TheAsianparent to use multi-million dollar war chest for Africa expansion and e-commerce

Singapore-based theAsianparent has raised funding of “double digit millions” in a series C round, backed by Chinese conglomerate Fosun, and asset managers Redbadge Pacific and WHG Capital. Claiming to be South East Asia’s largest community and content platform for mothers, theAsianparent has also expanded its brand to Africa under Africanparent and the Indian subcontinent under theIndusparent.

Speaking about the funding to Mumbrella, theAsianparent founder and CEO Roshni Mahtani said: “This is a positive development for the media industry in general since publishing usually does not get the attention it deserves.”    

The company will use the latest round to expand its operations in Africa where it launched earlier this year with Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa as priority markets. The funding will also help theAsianparent make its foray into commerce. 

Speaking to Mumbrella about how the funds will be deployed, Mahtani said: “Content companies cannot exist as content companies alone. 

“We pivoted to being content and community with the launch of the app last year. And now, we’ve closed the loop with commerce.

“Part of the funds will be used to launch both ecommerce and a direct-to-consumer business. We will produce our own products or work with partners to create products that are relevant for local markets.”

Roshni Mahtani: Content companies cannot exist as content companies alone.

Over the years, theAsianparent has collected a vast trove of data on its users. Mahtani said: “Data allows personalised communication, good monetisation and hyper targeted advertising.

“But most importantly, it gives us insights into user behaviour and what moms need. We use those insights to create products that will go out into the market.

“For our launches in the next two months, we have created products that are not really available in Asia. But ones that we know that Asian moms have been looking for and which use Asian ingredients. All the markets will have the same level of personalisation.”

The revenue model for theAsianparent so far had been via research and insights for brands; advertising and native advertising; key opinion leaders and influencers; content creation via advertorials; e-commerce activation and finally events which allowed marketers access to the site’s user base in person. 

A large proportion of content on the site was user generated according to Mahtani. Professionally generated content accounted for only 10%. The app which was launched last September had 1.6 million installs and over three million interactions every month. Mahtani said: “We are sort of like Quora and Instagram for moms.”

When asked about the checks and balances the site had in place, considering many conspiracy theories including the anti-vaccination movement had spread via parent networks on social media, Mahtani said: “The app has quite a bit of editorially and professionally generated content weaved in. 

“At the bottom of our Q&A page, we have related articles that people should read. They are all editorially driven; backed by data and science. You can rely on what other parents think or what theAsianparent editorial team recommends.

“We also have quite a few experts on the app – doctors, paediatricians, psychologists and therapists. Their answers get voted higher than responses from a normal user. Those are the first answers you see.

“The app prioritises two groups of users – verified experts and KOLs and influencers who we’ve handpicked. We have 10,000 influencers on the platform. Each of these have been vetted by an inhouse team who have gone through their profiles and awarded them VIP status.”

When asked about the site’s engagement with brands, Mahtani said: “We only work with brands really targeting the mom, baby or family space and there are about 200 in the world who do that. Since its a narrow pool, you can work with the same brands across markets.

“For a marketer, it is a dream come true. You can take a message and hyperlocalise it to 10 or 12 markets at one shot.. 

“With our deep insights into moms, we can differentiate not just between countries, but within cities in the same country. Such a detailed understanding about mothers is not something they can get on any other platform.”

Asked how theAsianparent dealt with crisis surrounding brands in this space – Johnson & Johnson and its allegedly carcinogenic talc being a recent example – Mahtani said: “We try to educate moms. In the case of J&J, it was not just about them but potentially an issue with talc. 

“It’s not about shooting the messenger but going into the reason the problem exists. We did a lot of content around whether talc is dangerous for children, what parents can do and the alternatives that they could use. 

“We also spoke to J&J to give them a head’s up on the conversations and asked if they would like to address the community directly. 

“We informed the brand that such conversations are happening. We however would never remove the negative conversations, because the most important thing is to have a trusted community.”

Mahtani said the app’s current largest markets were Indonesia, followed by Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia. Singapore did not fare too well given the relatively small size of the market.  

Speaking about its growth potential in the region, Mahtani said: “In Asia, outside of Singapore, women get pregnant two or three times. And so, a woman ends up being on the platform 10 to 12 years.”


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