Roshni Mahtani, founder and group CEO of parenting website theAsianparent, wants to help reduce stillbirth rates in Southeast Asia

Even before she became a mother, a 25-year-old Roshni Mahtani, who was working as a babysitter and journalist in New York City at the time, started theAsianparent (TAP) in 2008 as an online parenting resource with an “Eastern perspective”. Now, 12 years later, the parenting portal has grown to become the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia, with 35 million monthly active users from 13 countries across Asia and Africa. The company launched its mobile app in September 2018. 

In November 2019, Tickled Media, the digital company behind TAP, where Mahtani is group CEO, raised a seven-figure sum in Series C funding from the Seoul-based Mirae Asset-Naver New Growth Fund. This was in addition to an eight‑figure sum raised in July of the same year the same year in another Series C round, led by Chinese conglomerate Fosun International. With this injection of funds, Tickled Media will move into manufacturing its own range of baby and maternity products as well as building up its tech infrastructure.

The company recently launched Project Sidekicks, a campaign to prevent stillbirth during pregnancy. It added new features to the TAP app, including a tool for mothers to count fetal kicks. Mahtani, who is now a mother of one, tells us the motivation behind the new initiative and what it means to build a safe space for parents in her own words.

Creating A Support System For Parents

“Our platforms operate like communities and have grown into safe spaces for parents because we take a non-judgemental approach to parenting,” says Mahtani. All content and channels under TAP also adopt a hyperlocalised strategy that Mahtani developed based on insights she and her team has gathered on the specific needs and habits of consumers in each market. 

The latter approach came about after TAP encountered problems gaining initial traction in Malaysia. “When we first entered Malaysia, we were publishing content in English instead of Bahasa Melayu,” she shares. “It took me almost a year to figure out what was wrong with our Malaysia strategy, but we eventually realised that we weren’t using the preferred language. Looking back, I think that’s when we went from localisation to hyperlocalisation.”

Entrepreneurship is like having a baby. Right when you think you can handle anything your child throws at you, a new stage of parenthood begins.

— Roshni Mahtani

Becoming Her Own Boss

It was always Mahtani’s goal to be an entrepreneur—as her uncles can testify. “They were my first customers when I managed to convince someone to help me buy some bottles of whiskey at the duty-free store at the airport. I sold them to my uncles at a profit!”

Now that she’s been running her own company for over a decade, Mahtani says a part of the journey that entrepreneurs themselves don’t talk enough about is how the work never ends. “Many founders assume that the 24/7 part of [entrepreneurship] happens only in the early days, pre-funding, and the work tapers off at some point. Some things do get easier, but it is like having a baby. Right when you think you can handle anything your child throws at you, a new stage of parenthood begins.”

Raising Awareness About Stillbirth In Southeast Asia

In July 2020, Mahtani launched a new campaign, Project Sidekicks, to bolster the support it provides to its communities while raising awareness about an issue that’s still not frequently talked about in public: stillbirth. 

The idea came to her when she and her team discovered an unusual pattern during one of their user behaviour analysis meetings: “There were mums who would suddenly stop using the TAP app midway through their pregnancies, but they weren’t deleting it either,” shares Mahtani. She later found out the heartbreaking reason: “These mothers had experienced either a miscarriage or a stillbirth. And for some of them, the app was a way of keeping the memory of their baby alive.”

With this, Mahtani decided to enhance the offerings on the TAP app to support these mothers in their grief. At the same time, she also set out to find out if there was a way to prevent other families from experiencing such a loss. “We quickly learned that there are over 100,000 stillbirths a year in Southeast Asia, and that the risk of late stillbirth can be reduced by constantly doing a few things,” she says. “So we decided to create a campaign around two of those preventive measures: sleeping on the side and counting a baby’s kicks.”  

Over a period of more than half a year, Mahtani and her team developed the campaign, which includes two new features on the TAP app. The first, Kick Counter, would allow mums to log their babies’ kicks daily. The second, Healing Mode, feeds parents who have experienced stillbirth with content validated by medical experts that may hopefully help them in their journey to physical and emotional recovery.    

Mahtani’s goals for Project Sidekicks are to help 100 million families in Southeast Asia have healthy pregnancies and to reduce stillbirth rates in the region by 10 percent in the next three years. “Every life is precious; each one lost is one too many.”

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