The term, FemTech (Female Technology), refers to businesses that utilise technology or software to produce products/services that tackle various women’s health issues. The term was coined in 2016 by Ida Tin, the founder of the period tracking company “Clue.”
FemTech is a subsector of the HealthTech industry focused specifically on female consumers’ needs. According to research, women make over 80% of the healthcare decisions for their households and their average healthcare expenditure is 30% more than men per capita (Welson-Rossman). Despite this, there is a gap in funding, with women’s healthcare having received only 3.3% of all digital health investments in the US between 2011-2020 (Rock Health). This gap leaves a vast potential market for the FemTech industry to address needs that are currently neglected by the general healthcare industry and the HealthTech industry.
Many local Startups in Tamil Nadu are finding new cost-effective methods to manufacture sanitary napkins. These include biodegradable and organic options. The development of these Startups could potentially increase accessibility of sanitary products to the rural population. Additionally, the raw materials in many of these manufacturing processes require natural ingredients or locally grown plants, which could also increase employment opportunities for local farmers.
Another area, with multiple Startups working on a solution, is breast cancer diagnosis technologies. The development of these technologies has the potential to improve early screening and detection of breast cancer.
An area that is underserviced in the State’s FemTech sector is virtual clinics or digital tools in contraception and reproductive health, which may still be taboo topics in the overall Indian market.
Although there are some variations in which products/services are part of the FemTech industry, they can be broadly classified into the following areas:
- Menstrual Health: This area includes period products, period tracking apps and technology to treat menstrual cramps and other symptoms.
- Menopausal/Geriatric Health: This area includes digital solutions for menopausal care and symptom management. Additionally, care for post-menopausal women is also included.
- Reproductive Health/Fertility: This area comprises services that provide fertility tracking (such as ovulation prediction) and fertility treatments (such as IVF). Apart from this, it includes digital tools/apps that allow the user to access contraception prescriptions and consultations from medical professionals.
- Pregnancy and Prenatal/Postnatal Care: This area consists of devices for prenatal care, pregnancy tracking and plans for managing pregnancy symptoms. It also includes digital tools for new mothers and breastfeeding mothers.
- Cancer and Other Disease Treatment: This involves healthcare solutions for various health conditions that affect women, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, PCOS and endometriosis. This area encompasses not only the health conditions that exclusively affect women but also those that affect women disproportionately. An example of this is osteoporosis.
- Mental Health Care: Products or services in this area consist of tools/platforms that provide support for various mental health issues like anxiety and depression. These tools could include access to mental health professionals online and medication delivery. They could also be used to offer treatment for postpartum depression in women.
- General Wellness/Lifestyle: This segment provides virtual methods of accessing healthcare providers or medicine. It includes digital solutions providing plans for nutrition and exercise, like diet help or meditation apps.
Historically, women’s health has been underfunded by the medical industry, leading to a lack of resources and information for certain areas. Potential solutions to improve women’s healthcare using the digital tools exist in multiple categories of FemTech. This includes maternal health, fertility and menstrual health. The following are currently implemented solutions(McKinsey 2022):
- Improving diagnosis: Certain conditions, such as endometriosis or PCOS, are underdiagnosed in women by healthcare providers. Digital solutions and symptom-tracking platforms/apps can reduce the proportion of women with these conditions that are not diagnosed and cannot receive early treatment.
Examples of FemTech companies providing this solution: Dotlab, Sera Prognostics
- Self-health monitoring: At-home health monitoring is possible due to the emergence of tracking apps and wearable devices. Additionally, at-home diagnostic kits also enable self- healthcare.
Examples of FemTech companies providing this solution: BloomLife and Modern Fertility.
- Improving care options: Previously, in-person clinics were necessary for consumers to access healthcare providers or medicine. With the rise of virtual clinics or direct prescription delivery, other options have become available to make healthcare more accessible for women.
- Enabling more care for previously stigmatised categories: Due to the stigmatisation of certain areas of women’s health, such as menstrual health, menopause and sexual health, there might be a lack of willingness to use in-person treatment options. Digital solutions and virtual care options can target these care areas.
- Enabling specific culture/region-specific care: Solutions can also be provided, targeting various demographics of women, including women of different races, women in rural communities, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Currently, there is a low investment in the FemTech sector when compared to overall health investment. However, a huge potential for returns can arise from improving women’s health outcomes. Future investment of $300 million has the potential to generate up to $13 billion globally (Women’s Health Access Matters).
Furthermore, the rise of FemTech firms has the potential to spur an increase in women-led enterprises. Although there is some variation in the exact estimates by different sources, the consensus is that women are less likely to start a business than men, leading to low global participation of women in entrepreneurship. This is especially true in the tech industry as well as other fast-growing industries. The FemTech industry is an exception, with women being more likely to start a FemTech business than men. The global percentage of companies with one or more female founders is only 20%; however, for the FemTech industry, this increases exponentially to 70% (McKinsey 2022).
Therefore, any investment in the FemTech industry is also an indirect investment in promoting women entrepreneurship globally.
Certain areas of women’s health remain stigmatised in many regions of the world, especially topics related to menstruation and postpartum depression. Even in regions where these are not taboo, other topics, such as contraception and STIs, are. For example, only around 48% of women in Europe say they are comfortable discussing contraception, while only 33% are comfortable with topics relating to STIs (STADA Health Report 2020). This leads to many women not having access to adequate information about these topics and believing incorrect societal myths instead. This may cause them to neglect their symptoms and not prioritise seeking out the healthcare options available to them for treatment.
If FemTech Startups tackling these presently taboo topics receive more funding and are able to grow, the information they provide can reach many women who need it. Due to this, the general population’s awareness of these topics will increase and help destigmatise and demystify them.