When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


Weight Loss Business, A Big Fat Oppurtunity In China

China has seen a rapid increase of obese children.
China has seen a rapid increase of obese children.
Cunfu Riji

BEIJING — Obesity is a worldwide problem. The latest confirmation comes from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which conducted a study in 188 countries that found one-third of the global adult population and one-fourth of all children are overweight or obese. That includes no fewer than 671 million people who fall into the obese category.

While the United States still counts the highest obese population at 78 million, China and India follow with 46 million and 30 million respectively.

In business terms, of course, crisis create opportunities. Several agencies exist already in the Chinese market that help people with weight loss, but almost none of them have created a successful business. The main reason appears to be that these companies focus is on helping customers to look better rather than be healthier.

The typical example is Weight Watchers, the American company offering services and products in for weight loss. Since its entry in China in 2008, the company's business has showed meager growth. By 2012, its stores had all packed up.

In retrospect, Weight Watchers' fatal decision was to target urban, white-collar women with marketing that made fashion and appearance the driving motive of their purchasing decisions. Yet this demographic is typically not obese, per se, but usually just overweight, and do not urgently require help.

The huge potential market for weight loss businesses is in fact among people who urgently need to lose weight to be healthier. This group of people are mostly under forty, urban office workers who have adopted very bad lifestyles, including constant overeating. Even more critical is that health problems such as hypertension, hyperglycemia and sleep disorders, or other chronic diseases caused by obesity are already manifesting among them.

For this group of people, losing weight is an urgent matter indeed, not just for aesthetic reasons. These customers need specialized health management organization to carry out a program for improving their health.

An app for that?

Thus, there are four core issues to be addressed by this market.

First, the business should make health a central focus, instead of purely beauty considerations. It also shouldn't be addressed to women only, but also to men in their 40s.

Second, even more critical is that these health management agencies ought to cooperate closely with hospitals and doctors. Not only should professional weight-loss advisors provide a set of exercises and diet programs, but even more importantly, they ought to work together with hospitals and specialists to provide regular assessments for those plagued with chronic weight problems.

Third is the interaction and interdependence of both online and offline services. Currently many of these health companies, and in particular the Chinese start-ups, are all rushing to get into the market for mobile terminals and launch apps and wearable devices. But users must be able to translate these tests into beneficial health guidance, and should remember that they are only tools that cannot replace face-to-face consultations with a specialist.

Finally there is the huge market potential for child obesity. Due to the improvement of family living standards, doting parents, a blind worship of Western food and a lack of physical exercise, China has seen a rapid increase of obese children. As diabetes in children becomes more prevalent, Chinese parents are increasingly conscious of the need to change their children's living habits. Thus the demand for weight control and health guidance is only bound to keep growing.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest