In Southeast Asia, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for 99 percent of all businesses. Many of them are family-owned and operated businesses, such as food booths and wet market operators. These companies are deeply rooted in their communities and contribute significantly to the region's cultural history.

These businesses typically rely on repeat business, and some have operated in the same brick and mortar location for several generations.

The Covid-19 pandemic and government-mandated movement restrictions made it difficult for these businesses as their main customer base could no longer visit them. Without regular footfall, these businesses were faced with the hard question of how to survive.

While challenging, this also created an opportunity for traditional businesses to look beyond how they usually operate and tap on technologies like super Apps to adapt and thrive during the pandemic.

Using technology to bolster business

Consumer behavior changed drastically during the pandemic as 62% of people increased their usage of grocery delivery services, and 65% of them increased usage of food delivery services.

However, some SME operators are not tech-savvy and converting their offline sales channels to online ones like a website or a digital storefront had a steep learning curve and, in the past, required a lot of time and effort.

This is where super Apps like Grab bridged the gap because joining their platform requires minimal knowledge of technology. Integration became much easier and businesses could tap on the benefits of the digital revolution immediately.

Joining such a platform gave sellers other advantages, like having access to services like Mix and Match, which lets customers order food from different stalls within the same hawker center while only paying a single delivery fee. This was an enticing option for patrons used to ordering from multiple stalls when they physically visited their favorite hawker centers.

As the world slowly reopens, and hopefully returns to normal, super Apps will continue to evolve to serve the needs of businesses and consumers. The adoption of technology is not going to slow down, and the opportunities that come with digitization will continue to be there for the small businesses that are willing to take the time to adapt.

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in National Geographic. The original article can be found at )