Admittedly here at Femtech Insider we often look to the US and Western Europe, when it comes to our coverage and femtech news. So needless to say: We were quite excited when AMMA, the largest Russian service for pregnant women with more than 10 million users worldwide, approached us to let us know about a femtech market overview for Russia they were working on. Today we’re excited to share some of the key insights from their work in this guest post with you!
The Growth of Digital Health in Russia as the Main Driver of Femtech Development
Overall the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 has led to an increase in demand for digital health. The need for medical attention has grown. At the same time, for many, offline medicine has become unavailable either due to the reorientation of doctors to combat the consequences of the pandemic, or because of the desire to maintain quarantine and reduce live contacts with medical personnel. Analytics of the largest Russian search service Yandex shows an increase in search queries in January-September 2020 compared to the same period last year for mobile femtech services in almost all segments:
The press service of the large Russian mHealth service SberZdorovye noted that “The number of entries in January – September 2020 compared to January – September 2019 for female consultants (obstetricians, gynecologists, mammologists and cosmetologists) increased by 27% in general. In more detail, the growth for obstetricians was 56%, for gynecologists – 23%, for mammologists – 28%, for cosmetologists – 45%.”
In this context, AMMA was no exception. “In 2019, the monthly audience growth exceeded 450K users worldwide, and by the end of 2020, the monthly number of downloads will have reached 700K. At the same time, our company’s sales volume increased by more than 10x compared to December 2019”, says Evgeniy Zhikharev, the founder of AMMA Pregnancy Tracker.
Major Players in the Russian Femtech Market
Several products are popular on the Russian market. Interestingly, about half of them are international and they occupy leading positions in the App Store and Play Market in a number of countries with millions of downloads, but have roots in Russia and Belarus. Among the largest successful projects on the Russian market are Flo, AMMA, Clover, Wachanga, Clue, Baby.ru, Mama Pro, and among mHealth services Yandex.Zdorovye, Mail.ru.Zdorovye and SberZdorovye. Thus, we can confidently say that the Russian market has accumulated sufficient expertise to launch and develop femtech projects both locally and globally.
Our segmentation does not differentiate wearable devices, as is done in most international market research. Unfortunately, we were unable to find projects in Russia that would create high-tech gadgets for women’s health. “The difficulty of certifying medical products stops Russian startups from switching to offline production, although this is normal practice in Western markets,” says Evgeny Paperny, head of Sber’s medical information products.
What Will Happen to the Market after 2020?
One of the key dominants of 2020 in the femtech market in Russia, and in the world as a whole, is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has largely changed consumer sentiments and market drivers in the field of digital health. According to experts, the pandemic has generated both positive and negative factors for the development of femtech.
- Increased focus on health.
- Decrease in the availability of offline medical services – an increase in demand for telemedicine services.
- The decline in solvency has increased attention to preventive, predictive health care methods, in the paradigm of which most femtech projects operate.
- Growing interest in conscious motherhood and parenting.
- The initially digitalized Y and Z generation entered the active parenting age.
- Growth in the number of women among IT professionals and IT entrepreneurs in Russia.
Restraining negative factors:
- General decline in the purchasing power of the population in Russia. Market regulation and difficulty with medical certification.
- Lack of a legislative framework for the development of medical technology projects.
- Difficulty entering business for women in several regions of the country.
“Women are looking for new ways to stay healthy.”
“Since 2020, the medical market in Russia has been growing – in opposition to the rest of the economy. You can count on growth in femtech, as due to the coronavirus, people in general have begun to pay more attention to their health and medicine, ” notes Yevgeny Paperny. “Because of the decline in income, women tend to look for new ways to stay healthy – after all, prevention is clearly cheaper than treatment. And this should lead to the growth of a wide variety of health services, including those related to femtech”.
