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Startups

China's Fosun backs Southeast Asia parenting platform

Owner of Club Med set to expand customer base in growing region

Singapore-based Tickled Media operates a parenting platform. 

SINGAPORE -- Chinese conglomerate Fosun International, owner of global resort chain Club Med, has invested in a Singaporean media startup targeting young parents in Southeast Asia, in a move to tap the region's growing affluent middle class.

Fosun has invested in Tickled Media, which operates an online parenting community platform called theAsianparent. Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com has also joined the deal. The investment amount is between $10 million and $30 million, according to Tickled Media.

Tickled Media has offices in six Southeast Asian countries including Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, offering parenting forums in different languages. The website had 23.5 million unique visitors in June, and it earns revenues from advertisers like baby formula producers.

Fosun International is listed in Hong Kong with a market capitalization of over $11 billion. It describes itself as a family-oriented company, offering services from tourism to maternal care to finance. It also owns a stake in the century-old British travel company Thomas Cook.

The latest investment in Singapore's Tickled Media would help Fosun extend its reach to this segment in Southeast Asia. Fosun is expected to collaborate with Tickled Media in a few of its existing businesses, potentially selling those products to Southeast Asian consumers through Tickled Media's platform in the future.

"We do see a lot of collaboration opportunities with Fosun's portfolio companies," Roshni Mahtani, CEO of Tickled Media told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview, citing Fosun's insurance, maternity health care and educational toy businesses as potential areas for collaboration. Conversely, the Singaporean startup can share insight into the region's parenting market to help Fosun's business expansion, she added.

She said that it was Fosun that reached out to her company to start talks on the investment.

Tickled Media CEO Roshni Mahtani said Fosun approached her company to do a deal. (Photo by Kentaro Iwamoto)

The Chinese conglomerate has been expanding outside of China since early 2010s. In 2018, 46% of Fosun's revenue came from outside of mainland China, from just 1% in 2010. Yet, its presence in Southeast Asia is still small as most of the group's companies are in Europe, the Americas and Africa.

Southeast Asia offers opportunities for Fosun given fast-growing economies there. According to United Nations' latest population projection released in June, Southeast Asia's fertility rate -- children per woman -- is estimated at 2.22 in 2015-2020, higher than 1.69 in China. Given growing affluence, Southeast Asian parents are also likely to spend more on their children in the future.

"Having the largest community and traffic in the mom and baby segment in the region, theAsianparent 's addition to the portfolio is strategic and extremely synergistic," Wilson Jin, chairman of Fosun RZ Capital, the venture capital arm of Fosun, said in a statement. "Through a deeper collaboration with Fosun's ecosystems, our efforts are made to accelerate the growth of the company and expand the depth and breadth of its reach."

For Tickled Media, which was founded in 2009 by Mahtani, this was Series C of its fundraising rounds. Prior to this, it had received a total of $8 million in venture capital including from Vertex Ventures, an early-stage investment arm of Singaporean state-owned Temasek Holdings. With the latest investments, Fosun has become the third largest shareholder, according to Mahtani, and Fosun now has two directors on the Tickled Media board.

With the proceeds of Fosun investment, Tickled Media plans to launch own-brand pregnancy and childcare items online and offline. It also plans to bring the parenting website business to Africa and in particular, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

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