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A portal offers parents — first time or otherwise — expert medical opinion and networking opportunities on motherhood and related issues, writes Balqis Lim

IS eating nasi lemak during my pregnancy all right? How much does the baby weigh now? Is he/she as heavy as a longan, guava or pomelo?

The questions that new parents ask are, at times, endless. Some of them are embarrassed to ask, while others do not want to reach out to the doctor for details when expecting a baby.

Enter theAsianparent, a parenting portal that provides a safe space and locally non-judgmental content for mums and communities of parents.

The app — theAsianparent — offers answers to burning questions.

As millennial mums are on the rise here, they rely heavily on the myriad of articles, messages and videos available at their fingertips.

“We are focused on empowering Asian parents and providing them with the tools to support their parenting journey. Through our app, we strive to bring about a sense of community and a safe space for parents who are increasingly embracing a digital lifestyle,” says Serina Sue, deputy country manager of theAsianparent Malaysia.

When the portal founder and group chief executive officer Roshni Mahtani was 25, she babysat a child in New York after classes.

The child was curious to know where Roshni came from, how it is culturally different and even interested to know about durian.

Roshni tried to find the information online but most content catered to Westerners, and nothing in particular for Asian parents.

Roshni saw the opportunity and started theAsianparent in 2009 as a blog which now has evolved into an audience network with a monthly active user reach of 25 million.

Positioning itself as mum’s best friend, theAsianparent features articles and real-life experiences to help mums across Southeast Asia to raise happy, healthy and confident children.

The portal spans 12 countries, with local teams at each country.

In an effort to understand how parents in the digital age are evolving, Serina says the company did a survey on 586 Malaysian mums last August.

The survey found that 99 per cent of Malaysian mums have some form of social media account, with Facebook, Instagram and YouTube as the most popular platforms.

With increasing access to the Internet and use of social media, online communities continue to be a strong support system for today’s digitally-savvy parents.

Parenting sites remain one of the top sources that digital-age mums rely on for parenting help and most of them do communicate with other mums online regularly.

Millennial mums are on the rise today, relying heavily on information at their fingertips.
Millennial mums are on the rise today, relying heavily on information at their fingertips.

The way these mums experience motherhood in 2019 is very different from how their mums experienced it in the ‘90s.

“They find everything online. Health and baby products are the most common topics in their searches. For example, if the baby has diaper rash, the cream you should use — it’s all interlinked.

“Unless they have knowledgeable family members, most millennial mums do not know what to use or do,” adds Serina.

Millennial mums like to shop online and the majority buy in bulk once a month because most are working.

Designed with the needs of the Asian parents in mind, theAsianparent app features a pregnancy and baby tracker that monitors day-to-day development while providing helpful information such as symptoms to expect and precautions expecting mothers may need to take.

Even after birth, parents can continue to track their children’s milestones up to the age of 6.

Also, theAsianparent app helps parents navigate the food that are safe to eat during pregnancy and offers advice on the best nourishment for babies with its comprehensive guide to food and nutrition.

 The app helps you track your child’s development.
The app helps you track your child’s development.

The extensive list is adapted to include local food references such as nasi lemak and sirap bandung.

In addition to the supportive community forums and extensive guides and articles, theAsianparent app offers users a platform to ask medical experts and get answers to pregnancy and parental-related concerns while learning more about medication, health and well-being.

Users are encouraged to pose questions on the app and interact with medical experts from Sunway Medical Centre Velocity and DoctorOnCall (online telehealth platform) to gain a better understanding of diseases, vaccinations and allergies common among children.

The food and nutrition guide to pregnancy.
The food and nutrition guide to pregnancy.

The “Ask the Expert” feature is a new add-on to the app.

“We don’t use chatbots because our obstetrics and gynaecology residents want to give feedback from a healthcare professional’s point of view.

“With chatbots, we’ll have to use a customer-template answer and we do not want that. Our users too will be comfortable with an expert answering their concerns,” she says, adding that the response is in real time.

App users who answer questions in the community forums or vote in polls can collect points by interacting with theAsianparent app.

“Users are rewarded with treats by redeeming points for iflix subscriptions, Grab and Boost e-wallet credits.”

Serina says the app does not only focus on women and mothers in particular. It actually caters to all groups of people, including dads. There are 12 sections — Baby, Just Mums, Just Dads, Random Talk, Pregnancy, Trying To Conceive, Breastfeeding, Recipe Sharing, Bigger Kids, Toddler, Preschool and even Buy & Sell.

Another interesting feature is Media. Gadgets are inseparable these days, so parents can access hundreds of original baby and child audio, video and storybooks on the mobile app. The audio and videos are also available in most major Asian languages.

Serina says theAsianparent plans to open offices in Kenya, Africa and the United Arab Emirates by year-end or early next year.

“We see them as emerging markets. Africa and Southeast Asia are quite similar in terms of birth rates. In Indonesia, and the Philippines, each mum will have a birth rate of like four or five kids, which is the same as in Nigeria and Kenya.”

“We are focused on empowering Asian parents and providing them with the tools to support their parenting journey.” - Serina Sue
“We are focused on empowering Asian parents and providing them with the tools to support their parenting journey.” - Serina Sue

In terms of offerings, theAsianparent already has confinement practices available in the app and it wants to work with confinement centres to give more insight and content to its audience.

Another feature that is rolling out soon in the Malaysian app is e-commerce.

“We have introduced this feature in Indonesia where we sell our own halal products. The country has the highest population of Muslims and the turnout is really great.”

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