“In addition to telemedicine, the need for self-diagnosis and symptom control has also increased. Prevention of diseases, methods of protecting and strengthening health have acquired particular importance. We also anticipate that in the future there will be a growing demand for special mentoring – from a “personal” doctor, semi-virtual, providing assistance remotely”, explains Maksim Kolpakov, CEO of Wachanga Ltd.
The unusual quarantine conditions during the pandemic, the forced transition to remote work and study forced women to look for new ways to organize family life and leisure, and for many, femtech services turned out to be helpful. “It is obvious that we already live in a completely different world than at the beginning of the year. In a few months, there has been a complete reassessment of online tools, and demand for them has sharply increased. During border closures and lockdown, our products showed traffic growth of over 40%. Our Child Development Assistant, Breastfeeding Assistant, Pregnancy Calendar and Cycle Calendar attracted a much larger audience. We picked up this trend, received additional feedback, and were able to significantly improve our products to better meet the changing needs of women, parents, families”, adds Maxim Kolpakov.
Finally, a smart motherhood trend has emerged in Russia. Moms actively host podcasts, YouTube shows and write books. The blogs of evidence-based pediatricians Sergey Butriy and Fedor Katasonov have become popular. Employers are gradually ceasing to perceive mothers on maternity leave as a ticking time bomb, trying to retrain and involve them in high-tech work. “Now a mother on maternity leave can, for example, earn extra money in data science. Could we have imagined something like this 5-10 years ago?”, says Daria Golovina, a Russian femtech founder. “Оn the Western markets employers have come to understand that supporting an employee who plans to expand his family increases his loyalty. If you support an employee during a physically and psychologically difficult period of his life – during pregnancy, childbirth and the first years of raising a child – the likelihood of her / him returning to work is significantly increased. For example, Progyny and Maven provide specialized programs for employers and employees during this period, ” adds Victoria Volkova, associate of CM Ventures.
Taking care of yourself, your psychological state – within the framework of the general trend towards awareness – can also become a growth point for femtech. “It’s all about awareness, about a self-centered approach in all stages of life, also during motherhood, when women often have to adjust”, says Roman Kulikov.
Discussing the risks of femtech development in the near future, Daria Golovina notes that routine health care has been deprioritized among women in times of COVID-19. “Now women are mainly concerned with the family’s everyday needs: how to organize everyday life, how to homeschool. Many people are now concerned about money. There is no time for self-care”, the expert believes.
The budget of the national “Digital Economy” project from the Russian government in 2021–2023 will be reduced by $1,6B and will amount to $7,2B rubles, which is 17.5% less than previously approved funding volumes. This could adversely affect the Russian mHealth industry. But we can hope that after overcoming the COVID crisis, investments in digitalization will return.
In Western markets, femtech is actively transforming into a full-fledged ecosystem. “Businesses created by women for women” has become femtech’s slogan. But in Russia the situation is still different. There are no specialized funds for female founders or femtech,” says business angel Nikita Zhelezny. Because of the country’s low investment attractiveness on the international market and low solvency, the only way to develop is to relocate to foreign markets. This explains the large number of international femtech startups created in Russia and the CIS countries.
Ekaterina Cohen (Dorozhkina), partner at 13 Ventures, highlights the gender aspect of women-led femtech projects: “Research shows that women-led teams generate 35% more revenue than men-only teams. In the US, there are already funds that invest in women founders, so I hope that in Russia this trend will develop as quickly and that soon an entire ecosystem will be built for the development of femtech startups here as well.”
None of the experts interviewed were confident enough to estimate the size of the Russian femtech market. However, the first wave of local femtech companies has already shown that players who can get through these challenging times will find new opportunities for growth.
Overall the femtech market in Russia is still unsaturated, when compared to the US or even Western Europe. Therefore, financing for startups is difficult and, ion consequence, choice for consumers is small. In the next few years, however, we hope more femtech startups will launch and that local and international investors will appreciate the potential of femtech. We are sure, that those who invest today, will see great returns.