Femtech – a term attributed to Ida Tin, the Danish CEO and founder of period-tracking app Clue – refers to technology-driven products and services that improve healthcare for female-specific conditions, such as maternal, menstrual, and sexual health; fertility; and menopause. It also includes general health conditions that affect women disproportionately or differently, such as osteoporosis.
Suchismita Das, healthcare and life science analyst at Frost & Sullivan, attributes part of the recent focus on advancing femtech products to the fact that more women around the world are entering the workforce.
In any case, the opportunity is significant: depending on the scope and definition used, 2022 estimates for the size of the femtech market, cited by McKinsey & Company analysts, ranged from $500 million to $1 billion.
Femtech: Delivering culturally sensitive, tailored care
According to the same analysts, one of the femtech movement’s initial breakthroughs includes delivering “culturally sensitive and tailored care” for consumer sub-groups, including in low- and middle- income countries, that were previously uncatered for. This will continue to be a prominent white space that early movers can capitalise on going forward, they added.
Low- and middle-income countries are still small in terms of size: in 2022, North America accounted for the bulk of femtech startups (51%), followed by Europe (27%), Asia (9%), Middle East and North Africa (6%), and then Africa and Latin America (both 2%).
However, Asia is an exciting region in terms of growth and potential, according to Lindsay Davis, founder of the FemTech Association of Asia (FAA).
“We are the one of the smaller regions as far as the number of [femtech] businesses go. But the growth is there [in terms of] the number of entrepreneurs and the acceleration rates,” she said. “It's really exciting to think about how there's this whole untapped market of women all over Asia.”
Created in 2021, the FAA is Asia’s first industry network for femtech founders, professionals, and investors who are focused on improving women's health through tech-driven solutions.
Understanding women’s priorities for healthcare
Better understanding women’s health and wellness needs is an objective of the Singapore-headquartered association, which counts over 40 member companies across nine countries. It conducted a consumer survey in the city-state last year, questioning more than 200 women adults. (Results of a second survey conducted in the Philippines will be published later this year.)
It found that menstrual health and mental health were the most understood categories among Singaporean women, ranking first and second respectively, while menopause was the least understood condition, followed by chronic illness. Reproductive health and fertility were voted the third least understood and third best understood health category.
The survey also revealed an enthusiasm for trying femtech products and services – 99% of women in Singapore said they were open to using femtech solutions and 90% of 18- to 24-year-olds already did – and it highlighted women’s priorities for healthcare: cost (67%), trust (60%), and convenience (57%).
Breaking taboos and normalising the conversation
“What we've seen in our recent survey in Singapore and in the Philippines [...] is there's quite high trust in the medical community and doctors, which is really positive. People feel like they are being taken care of well [and] I think there is some level of comfort with actually having these discussions with our healthcare providers,” Davis said.
“Having said that, there are of course taboos in more public settings, and that's really what the Femtech Association of Asia is trying to do: put to market a normalised conversation around women's health. These aren't taboo topics. These aren't dirty words. These are body parts and the facts of life that all women go through! So, I think it’s exciting and it's positive, but we do struggle with the same challenges as other markets around the world.”
Creating “safe spaces” online – through community platforms, forums, talks, and educational content – where women can discuss issues, was necessary to address this, said Davis, who added that it was often younger Asian women across driving these conversations.
“It's not just going to market and selling a product or service,” she said. “It's about looking at communities. Younger generations are saying, ‘I want to be healthy and it's not just about yoga and avocados. It's about my wellbeing overall and even the things I might not know about; how can I learn more?’”
Obstacles to uptake: Accessibility and affordability
Another issue in many Asian countries is accessibility and affordability. Many nutraceutical companies tend to target higher-income consumers with premium products and femtech products, which can include expensive wearable devices or novel ingredients, are no exception.
Huge income disparities in many Asian countries mean these products are priced out of many people’s reach – including those who may need them the most.
As startups grow and scale their offerings, they will hopefully be able to bring down prices and reach a wider audience, Davis said.
“Whether it be incorporating telehealth or delivery of menstrual products or supplements, as these businesses scale, they will be able to adjust pricing or target different groups,” she said.