[Exclusive Interview] This Sanitary Start-up Is Empowering Women With Holistic Menstrual Care
Recently we interacted with Mrs. Sujata Pawar-CEO& Co-Founder, Avni– menstrual healthcare brand, which is now being supported by 10,000 women and expanded to 26 stores.
Here are the highlights:
Menstrual health is still very much a taboo in India. How does it feel to be a menstrual health/sanitary start-up? How did you come up with the idea to be a start-up in this sector?
It happened when I experienced rashes due to chemical-based sanitary napkins. I realised that a lot of products in the market had some sort of chemical. And there were no 100% organic products available in the market. That is when I decided to study and dig in deeper. I was surprised to discover that there were many women who were facing similar skin-problems, and again the reason was the same, chemical-based sanitary napkins. That is when I spoke to my husband, and we together decided to start Avni- a start-up for menstrual health & hygiene products.
How do you differentiate yourself from other D2C brands in the ecosystem? Highlight the USP, Features & the problems that your brand tends to solve.
Avni has focussed all efforts to empower rural women, while detoxifying the menstrual cycle of women both inside out. We have a vision to touch 10 million women through our products, ambassador network and micro-entrepreneurship initiatives. Avni has been putting all its efforts towards creating menstrual care products that are skin-friendly, chemical-free, and do not cause any harm to the environment too. While pursuing this ambition, co-founders came across the fact that the traditional methods that women used to follow during periods were way more effective than the current commercially popularised options. For example, cloth-based pads were never harmful, only the use of dirty cotton cloth can cause infection. Digging deeper unfolded the better alternatives and formed the foundation of Avni product line.
What are the products/services offered by Avni?
The brand’s current line-up includes Avni Anti-microbial reusable cloth pads- Avni Lush & Avni Fluff, Avni natural cotton sanitary pads, Avni period wear wash, Avni Menstrual Cup & Wash, and Avni Antibacterial soothing intimate care wipes. The products are apt for especially those women who have sensitive skin and are in immediate need of an organic and infection free products for smooth periods.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
We need innovation now more than ever. I really want to encourage young entrepreneurs to come forward and create models that also break the age-old myths. When I explored the field I realised that cloth based pads were actually demonised by the commercial companies as unhealthy. Our grandmothers have always followed the best menstrual practices, used cloth pads and they have lived much longer and healthier lives. So, when entrepreneurs re-engineer they also need to dig deeper, build trust and reinstate the same.
What are the social initiatives taken by Avni to spread awareness in the society where people are hesitant to talk about this openly?
Yes, Avni is actively working towards creating awareness around menstrual healthcare practices. We are recently launched the project -D.A.A.G. under which we collaborated with local NGOs to conducted information and awareness sessions with young girls from resource poor communities in remotest of the areas. Even during the lockdown, Avni was trying its best to not to stop its series of session and cater virtually to the best extent. When we launched Avni products, we realised people had a lot of queries. Not just about the products but menstrual healthcare practices. They had many myths, and were facing a lot of challenges. With little information and resources, they were unaware of how to go about it. Considering this, we launched India’s First 24 X 7 period helpline. We know, for an urban woman it is still easy to consult a gynae, but for someone living in semi urban areas or rural areas, it is still a taboo.