Zenyum – The Orthodontic Device Company Taking SE Asia by Storm

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to Managing Director, Marc Torras and Head of Marketing, Lanyifan Wang from Zenyum. A really exciting, fast-growing, and innovative company that was founded in 2018 with an aim is to combat the negative reputation of Direct-To-Consumer orthodontic services by offering a cutting-edge & pioneering solution, whilst also remaining safe & accessible.

With the global clear aligner market valued at USD 2.2 billion in 2019 and expected to grow at a CAGR of 23.1%from 2020 to 2027, it is without a doubt that invisible orthodontics will become a mainstay in dental therapy. Its emergence really centers around their ability to offer patients a quicker, and less invasive alternative to traditional methods of teeth straightening such as metal and ceramic braces. The main forces driving demand for clear aligners are the rising technological advancements pertaining to dental treatment as well as the increase in patients suffering from highly common but fixable dental disorders such as teeth irregularity or malocclusion.

Many clear aligner start-ups in this sector are attempting to take advantage of the ramifications from COVID on the dental industry, by offering patients a ‘quick-fix’ service through cheaper treatments and eliminating the continual orthodontist visits required by traditional teeth alignment procedures. These procedures are known as “DIY” treatments, and although they provide customers with a fuss-free treatment plan, there are risks associated with them, such as lifelong health issues if performed improperly. Without the use of intraoral scanners and X-Rays, potential issues such as weak roots, or other structural problems cannot be identified.

What Zenyum therefore do, is provide a hybrid model to the aforementioned issues which combines digital and traditional services that enable patients to circumnavigate the potential issues associated with solely ‘DIY’ procedures. Later in this article, I will explore what this hybrid process means in more detail.

Initially, though, I thought it was pertinent to address Marc’s introduction into the Med-Tech sector, as he has had quite a diverse career, having previously worked for HP as their Head of Sales 3D Printing (APAC), Samsung as the Global Strategist, and for Unilever as their Senior Marketing Brand Manager. With many other CEO’s/MD’s in the Med-Tech field having already had their skin in the game for many years, Marc explained that this diverse career path is in fact advantageous to Zenyum, as it brings different critical experiences that are subsequently complementary to his role as MD.

Unilever is a very consumer-oriented and not highly complex market, and during his time there he gained a strong base of understanding to what consumers need in the market. Having also worked in digital manufacturing, which is a very different world to Unilever, this experience emphasized the importance for treatment to be high quality but also simple and accessible, which aligns with Zenyum’s product. Having that background in B2B and B2C, Marc understands both sides of business operations in-depth, and this has proven necessary and beneficial in the evolution of Zenyums’s products.

As a company, I found it interesting that they have put the proverbial ‘flag in the ground’ on certain values for the customer and refuse to move away from them despite difficult circumstances. These values are vowing to never eradicate the initial in-person consultation and providing customers with a high-quality product while remaining accessible.

I asked Lanyifan to tell me some more about Zenyum’s USP’s that have helped to facilitate them in receiving Series B funding, and she explained that unlike many of their competitors, they place prominence in being a young and lively brand that provides “fuss-free” dentistry. Orthodontic procedures can often be an intimidating experience, but Zenyum believes it should not be this way. Although traditional treatment can at times be tedious, within Zenyum’s hybrid model, they navigate this by having minimal but effective in-person consultations with dentists to ensure the customer has 3D scans and X-rays that can uncover any underlying issues, and also a fitting appointment where they teach the patient to clean and care for their aligners.

Another way Zenyum is providing this “fuss-free” element of dentistry is through the incorporation of ‘Telemedicine’, with their newly developed app. Although they never sacrifice the initial in-person consultation; the app, which is included in their treatment plan, is used as a substitute for non-urgent care needs. This app allows patients to communicate with their dentist over video call, send photos and ask questions, therefore offering a high quality of care to customers that Marc spoke about earlier.

COVID highlighted the need for healthcare services to adapt digitally, and Marc explained to me that although their updated app was conveniently ready to release in the wake of the COVID pandemic, it had always been part of the plan. Fundamentally, Zenyum has always intended on being a ‘digital first’ company, and with their customers requesting this service, they made sure to prioritise it.

On the topic of COVID, it is without a doubt that the pandemic posed many obstacles for the Med Device industry as a whole. Personally, I think Zenyum maintained a strong element of integrity by sticking with their business model, despite the financial implications endured. Singapore’s lockdown lasted for two months, and many of their competitors moved towards a complete DIY service. However, Marc explained that although the pandemic forced them to confront their business model and operations; part of their premium service relies on the in-person consultation and scans, which they refused to sacrifice ergo the COVID pandemic.

By sticking to their guns, Zenyum has not only prevented risks associated with DIY treatments from becoming more prevalent, but they have reinforced one of their mission statements as a company, that they are truly focused on customer service and long-term health values of their patients. Marc made sure to reiterate that although COVID can affect how you connect with your customers, at Zenyum they never sacrifice the key pillars of their values.

Another way that Zenyum differed in their approach compared to competitors, is by initially refusing to treat severe cases, and I was keen to hear whether they had future plans to develop a product to accommodate such patients.

Marc went on to divulge that there is a natural evolution in any product or technology, and by initially self-limiting their process whilst still expanding, they ensured that the initial aligner product, ZenyumClear™ was perfected to the uppermost standard of quality before their next product, ZenyumClear™ Plus underwent trials in April this year. The ZenyumClear™ Plus aligner will treat more complex cases, but the denominator throughout both treatments is that there will always be a locally certified dentist involved in the whole process.

Being a company that was born in Asia, one of Zenyum’s mission statements is to be “Asia’s most loved smile cosmetics brand”. I was interested to understand what expansion plans Zenyum has, on a global scale. Marc went on to say that one of Zenyum’s key USP’s is their strong understanding of the Asian market and how it is so multifaceted. This is something in which American and European companies sometimes struggle to understand/comprehend. With its numerous sub-economies, and making up one of the biggest global economies in the world, it would seemingly be foolish not to focus on this continent that they have a marked competitive edge on. Fundamentally, this is the market Zenyum best understands, and Marc and Lanyifan explained that their expected expansion will happen at a much bigger scale here compared to the US.

In conclusion, it is evident that Zenyum are revolutionising the clear aligner field, offering a combination of digital and traditional services at the highest level of quality for customers. Having a solid understanding of the Asian market, a region that will see the most economic progression in the next 30 years, I think Zenyum’s vast knowledge of the sub-markets within this continent will be an engine of growth for their expansion as a company. Furthering on to this, the precedent that they set on the customer having the best experience possible and having witnessed the passion that both Marc and Lanyifan have towards maintaining this gold standard, I really feel that Zenyum is set to be one of the biggest players in this market eventually.