Leadership expert Robin Sharma once said, ‘Our world needs more heroes. Why wait for them when you can become one of them?’
Akshay Kumar and, of course, ‘India’s Menstrual Man’ (aka Arunachalam Muruganantham) who the movie Padman is based on are perfect examples.
But, for a country with over 600 million women, one Muruganantham and one Akshay Kumar are not enough. India needs more Padmans. This is because the majority of menstruating women in the country do not have access to sanitary pads and resort to using alternatives, such as newspapers, dried leaves, old fabrics, and sand, making them susceptible to infections.
These women simply cannot afford spending 100 rupees just on sanitary napkins. Add to that the 12% GST imposed on sanitary pads which sparked anger across the country. So, many women are protesting against the GST. In fact, one campaign on Facebook, called Don’t tax my period, went viral last year.
But, there is good news.
Amid all the brouhaha over the cost of sanitary pads, like a whiff of fresh air, Kerala has launched She Pad, an initiative to provide free sanitary napkins to girls in 300 government schools last year in November.
And, there are a handful of startups who are beating all the odds to make sanitary pads affordable. We list the most prominent startups below which have become heroes.
In 2015, graduates of MIT, Harvard and Nirma came together to create fully eco-friendly biodegradable sanitary napkins, called Saathi, in India.
They make these eco-friendly personal hygiene products for women by using alternative raw materials with the promise of zero wastage. So, the startup uses locally sourced banana fiber from Gujarat, where the startup is located.
And, since the pads are manufactured using plant-based materials, the pads are also leak-proof, which is an important attribute for any pad.
After two years of research on a product whose components were mixed and matched a lot, Delhi-based Deepanjali Dalmia finally launched her sanitary napkin brand, called Heyday’s pads, which is exclusively made from bio fiber.
An alum of Columbia University, her brand’s pads are made from bamboo and corn fiber. So, the ingredients used are organic and biodegradable and the eco-friendly pads decompose six months after their disposal.
The pads are mainly manufactured in the startup’s international facilities in China and Finland.
A Kerala-based NGO called Kanika also makes biodegradable and eco-friendly sanitary napkins called Soukhyam.
Their setup is just a single room, with the help of 50 employees, most of who are women and senior citizens. They make around 200 Soukhyam packets, each containing 10 pads, each month.
The inspiration for this initiative was the ‘Padman’ Arunachalam Muruganantham himself and they, in fact, procured the machines to manufacture the pads from him.
The founder of Kanika, Vasanthi Gopalan, sends 50 packets of Soukhyam to the girls in the vicinity, while the rest of the packets are sold at a price of Rs 43. The material used are predominantly wood pulp and gel cotton.
When Suhani Mohan and Kartik Mehta started working in the low-cost sanitary napkin industry, they realized that a lot of the companies manufacturing sanitary pads have issues with their cash flow thanks to the erratic sales and products that were usually of poor quality.
This is how Saral Design Solutions Private Limited was born. It is a for-profit social enterprise which is in the space of designing cheap and high quality products in India for women.
Their sanitary napkins, called Aisha pads, are decentralized, helping in reducing the cost because there are less middlemen involved.
The pads are directly made available to the people via channels like pharmacies, door-to-door salesmen and vending machines. The units that they use are replicable and it costs less than 10 lakh rupees to set up.
Many of us are in the dark about how difficult it is for women in the low-income group to have access to sanitary napkins. Thankfully, there are startups that work in the women’s personal hygiene space and so the interest and awareness in the issue have increased. The sanitary napkin market is now slated to grow to a $3 billion market in India by 2025. Let us work towards keeping our women healthy.
So, do you want to be the next ‘Padman’? Do you have any comments to add? Please leave your comments below; we would love to hear from you.
Featured image credit : Heyday
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