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“Baby Economy” Boosts E-Commerce, Startups


Despite having one of the world’s lowest birthrates, Taiwan’s startups and e-commerce ventures relating to childcare are flourishing.

From a smart camera that uses AI to detect if a baby is suffocating in its sleep to an unprecedented e-commerce partnership with Japan’s largest infant-care chain, Taiwanese companies are rushing to cash in on parental devotion.

Last year the nation’s total fertility rate – the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime – stood at 1.13, ranking it third lowest in the world, behind Singapore and Macau, according to the CIA World Factbook.

In contrast to a few decades ago when families were large, Taiwanese parents now tend to have only one or two children. However, with so few offspring, they tend to spend more on childcare products than ever.

This has created an emerging tech industry devoted to babies and toddlers.

E-commerce Aimed At Maternity and Childcare

Mamilove, a fast-growing Taiwanese e-commerce and social media platform for parents, has recently announced a partnership with Japan's largest infant and maternity care store, Akachan Honpo.

Under this exclusive partnership, Taiwanese can buy baby-care products sold by the 86-year-old Japanese chain directly from Mamilove, making a trip to Japan unnecessary.

Taiwan was ruled by Japan from 1895 to 1945 and many Taiwanese feel nostalgic for the colonial period and consider Japanese goods to be of high quality.

Akachan Honpo’s products are so popular in Taiwan that its latest baby-care line launched in April sold out within one week on Mamilove, causing the Taiwanese company to request more orders.

Mamilove, which was founded in 2013, has seen high annual sales growth of over 80% year-on-year for the past five years.

Its founder, Alice Chang, is a Google veteran who holds two master's degrees from Stanford University in information engineering and management. Chang and her team were in two years of discussions with Akachan Honpo before it agreed to the deal.

"We both want to become international companies that can help every parent raise a child,” said Huang Ling-Hsuan, an executive with product development at Mamilove.

Chang also says she is now on the lookout for new business partners.

Besides being an e-commerce platform, Mamilove provides an online forum for parents to share their experiences of starting families. Occasionally, childcare experts will post columns.

Chang first created Mamilove when her daughter was six-months-old and was starting to be weaned off cereals so that she could share information on child rearing with other parents and they could learn from each other.

“There are enough e-commerce platforms in Taiwan, however, no one is venturing into family and mom categories….I’m confident that in the field of family, maternity and child-care in Taiwan, no one digs deeply than Mamilove,” said Chang.

In 2017, Mamilove built its own warehouse in Taiwan and updated its logistics system, along with the interfaces of its website and mobile app.

“Many parents nowadays only have time to work and care for their children. They don’t have time to pick out one product from millions available online. Mamilove recommends the best products, and offers a better website and app interface, making it easy for parents to shop on our platform,” said Chang.

An AI-powered Camera Can Protect Your Sleeping Baby

A key worry of first-time parents is that something may cover their sleeping baby's nose or mouth and suffocate their child, says Joanna Lin, the chief marketing operator of Yunyun Tech.

Lin adds that she, too, had this worry, after giving birth to her first child after her six attempts at artificial insemination. While she felt her newborn was a special gift, worries about her baby's safety gave her stress and caused postpartum depression.

Her husband, Shan Kang-Ning, Yunyun Tech's chief operating officer, was inspired to create a smart camera for monitoring babies after talking to other first-time parents and discovering they had similar concerns.

Shan recruited AI specialist Thomas Zeng, App developer Steven Shen and Pediatrician Yeh Sheng-Hsiung to form a company called Yunyun Tech in 2017.

First, the team conducted 1,000 surveys and 158 in-depth interviews in the U.S. and Taiwan in order to better understand the smart camera market.

The 12-member team then launched a crowdfunding campaign on Zec Zec, a Taiwanese platform, in May this year. It reached its funding goal of US$32,640 (NT$1 million) within 30 minutes and ended the campaign three months later with US$358,981 (NT$ 11 million). In mid-August the team’s smart camera Cubo will be ready to be sold on the Taiwanese market.

Using AI technology, Cubo is able to identify the moment when a baby’s mouth or nose is covered by objects or when they flip over during sleep, both of which are potential situations that can cause a baby to stop breathing or suffocate. When this happens, the camera sends a notification to the parents’ smartphone app.

In addition, when children start to crawl and walk, they can enter potentially dangerous areas in homes unawares, such as the kitchen or stairs. Using Cubo, parents can designate an area they consider dangerous and when their children enter this area, the camera will send an alert to their smartphones.

Last, Cubo takes photos automatically if it detects a baby laughing, crying or taking other major actions. This helps parents record their children’s memorable moments. Cubo’s companion app organizes photos by timeline and creates albums showing off the baby’s growth.

Child-friendly Cubo is designed like a bird to fit in with the design of a baby’s room. The nightlight embedded in the camera lights up the ceiling and does not shine in the baby’s face, which would wake it up.

Yunyun Tech hopes to develop other services and create a “smart home for babies” based around the smart camera Cubo. The device targets parents who have newborns and toddlers.

Looking to the future, Yunyun Tech’s team will target the U.S. for future sales in anticipation of relatively high demand. (The team believes demand could be higher in the U.S. as babies are less likely to sleep in the same room as their parents for cultural reasons.) The team did not provide further details.

News source is from Business Next.