Femtech in Asia: No, it’s not just about sex toys

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“Why femtech? Why ought to I care? Isn’t it solely about sex toys?” 

That just about summed up most individuals’s first impression of feminine expertise in Southeast Asia, as Viracha (Pear) Poolvaruk and Francesca Geary-Stingl of Fermata Singapore recalled in a digital occasion final September.

“When I say I work for a ladies’s well being market, they just say so that you promote sex toys, however it’s a lot greater than that,” advertising and marketing supervisor Pear stated. Fermata Singapore is a sister firm of Tokyo-based Fermata, which goals to develop femtech throughout Asia by means of offering regulatory assist and investments for startups, and creating entry to the merchandise by means of idea shops, retail and on-line enterprise. Fermata is likely one of the largest femtech ecosystems in Japan. It opened its Singapore workplace final yr, making it the primary femtech market in the nation.

ASEAN femtech market map

In May, it revealed a market map for the business in ASEAN for the primary quarter of 2021. It listed 41 startups in the region, with greater than half (24) in Singapore alone. There are solely six in Thailand, whereas Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam have three every, and Malaysia has two up to now.

It is a tiny slice of the worldwide market, contemplating there are over 700 firms listed in a database tracking femtech companies worldwide. Still, it’s opening as much as its potential. The map additionally put the businesses into seven classes: interval well being, sexual wellness, fertility and infertility, being pregnant and postpartum, wellness, males’s well being, and menopause. 

“This was the primary SEA (Southeast Asia) map that we’ve created in 2021, and Singapore took probably the most house in the map once they have fairly a spread of femtech startups booming proper now, particularly in the sexual wellness house,” Pear stated. “In Asia, speaking about sexual wellness and discovering your sexuality, it’s a difficult street as a result of we’ve got a collective tradition of being okay with how issues are, however generally we don’t have the right sex schooling. So it turns into a subject of disgrace, taboo, and judgment.”

Shifting attitudes 

However, that’s altering as extra conversations are taking place, governments are extra supportive of startups, and companies search the area’s precise voices slightly than going by pre-conceived notions. For instance, Singapore makes it straightforward to start out a enterprise. A Global Startup Ecosystem Index 2021 put the nation in the top 10 for the first time this year. Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam additionally improved their rankings in the highest 100.

An interview with a feminine founder in 2019 gave a glimpse of the challenges of beginning up in Malaysia again then. “It is my honest hope that as we transfer into the world of expertise and improvements, startups and enterprise funds are based mostly on deserves, capabilities, and a robust emphasis on enterprise returns. But, sadly, we’ve got misplaced promising startups who migrated to different nations that may present a supportive surroundings for non-standard concepts. 

Startups are the way forward for our financial system; we have to give attention to rising these nascent companies now; in any other case, what’s the purpose of startups?” stated Christine Pamela Chandrakasan, the founder of Mestrae. Her firm sells interchangeable excessive heels to 31 nations and is now trying to broaden to wearable tech.  

“It’s simpler to start out up an organization right here, even in the femtech house. In the digital occasion, Singapore has far much less regulatory (hurdles) to open up,” stated Francesa, pr/advertising and marketing advisor for Fermata Singapore.

She added that its objective is to make the island city-state a femtech hub and hope different nations settle for the business’s merchandise, providers, and knowledge. In addition, researching the native markets and understanding their actuality is crucial when venturing right into a area with numerous cultures and beliefs. 

“I had one entrepreneur telling a bunch of us that in conservative nations like Malaysia or Indonesia, with fairly a big Muslim inhabitants, that no one would have an interest in the sexual wellness merchandise as a result of it’s very taboo then,” Francesca stated. 

“But she determined to go forward with the analysis to seek out out extra. This is as a result of the ladies, and even males, in these explicit areas are probably the most curious and probably the most open to speak about sexual wellness toys, to speak about pleasure in the bed room.”

Realising femtech potential

A latest report commissioned by Standard Chartered projected the ASEAN inhabitants to rise to 723 million by 2030, with the center class forecasted to make up 67% of it. With the area nonetheless rising and being understood and their folks opening up and being extra seen on ladies’s well being points, there may be loads of alternatives for femtech to flourish alongside the elevated curiosity seen the world over. 

According to Pitchbook knowledge, this yr marked the primary time international VC funding in the femtech business went over $1 billion. This yr additionally noticed the emergence of the primary femtech unicorn when Maven Clinic acquired greater than a billion-dollar valuation in August. In addition, a Statista report launched this month stated the worth of the total global market for femtech products and services was US$22 billion in 2020 and projected to extend to US$60 billion by 2027.

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