While the mainstream Indian mentality may be moving away from considering menstruation and women’s hygiene a taboo, the disappointing 33% sanitary napkins penetration in India proves that we still have a long way to go as an informed and educated nation!
The past couple of years has seen the rise of an array of Indian startups in the space of women’s reproductive health & hygiene. Some have even extended their range beyond hygiene into skincare. While many have tried to penetrate the market with innovation and differentiators, My Avni enters the market as a very environmentally conscious and grounded brand!
What makes them different from the mix?
They’ve gone back to basics.
Literally & metaphorically.
From cloth pads to a helpline that educates and aids women in making informed choices, Apurv Agarwal & Sujata Pawar are taking this segment head-on by changing the consumer mindset about period products!
Like every entrepreneur in a prejudiced domain, this Mumbai-based duo also started their journey based on personal experience. In a candid conversation, Apurv & Sujata tell us about their journey so far.
AT THE VERY BEGINNING
Sujata and I are Pharmacy graduates who ventured into the corporate world post our MBA in Marketing. While I was associated with the healthcare industry, Sujata’s 6 years of experience has been working with major pharmaceutical MNCs.
‘My Avni’ was born out of our vision to improve and impact women’s healthcare in the country and was deep-rooted in the personal experiences that Sujata faced with menstrual hygiene products. What convinced us to take the leap was seeing other like-minded women like Sujata and a lack of the desired product in the Indian market.
~ Apurv Agarwal, Co-founder, My Avni
Personal experiences shape the biggest entrepreneurial decisions and pave the way for innovation despite many odds. Talking about her own experience, Sujata says, “ I faced the most common problems with widely available sanitary napkins like rashes, discomfort, skin irritation, etc. At times like these, I’d often be reminded of the cloth pads I used in my childhood that were introduced to me by my grandmother. Having experienced that comfort in the past, I had this nagging feeling of the cloth pad’s viability for the Indian market.
To add to it the fact that India averages 12.3 billion sanitary napkin waste per year, the majority of which are non-biodegradable/non-compostable, made our resolve much stronger.
CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY
My Avni’s range of products includes Avni Safe Pad (reusable cloth pads), Avni Ezeepad (Natural Cotton Sanitary Pads) & the Avni Menstrual Cup. Despite the range of options and a rock-solid vision, sustaining in this segment is quite challenging on 2 fronts.
The first challenge is at a market cap level. Considering this segment is dominated by the giants in the health & pharma space, what strategy is this brand looking at to capture a portion of that consumer base?
“ I see it in a slightly different way. Considering the sanitary napkin market penetration in India is only 33%, the remaining 67% is up for grabs! That’s the chunk we’re focusing on.” says Apurv.
The second challenge is the acceptance of women towards cloth pads.
“ Cloth pads have been portrayed in a negative light for quite some time now. They’ve been associated with poverty and deprivation and have a very unfavorable position in the market. We operated under this assumption and launched brand awareness campaigns for our reusable cloth pads. Surprisingly, they were very well received and contributed to a sizable portion of the revenue! Our helpline has helped us increase awareness and build trust as well!” says Sujata.
A SAFE SPACE WITH #PERIODHELPLINE
Being the only brand with a helpline in this space, the My Avni #PeriodHelpline aims at educating the Indian woman and building trust & credibility while bringing a human touchpoint to this experience. Every girl/woman who calls this helpline is put in touch with an Avni Buddy. Most women have very strong opinions and preconceived notions before they call us. However, once they speak to their Avni Buddy and get their doubts clarified, most of them have a change of heart and opt-out for the more rational choice that is, the reusable cloth pad. The demographics of these queries range from young ladies in their teenage years & the early twenties to women between 35-45 yrs of age enquiring for themselves or their daughters. The bulk of this comes from the southern Indian states and some from the northeastern states. “ The most common concern across the board is about the process of cleaning the reusable cloth pads and hygiene and maintenance.12% of our revenue comes from the helpline on an average!” says Sujata.
THE MARMETO JOURNEY
“Our current website is built on WooCommerce. But we were looking to move to Shopify since we heard that it’s the most favorable e-commerce platform from multiple reliable sources. I started my hunt for a website development agency in the most conventional manner through google & LinkedIn searches and stumbled upon Saurav’s profile. When I checked the Marmeto website I was quite impressed with the clientele and the work done. Our first call with Saurav was excellent and extremely authentic and genuine.” says Apurv. When asked what gave Marmeto the edge over other choices, Apurv added, “ I’ve realized over time that it’s much better to work with a specialist than with a generalist in the longer run. We vetted a lot of developers, freelancers, and marketing agencies that also offered Shopify development services. However, most of them had their strengths rooted elsewhere. The fact that Marmeto has expertise in Shopify development and their knowledge in the field sealed the deal for us!”
Shortly after this call, we started working with the My Avni team on their website 2.0 and it’s been quite a smooth journey. “Every action item has a timeline. There are agendas and objectives in place for every call. This made me feel very comfortable as we had an overview of the entire website’s progress!” says Apurv. This structured approach is a part of every Marmetian’s DNA and it's largely responsible for keeping most of our deliveries on track!
But sticking to timelines is a two-way street. It’s as much our job to deliver as it is a client’s responsibility to provide us with inputs at the appropriate time. Adding to this, Apurv says, “ The experience with Mounika was great. She had everything in order and on several occasions ended up chasing us for multiple follow-ups on the inputs needed. It’s this kind of synergy that makes for a great experience!”
Lastly, adding to the praise, he said “ It’s difficult to sum it up in one sentence. But if I had to, I’d say that I’m very impressed with the work that the Marmeto team has done!”
Now isn’t that the kind of difficulty worth aiming for? :)