BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

M’sian femtech focuses too much on periods & fertility, this startup is out to change that

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Meera is no stranger to dealing with the frustrations of finding proper solutions for her hormonal imbalances and irregular periods that weren’t just temporary fixes to suppress symptoms.

Once she started opening up with her struggles, she found many other women in her circle battled similar health conditions. Meera’s university friend, Rinisha also noticed her own close circle struggling to find help to manage or treat their polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

When Meera and Rinisha reconnected years after graduating, this topic of underserved female healthcare came up over brunch, and they lamented that they were not in the health field.

“And then we had an aha! moment and were like wait, we may not be certified as health practitioners but we do have skills and experiences that could potentially make a difference for women out there,” they told Vulcan Post.

With this decision, Meera brought her consulting and startup experience to the table while Rinisha contributed her medical bioscience and SME marketing knowledge, and together, they set about creating Citayana Being.

They plan to officially launch around December 2021.

A common issue that’s still largely unaddressed

Citayana Being has its core focus on PCOS, and the duo explained it’s because the chronic condition is the most common hormonal disorder among women, with 1 in 10 suffering from it.

However, it’s also difficult to diagnose and the resources and means to manage it are scarce. Without proper care management, PCOS can develop into serious health issues such as infertility, type 2 diabetes, endometrial cancer, and more.

One of the major difficulties with diagnosing PCOS is due to the different symptoms each individual may have. “Most women waste years and hundreds, if not thousands, of Ringgit visiting more than 3 practitioners on average in pursuit of getting a diagnosis, effective care management, or supplements,” Rinisha and Meera said.

Then there’s the fact that PCOS diagnosis, care, and treatment aren’t covered by insurance unless one needs to surgically remove cysts in their ovaries.

“At Citayana Being, we want to help women identify and navigate PCOS and other hormonal imbalances by increasing earlier diagnosis and providing coordinated, holistic, and personalised care to manage their symptoms,” the duo explained.

But don’t get it wrong, they’re not trying to replace a physical visit to a doctor’s office. Instead, what you’d get on the site would be a consolidation of verified practitioners consisting of gynaecologists, fitness coaches, dietitians, alternative care practitioners, and more.

Though a common issue, it’s still not talked about enough

“The key things we look at are their knowledge with PCOS, experience in treating patients with PCOS, and their accreditations,” they shared, adding that of course aligned values mattered too.

“Understanding each practitioner’s approach to care management is also done to ensure it is something sustainable for women, that it empowers and enables them to continue the journey on their own in the long run.”

Going beyond menstruation & fertility

When speaking of femtech in Malaysia, a lot of the existing solutions tackle menstruation and fertility. Beyond those markets, other female issues remain underserved.

Dictionary Time: Femtech refers to software, products and services, and diagnostics that use technology to improve women’s health.

FemTech Analytics

“Besides that, many women-focused issues that have opportunities for femtech development were topics that were stigmatised and, to a certain extent, still are today,” the duo shared.

These are just a few reasons why it’s taken this long to see changes. Thankfully, awareness is on the rise now, with more conversations ongoing and platforms emerging. The duo likened it to the way mental health awareness developed locally over the years.

Rinisha and Meera can onboard all the professionals and experts they want on their site, but without the trust of users, there will be little use for the solutions offered.

That it’s a healthcare site means that trust is all the more paramount, which could be a challenge for the new startup. To overcome this, the team will provide touchpoints where users can opt for an initial free consultation to experience the site, after they’ve signed up or joined the waitlist here.

They provide educational visuals too for those still learning about PCOS / Image Credit: Citayana Being

“With health, each person’s needs, preferences, and goals are different and besides seeing if we are able to meet theirs, it is important for them to decide if we can live up to their expectations but also are comfortable with us,” the duo said.

Citayana Being’s packages will address the 4 types of PCOS: insulin resistance PCOS, adrenal PCOS, inflammatory PCOS, and post-pill PCOS.

With the variety of professionals on their site, users will be able to pick between conventional medicine approaches, alternative ones, or a blend of both to suit their needs.

Because there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for PCOS, the pricing range of packages would differ, and the team will provide updated prices upon launch.

Much more could and should be done

Leveraging key partners that are already impacting women’s healthcare will be one way that Rinisha and Meera foresee Citayana Being’s growth scaling, aside from word-of-mouth marketing.

By working with specialised solution providers, the startup could also contribute to addressing financing help for PCOS diagnosis and care, for example.

Of course, there are also many other gaps in terms of products and services that serve women in different life stages, with regards to their sexual healthcare, postpartum care, baby care, and menopause care.

While Citayana Being didn’t specifically say that they would venture into these spaces per se, Meera and Rinisha acknowledge the many opportunities out there for the taking.

It would be really interesting to see devices created for early detection of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. Another area would be developing drugs more suitable for women; currently women are underrepresented in clinical trials for new medication and this sometimes results in women having more side effects to drugs due to incorrect dosages or biological differences. One can only imagine how big the market size would be if that were done.

Rinisha Devi Vijayen & Meera Maniar, co-founders of Citayana Being.

  • You can learn more about Citayana Being here.
  • You can read about other Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Rinisha Devi Vijayen & Meera Maniar, co-founders of Citayana Being

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