Menstruation ‘Aunt’ in agony: app tracking millions of women’s cycles still in the red

Jing Gao

This week Kickstarter is promoting a digital menstrual cup called LOONCUP, a smart device for women to wear during their periods. Though no such smart device exists in China, menstruation tracking mobile app, Dayima, has gained traction in the mainland with 80 million registered users since launch in 2012.


Screenshot of Dayima’s official website

When entrepreneur Chai Ke first rolled out the app, he checked off all the boxes on his wish list: it fell into the category of “high-frequency app” – typical users come back for it at least once a month; it addresses a physiological need – the largest and most fundamental of all according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; and it targets women between 15 and 50, who have immense spending power and are highly sociable.

Dayima is a catchy name. It literally means “aunt,” featuring a popular Chinese euphemism for one’s period. “My aunt is visiting me,” or “I am seeing my aunt,” women in China love to say.

“A girl experiencing irregular or abnormal periods may have the urge to talk to someone, about issues like pregnancy and even STDs. She may be afraid to openly discuss these things on a social network. She may even hesitate to turn to close friends,” Chai Ke said in an interview with magazine, The Founder, earlier.

“What we do is find her a channel, create a platform to accommodate her health needs. It’s both a tool and a community.”

Chai Ke dismissed the question of a monetization model with a smile, “It took Apple 20 years to see its miracle today. When conditions are ripe, success naturally ensues. I am confident when the Dayima app has users all over China, monetization will not be a problem.”

His dream of achieving exponential user growth has materialized. At June 2015, Dayima boasted 100 million downloads, and 30 million monthly active users.

Its valuation has ballooned over the past three years. After four cash injections totaling 107 million RMB, Dayima is now valued at 210 million USD.

Dayima even proudly claims that in the first half of 2014, 750,000 Chinese women made use of the app’s “pregnancy-preparation” mode which monitors a woman’s ovulation cycle and body temperature, and successfully conceived.

But Dayima is haunted by the same problem that overshadows the country’s tech scene: the insurmountable difficulties faced in turning a profit.

A 2014 earnings report released by By-Health Co. Ltd., Dayima’s largest investor, exposed a gaping hole in its account books: revenue for Dayima was at 1.47 million RMB, representing a net loss of 66.53 million RMB, or 10.7 million USD.

Dayima has introduced premium services, including women’s health counseling and female-oriented financial products. An e-commerce site is also baked into the interface of the mobile app, which features flash sales of feminine products and cosmetics. Needless to say, these revenue strategies have failed to bear much fruit.  

Wang Yijian, a tech blogger, thinks that Dayima’s inability to bring in revenue stems from its lack of “irreplaceability.” “The more apps you install on your smartphone, the slower it runs, and the less storage it has left. You then have to do regular “cleaning” to free up space. An app like Dayima, that you may or may not need, is naturally the first to go… After all, you can easily get information about how to get pregnant or predict your ovulation on the web,” he writes on Baidu Baijia.  

Jing Gao

Jing founded her own blog Ministry of Tofu and worked with Los Angeles Times, Greenpeace and LinkAsia. She graduated with a master's degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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