Femtech in Southeast Asia has grown leaps and bounds over several years to establish itself as a viable investment option and a vital component for female empowerment. It encompasses a range of technologies, products, or services designed to cater to women’s health—from maternal, sexual, and menstrual health to menopause, fertility, gyno, and more.

According to research conducted by Statista in conjunction with milieu Insights, the share of women using femtech products or services in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is still low. Only 23% of ladies in Singapore use it, compared to 40% in Malaysia, 35% in Indonesia, 44% in the Philippines, and 41% in Thailand. Vietnam is the only country with a higher adoption rate than the rest, with 52% of respondents using this type of technology.

Innovative femtech startups are developing many solutions to guide women towards the information they need, help them understand their bodies, and destigmatise their health. It offers options tailored towards female preferences, using telehealth or in-person consultations, product subscriptions, and medication delivery; for example, obtaining health supplements to enable hormone balancing.

Moreover, these emerging companies are aiding sustainability by reducing waste and developing eco-friendly products like biodegradable tampons. They are democratising access to their solutions for all women, irrespective of age or whether they live in urban or rural areas. Plus, they are offering inclusivity for other marginalised groups.

Challenges in the femtech scene in Southeast Asia 

Using technology to enhance female health is not without significant challenges. Traditional barriers remain in the region, stigmatising women’s physical, mental, and reproductive state. There is inadequate education on biology and sex, leading to harmful myths and misinformation about how female bodies work.

Medical research is run primarily by men and may have a male-leaning bias, especially if the research subjects are also of the masculine gender. This exclusion promotes gender bias in medicine and hampers the ability to establish women-specific treatment options. Costs are also high and restrictive, and there may be no formal or systemic education to bridge the information gap on health and wellness.

Online advertising restrictions make it challenging to discuss female-oriented medical needs, with some discussions considered to violate policies. Furthermore, there are significant concerns about data protection and privacy. While obtaining resources on women’s health is essential, they must ensure discretion when sharing clinical or scientific data.

Nevertheless, vital solutions exist to counteract the negative impact of ladies’ issues. For one, social media offers large platforms and audiences to spread knowledge , and startups should work with tech companies to craft posts that do not violate terms of service or show explicit content. 

Changing trends and rising opportunities

Women have become more vocal over the years, helping to change attitudes about their bodies and wellness. Thus, innovative health apps are now available, bringing new platforms to work with and market on, and they offer unique approaches to sex education, such as through edtech or interactive digital courses.

Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) can help gather and analyse data to provide insights into female concerns. Blockchain can enable the safe storage of medical records for women and create cybersecurity tools to safeguard user information. Additionally, wearable apps that collect personal details should have clear privacy policies.

Improving the representation of girls in tech fields and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) will continue to change the dynamic in medical arenas and put female concerns at the forefront. 

Regional governments and investment firms without gender bias can provide more significant support for women-led companies and provide mentorship to the founders. Empowering them to take centre stage will bring better solutions, products, and services tailored to the ideal demographic, whether in schools, at home, or in the workplace.

Opportunities ahead for women’s health in ASEAN 

The large female population in ASEAN means femtech startups have an enormous market for their products and services. Companies should ditch the one-gender-fits-all approach since precision medicine shows that women may need different treatment than men for certain diseases.

Fermata Singapore published its Femtech Market Map of Southeast Asia 2022, which showed there were 71 companies in total benefitting from the market. Singapore leads the way with 33, Malaysia 11, Thailand 9, the Philippines 9, Indonesia 5, and Vietnam 4. Examples of businesses in the sector include Ferne, which focuses on sexual wellness, Athena on period health, yesmom on fertility and infertility, and BIORITHM on pregnancy and postpartum needs.

New organisations will have opportunities in maternity care, improving wearable devices for pregnancy monitoring and developing digital support options to detect signs of disease or symptoms. Governments should expand the infrastructure to reach rural areas. 

The key to all innovations will be to ensure inclusivity, user-friendliness, efficiency, and privacy. Done well, femtech in Southeast Asia will thrive and help women with their health and wellness.