'Solving the accessibility problem is not enough ... we also manufacture sanitary pads that are ecological'
In a country where almost 23% of girls in rural areas drop out of school due to menstruation problems, affordable and accessible sanitary napkins are the need of the hour. , a social company based in Ahmedabad, has the mission of making sanitary pads more accessible in remote areas and eliminating environmental hazards by promoting a sustainable and ecological alternative. , one of Saathi's cofounders, talks to timesofindia.com about the inspiration behind the company, its sustainable business model and how they plan to address menstrual health problems. Excerpts
How did you come up with the idea of Saathi?
Initially, our purpose was to solve the problem of accessibility of sanitary napkins, especially in rural areas. We try to overcome this by giving machines and setting up decentralized units. However, we soon realized that this model cannot work in the long term and would not be financially feasible either. So we went back to the drawing board and started working on a centralized unit. We also realized that solving the accessibility problem is not enough, since we would still be causing environmental risks by giving away plastic pads. That was when we stepped back and came up with a sustainable product that is 100% biodegradable and compostable.
Can you tell us more about the manufacturing process?
Everything about the product is sustainable, including manufacturing. We use banana and bamboo fiber to make the pads. We obtain the fiber from several farmers, who are part of the value chain, and process it at our end to make it a highly absorbent pulp. In addition, we do not use any type of chemical products during the manufacture of the product and everything is a process without waste.
Most women in rural areas lack knowledge about menstruation. practices. How do you market your products in these regions?
We partner with local NGOs, health organizations and Anganwadis who already have a direct channel of communication with end users. They are connected to people at ground level and know their health problems. We also have a program called #OneMillionPads that has the support of Expo Live under which we spread awareness about the issue of menstrual health, in addition to distributing pads. We also conduct reference surveys in the villages to identify the problem facing a particular region: accessibility, affordability, lack of education, etc. We formulate our program based on this research.
Any challenge you faced during your trip?
It has been a roller coaster for us so far. Being a new company and convincing someone that you are good enough is a challenge, especially in a market where people can take you as a scammer. Honestly, if I wasn't part of Saathi, I'd think it's too good to be true, since it's hard to find a company that is trying to do good, take care of the environment and donate products. Therefore, the convincing part has been difficult. But in the last five years, we have managed to reach a level and create a name for ourselves that we no longer have to face those problems.
How do you plan to climb?
Essentially, we are a social enterprise with a purpose that I would like to be the next indigenous consumer-oriented company. We have some amazing products in our portfolio and we would like to change the face of the feminine hygiene industry in the coming years. In addition, with the help and support of the grant we received from Live, we also gained a lot of exposure internationally, which allowed us to gain more reach and help take things to the next level. In fact, we have also begun to take our products to the UAE and other East Asian markets.