The Evolution of Babytech Industry during COVID-19

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the MITEF Pan Arab or its members.

Most of the knowledge around parenting and nursing babies depended on passing age-old wisdom through generations, which meant that things could have easily been miscommunicated and misinterpreted. Before Google, expecting mothers had nowhere to turn to except for their own mothers to learn all about raising a child: how to wrap a baby, rubbing olive oil to ease constipation, or why eating lemons during pregnancy is important.

Nowadays, there is an endless supply of information and studies around the world with the best practices on how to raise a baby (keeping in mind that most of these ‘tips’ are directly related to the cultural and historical context they belong to). In countries, such as Finland, the government not only provides a baby box with products for the mother and her newborn but also encourages the baby to sleep in the box itself.

Having all these resources at hand has brought a number of issues for expecting parents who might not be able to differentiate between scientifically valid information and old myths that no longer exist or are relevant. A trial and error approach to raising a baby is not something that parents are comfortable with anymore.

Not so long before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, online platforms were considered a novelty rather than a fundamental resource for all things related to a baby’s nutrition and wellness. Specifically, parents around the world could not establish the element of trust that is needed to adopt and embrace an educational parenting platform. While community-driven discussion boards thrived in recent years, startups working in the babytech sector lagged behind, particularly as they were not able to capitalize on capturing the parents hearts, loyalty, and (most importantly) trust.

‘Honey, we’re pregnant’

With social media platforms becoming more popular and omnipresent, many mothers around the world are establishing themselves as leaders in parenting and raising children. This is problematic because they (most times) fail to realize that some of the information they’re providing might not be safe or accurate, and the fact that each baby and mother is unique (example: issues with breastfeeding and potty training). While such ‘influencers’ succeed in engaging their followers to have a discussion on some of the topics that they might not have been previously comfortable with sharing, they add further ‘peer pressure’ on mothers or fathers to try things just because ‘everyone else is doing it’.

No one is saying that raising a child is an easy task. Expecting parents are suddenly expected to have the answers to everything and to absorb a lifelong worth of information in 9 months. No one bothers to watch a Youtube video on how to wean a baby or potty train a toddler until they are suddenly dealing with one. Parenting is, for the most part, frontline stuff (and hoping for the best).

One major way that expecting parents have been affected with COVID-19 is their ability to meet with the OBGYN in person and hold prenatal yoga sessions with other parents. Ironically, most parents, once asked, would agree that remotely held sessions were far more convenient and affordable (yes, even telemedicine). The ongoing pandemic is giving practitioners around the world the opportunity to experiment with new technologies and ways of providing personalized healthcare. The discussion around IoT enabled monitoring devices to babies is something that I’m not covering here, but definitely worth mentioning as more parents are opting to share bio-data about the embryo’s vital signs.

The babytech industry is preparing for consumer behavior transition as communities adapt to a new semblance of normality.

The mass adoption of new forms of data-driven tech applications in the Arab world is still in its infancy, reasons vary from pre-existing cultural and Arab parenting behavior to better education, affordable mobile data packages, and trust in the applications.

The baby monitoring market is projected to grow from $929M to $1.63B by 2025

The demand for ‘familytech’ products and services is growing exponentially in recent years as millennial parents delve into the comfort of the ‘new norm’ with technical and omnichannel solutions when starting families. To name a few, these products include smart socks monitor (alerts parents when irregular breathing during sleep occurs and monitors VO2 levels), smart bottle feeding (monitors the temperature, quality, and texture of milk in a bottle), smart thermometer (that is non-invasive and sanitary), and many more. Technology is adding an element to parenting: real-time data.

Babytech products typically fall into two main categories: pregnancy and post-delivery. They offer viable solutions with seamless support from pregnancy to pre and post-natal health services; how often your child sleeps, what they eat, weight, and height tracking – this is transformational and leverages the relationship between the customer and health institution. Medical data since conception paves the way towards personalized medicine and therefore a healthier population in the long run. This is our inspiration at babyarabia.

Some might argue against sharing medical data as it might breach their privacy, though thankfully with the development of blockchain solutions, all data could easily be encrypted and shared securely. What’s even more important is the fact that such solutions ensure underprivileged communities around the world receive adequate and affordable healthcare during pregnancy, avoiding disease and congenital conditions.

Since 2016, entrepreneurs and startups have continued to grow, creating standalone products in nutrition, sleep and health, and baby safety. According to market research firm Hexa, the global baby monitoring market alone is projected to grow from $929m in 2016 to $1.63bn by 2025. Early adoption of these technologies is being seen in developed economies and markets, less so in emerging markets – here lies the huge potential and opportunity in the MENA region. The million-dollar question is ‘how quickly will current and future parents adopt these new technologies?

Welcome to the world baby, here’s your account

The main challenge for parenting in the Arab world is not a lack of ‘connectivity’ but a pre-existing parenting ‘culture’ that goes back to generations.

While babytech products are developed to ease stress for new parents and could be easily adopted in any market around the world, there is still a need to develop well-researched and accurate parenting content in Arabic. Quality well-curated Arabic content continues to be fragmented across different platforms, lack of product tutorials, and education on the value and merits of applications that provide meaningful data - that early child development is critical to a child’s cognitive wellbeing.

According to Google’s data, queries for ‘Child Care’ in KSA for 2019 were at 4 million

At babyarabia, along with other platforms, we have been gradually addressing this challenge during the past few years to offer interactive and relevant content to address challenges facing millennial parents in the region. During the ongoing pandemic, we have noticed an increase in online searches for content related to pregnancy and newborns, particularly on how to keep children engaged indoors. Content about a baby’s mental wellness has also seen a surge, especially as parents are worried they might pass on some of the stress they’re currently facing (working from home and the economic burdens that come with raising a baby).

Interestingly, Arab fathers have recently become actively involved in taking care of the baby. Being directly engaged in raising the baby has not only proved to decrease levels of domestic disputes but also encouraged further conversation between the parents about their relationship and how to create the best environment for a child. An ongoing synergy must exist between the parents while dealing with the natural anxiety of having a child, especially for first-time parents in developing economies.

Mass-adopted babytech products will go beyond serving the purpose they were designed for, where they would also empower parents to focus on other problems and elements of life (like watching a Netflix series in peace). Transforming the microcosm of the family that has increasingly become more nuclear than ever (with exceptions in the Arab region where the extended family still plays a major role in everything).

Forbes estimates the current ‘parenting economy’ to be worth around $46bn and growing. We are still in the infancy stage of this tech sector.

Every parent would tell you that time flies when you’re dealing with a child, so make the best of it while it lasts. Embracing babytech and family-empowering products will theoretically slow time for you so you’re able to sit down and watch your kids grow up.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay connected.

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