Business Beyond Stigma: How Startups Are Disrupting Products Around Women's Wellness

There are brands such as Nua, The Woman's Company, Sanfe, Pee Safe, among others, that are catering to women's hygiene and raising awareness with its products

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In India there is a social stigma associated with women's intimate hygiene. Conversations around periods, sex and associated wellness have always been swept under the carpet.

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However, with the booming startup ecosystem, the space has witnessed a disruption. There are brands such as Nua, The Woman's Company, Sanfe, Pee Safe, among others that are catering to this problem and raising awareness with its products.

Rising awareness

Women in rural areas are less aware of the issues that can arise due to lack of proper hygiene facilities. There are workshops and campaigns focused on creating awareness on women's wellness in rural areas.

Pee Safe's HaqSePeriod workshops and distribution drives have educated over 500,000 menstruators across India about adequate hygiene practices. "We've taken it upon ourselves to educate more about healthy hygiene practices in rural regions. Pee Safe as a brand has been very active and encouraging in spreading awareness through camps, schools and various campaigns," said Vikas Bagaria, founder and CEO, Pee Safe.

In rural India, women do not have access to basic sanitation facilities like toilets. These factors result in not just poor hygiene but also makes women susceptible to conditions such as cervical cancer, urinary tract infection and hepatitis B .

"About 71 per cent of girls are unaware of menstruation when they get it and the gap in information continues even after that. Women do not have a credible source of information where they can get to know more about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. For new-age brands like Nua, it is essential to not just provide them with good sanitary pads but also break the culture of silence that is prevalent around menstruation," said Ravi Ramachandran, founder and CEO of Nua.

"While marketing our products online, brands often forget that a very small portion of our female population is actively buying products online. To create a sustainable business solution, one must look at it from all angles. One of the many challenges are lack of technology, insufficient accessibility and limited options in rural areas. We are working towards creating awareness," said Anika Parashar, The Woman's Company.

Nua's 40 per cent sale comes from the non-metropolitan cities, which essentially includes tier I, tier II and tier III cities.

For The Woman's Company, tier II and tier III cities generate 30 per cent of its monthly revenue.

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From the wide product range of these companies, there are top favorites of consumers. "Sanitary napkins, tampons and menstrual cups have been performing continuously well for the past two quarters," said Anika Parashar.

Pee Safe's Made in India Menstrual Cups, Toilet Seat Sanitizer Spray, have always been in high demand.

Similarly, Nua's customized sanitary pads are among its top sellers. It is available through a subscription-based model. "We are also seeing an increasing traction in Uplift, which is our period nutrition drink, as well as our foaming intimate wash," said Ramachandran.

Challenges

The most prominent challenge is taboo, coupled with accessibility and affordability issues. To overcome these challenges, Pee Safe publishes content, collaborates with various organizations and brands to connect with the grassroot people.

"Women making their sexual and intimate health a priority is still considered taboo. Then there are accessibility and affordability issues. Making menstrual management products is one thing, but to make it available on a large scale, at a cheaper rate, with sustainable alternatives is a different ball game altogether," said Parashar.

Nua uses the power of digital media to create awareness and reach out to as many women as possible to provide education in this category. "However, for a country like India, it is difficult to get last-mile access to a large section of women or girls who do not have access to technology or digital media. So, that is a considerable challenge and will continue to be one since it cannot be solved immediately," said Ramachandran.

Out of a total 40 crore menstruating women in India, less than 20 per cent use sanitary pads. In urban areas, this number only goes up to 52 per cent, said a report.

"If we consider the broader aspect of hygiene or sanitation in our country, the statistics are very poor. Around 400 million women in India are of menstruating age. Out of these, 80 per cent do not use a sanitary pad during their periods, this is alarming," added Ramachandran.