Building a Thai-made Super App That Can Do it All

A super app brings payments, shopping, communications, and other services onto a single platform. Some of the most notable in Asia are WeChat, Grab and LINE—all of which were developed by digital startups.

Now, the dtac app is setting out to challenge the incumbents with a unique combination of services. In addition to loyalty rewards at over 30,000 retail points, users can use the new dtac app to register and pay for insurance and gaming and even protect themselves from cyber threats.

These features reflect how telecommunications providers are positioned to build powerful super apps that are deeply integrated into their local ecosystems. In Thailand, for example, mobile operators are required to verify the identity of their customers, which is also a requisite for purchasing financial and insurance products.

To learn more about how dtac built a super app like none other, dtacblog spoke to Sun Loo Yeoh, Head of Digital B2C and Platforms and Tiparpa Suksathit, Head of App and Digital Channels.

The Center of Everything

The revamped version of the dtac app was launched in March 2022 and comes with a completely different look and feel. Users can more easily navigate connectivity services, dtac reward, and dtac Beyond—a brand new section.

“We try to position the dtac app at the center of every customer interaction with dtac. You can access all services from the app, both connectivity and beyond connectivity,” Ms. Sun Loo said. “dtac Beyond, which offers beyond mobile connectivity services including e-insurance, cybersecurity, and gaming, is therefore the key to building a super app.”

Currently, dtac has about 7.4 million monthly active users on its digital platforms and hopes to attract 10 million digital users within 2023. But it faces stiff competition.

“Everyone is trying to build an ecosystem for people to stick to their platforms. However, we are not worried about growing competition. I believe each super app has a slightly different purpose and everyone plays in a slightly different field,” Ms. Tiparpa explained. “For dtac, it means designing a lifestyle app and digital ecosystem to elevate the lives of Thai people.”


Digital for All

By transforming into a super app, dtac app can help fuel growth beyond mobile connectivity while also further accelerating digital inclusion among lower-ended smartphone users whose phones usually come with limited storage capacity. With the lite version of the dtac app, users can explore a variety of mobile and digital services and have an app-like experience without having to install the app.

Another aspect of the dtac super app is its ambition to empower the underserved prepaid segment by being more inclusive to all users and lowering barriers to entry. The app is now available in four languages and open to everyone, even if they are not yet dtac customers.

“dtac lite is critical for events like the vaccine registration. We see this as a national service, and thus we don’t want to make downloading the app a barrier. As long as people have a browser on their phone, they can access our digital channels,” said Ms. Sun Loo. “This is also aligned with our purpose of connecting people to what matters most and our ambition to drive a digitally inclusive society.”

Thanks to this digital inclusion and dtac’s beyond connectivity strategy, dtac has seen 3x growth of prepaid customers on the app from the year 2020, with 124 percent growth coming from upcountry customers.


Fast and Private

“The key challenge for us was the deadline. Normally, to develop an app like this would take about 18 months, but we did it within six months,” Ms. Tiparpa said. “The first two months were also very tough because we worked online. But we never cut corners on data privacy and security.”

Not only must the app be more comprehensive, user-friendly, and personalized, but it must also ensure the data privacy of its users. By embracing privacy by design, the team was able to put customers’ data protection at the core of the development process, ensuring dtac’s standards were met at launch.

Through its partnerships with strategic industry players and its own innovations, dtac continues to develop a comprehensive digital ecosystem and bring new value propositions to its customers through the dtac super app, with the ambition to reach 10 million digital users and five-fold digital growth in 2023.

“We learn and improve our app every single day, it is an on-going journey of making our app a little bit better every day. We learn from our customers and make an app that truly meets their needs.  For the current version, we went through thousands of rounds of testing and usability studies,” Ms. Sun Loo said. “But this is not the end. We will keep improving.”