What is a super-platform?
A “super-platform” is a term which describes a relatively new phenomenon in a modern technological world -- an online-to-offline (O2O) type of digital infrastructure, which spans across multiple sectors of economic activity providing a way for users (both businesses and consumers) to operate with multiple resources, products and services within a uniform, standardized, and highly interconnected way.
Imagine, you want to be able to search for information, shop online, pay for products and services, communicate with someone by email, or chat, create and manage text and spreadsheet documents, translate them into any language on the go, store and organize data like photos and videos, find local restaurants and get driving directions, or just entertain yourself by playing games -- and you prefer to have all of that in one place without needing to search for numerous websites and resources? You can do just that in your single Google account. This is what a super-platform does: it provides a way to conveniently engage in totally different types of activity across different sectors.
Similar idea is driving rapid growth of other technological giants -- Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, Apple, Tencent, and Microsoft to name a few. All of them are different in many ways, but are similar in that they create business ecosystems where various sectors fit together seamlessly. It appears that users, their data, and businesses become a part of a large independant machine creating a frame for smooth data and money flow across sectors, a world without sector borders.
It is important to note that super-platforms are not only represented by global corporations like the above-mentioned “blue chips”, they can be of domestic significance as well. For example, a local bank can combine “traditional” financial services (deposits, loans, money transfers) with a diversified set of user-friendly options to pay for Internet, TV, utility services, taxi, shop online at various ecommerce platforms, get discounts and use coupons, rent cars and houses -- all with a single e-bank mobile application. Once domestic supremacy is achieved, this kind of bank might decide to expand internationally, for example, include overseas logistics and global ecommerce to the list of its in-built options.
So, it is not a size of a super-platform that appears to be the main factor of identifying one as such, rather, the ability to orchestrate various business ecosystems and data flows as one, connecting the dots between distant sectors of economy.
As seen in the example of China’s super-platforms -- Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, Meituan etc, a growth of this phenomenal platforms is driven by both consumers and companies. According to Peking University professor Jeffrey Towson, consumers prefer having a single mobility app offering multiple services like hailing taxis, bike rental, ride-sharing, rather than having to manage them separately. On the other hand, in a large market like China, companies are struggling to provide a large number of physical assets -- bikes, taxies, or supermarkets -- making it harder for smaller companies to compete and forcing all involved sectors to gravitate toward large players orchestrating everything -- super-platforms.
While the phenomenon of super-platforms has already seriously transformed such industries as finance, mobility services, and consumer services, it only recently emerged in healthcare industry, and, as we shall see below, is poised to impact pharmaceutical research industry in the nearest years. Let’s review the latter two cases in more details.
Super-platforms in healthcare industry
This content available exclusively for BPT Mebmers