What is Femtech?
In the last couple of years, there has been a rise in female technology or ‘Femtech’. It applies to software, products, services and diagnostics that utilise technology to concentrate on and improve women’s health. A 2018 report released by Frost & Sullivan tells us that Femtech is the next big thing in the women’s health market. Considering the market potential is estimated to be around a whopping 50 billion dollars in 2025, it should come as no surprise that a lot of companies dealing in biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, and clinical diagnostics should be paying more attention to this sector.
In the past, most products and solutions in the healthcare sector were designed and marketed without paying much attention to gender differences. Topics like female reproductive health and menstruation were discussed only behind closed doors until very recently. However, millennial women have been spotlighting these issues to make the world understand that femtech is not about slapping pink colour on an existing gadget – it is about going above and beyond in creating products made for women. The best and only way to do that is to ask them what is it they need.
Femtech is attempting to find solutions to problems generations of women have been facing. This is done through the creation of hygiene products, reproductive health monitoring systems and other digital applications that will enable women to take better control of their health. There are now apps that help track menstrual cycles as well as the symptoms of each period, making it easy to share your menstrual history with your gynaecologist, should you need to. Some apps help track the fertility window for those who are trying to have kids; there are even community sharing digital platforms dedicated to complex subjects like IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). Thanks to technology, information is readily accessible, and nothing is too daunting when you know there’s a community of women out there going through similar, if not the same problems as you. Take menstruation, for example. Women were reluctant to voice their concerns as menstrual matters were considered a taboo by many. However, by creating platforms, communities and digital health spaces, it finally feels like a safe and accepting space has been created as well as easy access to the right medical care and information. Through many of these digital services, as a menstruator, you can track your menstrual flow, note the number of days in between cycles, stay aware of whether you are clotting too much and understand the relative severity of your pain. All this information is plenty for your doctor to assess whether you need further testing or to prescribe you with medication that could help you manage the pain better.
Challenges faced by Femtech
For all the strides being made in the digital world, femtech still faces a lot of challenges. Women living in urban areas are more likely to have access to internet and mobile phone connectivity as compared to the women living in rural, remote areas. It is straightforward to access people who are educated and more receptive to change than it is to the majority of the population in India who do not have access to education that enables them to accept the changes that are coming to them at such a rapid space. It is the responsibility of new-age, female-oriented digital health companies to mobilise efforts to reach out to women amongst the masses. They must do their bit to contribute towards busting myths and clarifying taboos that exist around issues like menstruation and menstrual hygiene, fertility and reproductive health by educating them, as well as allowing them to voice their problems. This gives even more of an opportunity to shatter myths, correct assumptions and clarify doubts that have pervaded for centuries. Despite these challenges, there has been a lot of press coverage and many social campaigns that have played significant parts in spreading awareness on sanitation, menstruation, mental health, reproductive health and fertility – especially towards those living urban and semi-urban areas. This has created a massive impact on the femtech industry in terms of growth in the last five years. Now with the female hygiene market moving ahead of just sanitary napkins, it is believed to be presently valued at an estimate of 310 million dollars in India. Thanks to the few dominant players in the market, India now has products like panty-liners, maternity pads, sanitizers for toilet seats and menstrual cups available. Sanitary pads and napkins dominate 80% of the market share though there is an increasing receptivity for alternative products like biodegradable sanitary napkins, tampons, organic cotton pads.
Growth of Femtech in India and around the world
Considering the estimation that the feminine hygiene space is going to be worth 50 billion dollars or so in the coming years (between 2023-2025) globally, we can’t say the same for India even though there has been some momentum. This is because, despite the massive potential in the femtech industry in India, it is still very much in the elementary phase. In terms of investments, more funds were raised for women-centric or women-led startups than femtech startups. Generally, the femtech industry has had more reach with urban populations, though some companies have been able to access bigger audiences with the help of smart campaigns and marketing strategy. New young brands bring more of a focus to femtech by using technology and influencer marketing to spread awareness into the smaller tier II and tier III cities. The focus of these new brands is on myth-busting, correcting misconceptions and advocating in making a move to products that are innovative and high quality.
The femtech industry has still not reached its potential despite earnest efforts in spreading awareness and cause marketing. There are several reasons for this, including hesitancy in trying new products, not enough knowledge, cost factors and an inability to accept change. All of these need to evolve for there to be greater encouragement for femtech startups and innovations.