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.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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