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Navigating the Data Explosion in the Femtech Market Leveraging AI/ML

By: Dr Siddhartha Dutta

Practice Head, SG Analytics Inc.



“The hill we climb…without the coordinates”


The puzzle around Femtech data

We have been tracking the ‘Femtech’ industry from the past 6 years and have keenly observed the hype and enthusiasm. In the past 2 years, we had the opportunity to speak with several Femtech opinion leaders across the globe. Quite a few interesting observations came out during such interactions. Most of them firmly believed that this segment had the potential to disrupt the future of healthcare. Currently, this space is driven by selected female entrepreneurs who are driving this due to their own personal experiences and aspirations. Many service providers were totally dependent on their existing client pools and were busy retaining them compared to planning a new market entry. Players based out of key US states were not well informed about the preferences and sentiments of women across Western Europe, China, or India. Every player in the market had their own reliable source of data that they were using. We doubt if there was any validation of these numbers.


Who validates the market numbers?

While the internet and social media are full of optimism, there are no validated and actionable numbers to support the phenomenon. Femtech has garnered much attention ever since its inception. An article published in Forbes claimed that $800 million were invested in Femtech startups in 2019 (Jaramillo n.d.). For 2020, the investment was projected at $1.3 billion (“Despite Industry Buzz, Femtech Funding Still Lags” 2021). One of the leading ‘Femtech’ promoters in the US and my mentor who got me interested in ‘Femtech’ stated, “Digital health investment in 2020 was $14.1 billion out of which, ‘Femtech’ was only $254 million, around 1.8% of the total investment,” while projecting the market to reach $1.15 billion by 2025 (“The COVID-19 Pandemic & a Rising Focus on Women’s Untapped Healthcare” n.d.). Several published reports also projected global investments of $520 million in 2020. However, there were other sources that claimed investments to reach upto $22.8 billion in 2020 (“Femtech Market Size 2021-2027 | Growth Forecast Report” n.d.). Proving the actual worth of this Femtech market is a struggle as the numbers do not match. In the era of blockchain and data engineering, 2 plus 2 is just not adding up to 4. We sincerely love this optimism, though we can see other ambiguities as well.


Ambiguity in coverage

While some leaders are promoting menstrual health, PMS and sexual wellness, other key healthcare bodies claim anaemia in pregnant women, breast cancer and CVD equally important. When we think of ‘Femtech’ why do only think of menstruation and childbirth? Menstrual issues are also related to PCOS, endometriosis, stress, lifestyle, and other conditions. All these are interconnected. While we have medicines for some, we don’t have products and services for others. The definition of ‘Femtech’ and ‘female health’ remains disconnected. While we have data for some (even as old as 2015), we have data missing in others. It was surprising to track data on the prevalence of anaemia in pregnant women on a key global healthcare data site that added 2019 data in 2021.


Data available in today’s market lacks uniformity and validation and is not statistically significant. This leads to monetary losses, and eventually, slower growth of this segment. Most of the Femtech service or product manufacturers rely on their end clients for perception, sentiments, and market demands.


Use case - same product, different prices, similar perception

Recently, we did a perception analysis of US women and Indian women who used intimate wipes on a regular basis. While herbal, pH balance or natural categories were common, we were surprised to find users paying 3 times more price in the US compared to India. A pack of hygiene wipes (40 wipes) was priced INR175/USD2.37 in India compared to USD 9.99 in the US. The fact that the same product with the same quality can be manufactured and sold at a lower cost went unnoticed, which could have increased the user base. However, such studies and data are not available anywhere.

Possible scenarios and solutions

If there are problems, then there must be solutions for solving these problems. Let’s talk!

  1. Use AI/ML to generate and analyse data – It’s a universal fact that in today’s world 2 plus 2 is not adding up to 4. However, by using ML tools, running surveys, and analysing perceptions, sentiments and more, data can be generated by ethnicity, by usage, by price, by age group and more. The fast-track data-gathering process has replaced the rudimentary excel sheets and there is no harm trying them at least once. Manufacturers and service providers must create these databases. It will save them money and effort and will keep them updated on demands.

  2. Make this segment inclusive – ‘Femtech’ by women and for women is great, but we also have men driving product portfolios in female health across pharma and medical devices. Inclusiveness is imperative for the success of this segment and will add value. While gathering data, include the buyers (women) and facilitators (men who sometimes buy or sell these products). Inclusive data gathering has far more impact than one-sided data. Inclusive data has helped many players save money and time.

  3. Break the taboo – Social media awareness campaigns are running across the public domain. Companies are conducting webinars, podcasts, and conferences. Is there a measurable account of the impact of these initiatives? Probably not! Measure the impact of campaigns such as menstrual leave in a workplace, men/boyfriends/fathers buying tampons for their loved ones and so forth. Running such campaigns can break the taboo and create more awareness.

The struggle has just begun and only data can consolidate this market. With no data in hand and no coordinates to look up to, it appears to be an uphill task in 2021. I am reminded of a recent poem that gathered much attention on social media.

“The hill we climb, if only we dare…” Amanda Gorman’s poem read by her at the inaugural ceremony of the Presidential swearing-in ceremony in the US. This poem states the true picture of the ‘Femtech’ industry today. Yes, it is true that out of the 3.9 billion women population globally, only some of the brave hearts have dared to challenge the status quo and break the female health glass ceiling. It’s a difficult task to find sufficient and reliable data to accelerate the ‘Femtech’ phenomenon. Hence, manufacturers, social media advocates, ‘Femtech’ promoters and buyers must come together to proliferate data. The future is female, but not without data.


About the author

Dr Siddhartha Dutta represents a global research and analytics firm SG Analytics Inc. that promotes the usage of data analytics and strategic solutioning in the female healthcare and related segments. He has been working in this industry for the last 22 years and has previously worked in a US-based hospital and Indian hospitals besides consulting firms. His team at SGA offers solutions to providers who are struggling to get data, gather insights and implement strategies. To discuss any business problems in female health and ‘Femtech’, write to us at Sidhartha.dutta@sganalytics.com

Acknowledgement – Ms Supriya Dixit and Ms Nivedita Kar for valuable inputs


References:

  1. Jaramillo, Estrella. n.d. “Femtech in 2020: Investors Share Trends and Opportunities in Women’s Health Technology.” Forbes. Accessed September 28, 2021

  2. “The COVID-19 Pandemic & a Rising Focus on Women’s Untapped Healthcare.” n.d. Insights.frost.com. Accessed September 28, 2021

  3. “Despite Industry Buzz, Femtech Funding Still Lags.” 2021. MobiHealthNews. July 16, 2021

  4. “Femtech Market Size 2021-2027 | Growth Forecast Report.” n.d. Global Market Insights, Inc. Accessed September 28, 2021.