandwidth. The service categories listed on their website include food, transportation, market, delivery, compensation, airtime, hotel, rewards, gifts, and insurance.

Compare that to Boost and Touch ‘n Go eWallet, which are mostly only used for their wallet features.


Of course, Shopee has grown exponentially as well, but Grab has a lot more downloads.

Based on the approximate number of installs on the Google Play Store, Grab has been installed over 100 million times while Shopee sits on a figure of just over 10 million.

Airasia Super App and Touch ‘n Go eWallet are also said to have over 10 million downloads, while Boost is said to have over 5 million downloads. While these numbers don’t accurately reflect the current usage rates for each app, it’s still a remarkable statistic.


Lately, Shopee has also been strengthening its brand by hiring big names like Jackie Chan as well as K-Pop groups like TWICE and Blackpink to be its ambassadors.

That’s not to say Grab doesn’t focus on its brand and reputation. Throughout the pandemic, Grab has been determined to show support to communities through various efforts.

According to its 2020 Social Impact Report, it has dedicated US $ 40 million to relief initiatives in Southeast Asia, which helps people see it as a friendly, caring company.

It can be argued that airasia Super App also has a very strong brand image as it is a well known name in Malaysia due to the eponymous low cost airline.

However, just because it is well known does not mean it is well regarded. AirAsia’s losses, such as the bankruptcy of AirAsia Japan, could leave a bad impression that would affect the use of its super app.


According to Crunchbase, Grab has raised a total of US $ 12.5 billion in funding. Shopee’s parent company, Sea, made $ 8.6 billion.

But the point is, Shopee and Grab are still not making a net profit. Shopee’s parent company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2017, although Chinese tech giant Tencent is the primary beneficiary of the listing.

Grab’s next moves will also make it a global player. It is preparing to list shares in the United States after its merger with the American company Altimeter Growth Corp. This merger will allow Grab to focus on its growth in Malaysia and beyond. From reach to branding to financing, Grab has it all.

With a solid foundation and abundant support, Grab will undoubtedly be able to carry out its ambitious plans.

So far, the other great apps aren’t quite close. TNG Digital has funding of RM3 billion (roughly $ 700 million) while Boost Holdings reportedly has $ 70 million. Crunchbase reports that AirAsia has total funding of $ 145.7 million.

Right now, it looks like there is only more in-store growth for Grab, which is why we rate it as the top super app in Malaysia.

But who can say that no one will eventually pass him on the road? Perhaps Shopee will manage to pull through in the last round, or Airasia Super App will quickly turn the tide despite being late in the game. So far, Grab is comfortably setting the pace.

What is the app for you?

While Grab wins this marathon of great apps, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect fit for everyone. If you don’t typically have your food delivered or drive everywhere yourself, then the plethora of features that Grab has to offer could be overwhelming.

Maybe you just want to use a simple e-wallet app. This is what I thought at first, which is why I chose to download Touch ‘N Go eWallet when I got home. In America, super apps aren’t a thing yet, and they may never be.

There, Postmates is for the food, Venmo is for transferring money to friends, and Uber is for when you need a ride. I had gotten used to this kind of state of mind, so I thought it was weird having so much stuff in one app.

Eventually, however, I started to see the value of streamlining everything, especially when you’re rewarded with points.

Right now, I am slowly accumulating my points on Grab in order to reach that glorious Platinum level which will allow me to get priority allocation, more discounts and an accelerated win rate.

But sometimes I wonder how much energy and time I’m actually saving by using just one app. I mean, it only takes a few seconds to quit and app and move on to another. Is a great app really much more efficient?

Are the great apps here to stay?

Sure, all signs point to yes, but we all know that sometimes disruptive innovations can happen without warning.

However, the ethics and the notion of super apps correspond perfectly to the trends of our current society. These apps reflect the globalized and digitized reality where humans want a streamlined and integrated experience.

But when it finally becomes clear that Grab – or any other great app – has won the marathon, what does that mean to us? Will we have to face the drawbacks of a monopoly? Discuss the evils of a big giant company?

Well, no matter what the future holds, one thing is clear: This robust super app showdown has highlighted Malaysia’s innovative and economic capabilities, ushering in a technological or innovative heyday in Malaysia.

And right now, we’re looking at Grab to continue to lead by example as we wait to see if the others move forward anytime soon.

  • You can read more opinion pieces from us here.

Featured Image Credit: Bloomberg / Forbes

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