Apr. 10 (NBD) -- At a maternal & child health hospital in Shanghai, new mothers discharged from the hospital will always be recommended to download a maternal and child care APP, on which they can consult doctors about baby health issues. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the entrepreneurial boom in the maternal and child care area, especially the child care segment.

Thanks to China's second-child policy and huge healthcare demand from mothers and children, the area is believed to have great potentials even though the internet-based healthcare market has gradually cooled down following the entrepreneurial and fund-raising wave in 2015 and 2016.  

Business models vary 

Different approaches have been adopted to tap into the promising area. 

While some small pediatric clinics such as Wellem and Rainbow Children's Clinic saw rapid growth with their convenient medical treatment and cozy environment, platforms offering medical services like online healthcare service community DXY, Chinese mobile health app Xingren Doctor, and digital healthcare service provider Tencent Doctorwork are rushing to open clinics offline to capitalize on their user traffic. 

In addition, some pediatric doctors chose to build offline clinics after rising to fame by publishing child care articles on SINA Weibo and WeChat. 

Entrepreneurship models vary in the realm of child care, and more will emerge in the future, Yang Zefang, director of DXY's medical service institution DXClinics, told NBD. In Yang's view, the Internet is not the major competitive advantage of these startups, but is helpful to cultivate new medical consumption habits and serves as an incubator of individual doctor brand. 

Photo/Shetuwang

Challenges remain 

It appears that paying for knowledge have become popular in recent two years, but in reality, consumers are not willing to pay much for information offered by online medical platforms. 

Attracting users is a big issue, and how to retain them is another, Huang Qian, founder of an online child care service platform dabaidoc.com, told NBD. If platforms couldn't be able to retain users, the churn rate would be high once they cut out subsidies, and problems will arise to the service systems, Huang said. 

Even so, industry insiders are buoyant about the sector. 

Yang Zefang said to NBD that the child care area will be one of the first niche sectors of the online medical market to make profits, as it is hard to see obvious improvement in child care service quality of public hospitals in a short run, which gives five to ten years for internet-based medical projects backed by social capital to grow. 

As for the maternal care segment, especially obstetrical care, Yang noted social investors will encounter severe challenges as the number of public obstetrical care institutions is increasing. Perhaps, there may exist some opportunities in the field of tumor diagnosis and treatment and medical beauty, Yang added. 

Hou Xuchao, founding partner of investment consulting platform China Insights Consultancy, agreed with Yang in the respect of the huge potentials of the maternal and child care field, saying there are a lot to do, such as gene sequencing, infertility treatment, children nutrition, infant care, and door-to-door health services. 

Investors also hold a bullish attitude towards the area due to its high demand and valuation, and are feeling their way in this emerging sector, Hou said. The design of products as well as the way to reach families will be critical, he stated.

 

Email: lansuying@nbd.com.cn