Though menstruation is a basic physiological need of all women, the lack of awareness around it is appalling. Fortunately, things seem set to change with more conversations taking place on sustainability and the overall wellbeing of women and the planet. At the forefront of the change are startups like Healthfab, manufacturers of India’s first standalone reusable period panty. Sunday Guardian speaks to Kiriti Acharjee, the co-founder and CEO of Healthfab, about their revolutionary products. Excerpts from an edited interview:
Q. When did you begin Healthfab and what was your vision for it?
A: I have a B.E in Electronics and Communication from Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, after which I worked for largescale organisations like Amazon and Cloudtail. I launched Healthfab® in 2020 with the mission to provide affordable solutions for a healthy and sustainable life.
Growing up, I would see my sister and other working women in my family face numerous challenges with menstrual hygiene products. This prompted me to work towards creating something that was hassle-free and plastic-free as well. After multiple rounds of testing and incorporating feedback, our product GoPadFree was launched.
GoPadFree™ is India’s first standalone reusable period panty, that aims to bring comfort to women and work towards a plastic-free society. There is no need to wear additional menstrual products such as sanitary pads, tampons or menstrual cups when using these panties.
We are based out of Bengaluru and as a proud homegrown startup, we manufacture our products in India itself. Currently, we are a 10-member team which includes my co-founders Sourav and Satyajit. Our work force is largely concentrated in the fields of operations, finance, tech and marketing.
Q. How many products do you offer? Which is the most popular one and why?
A. We are a single product / single category focussed brand with our flagship product being GoPadFree. We are the highest selling reusable period panty brand in India and the UAE. This has mainly been possible due to the quality of our product, which is of a higher grade than other products on the market.
As an internet first brand, we sell our products on our own website as well as marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, Zivame, Meesho and Bigbasket.
Q. What have been the biggest challenges you have faced in popularising your product?
A: In India, the subject of menstruation is a big taboo. There are many alternatives to sanitary napkins available in the market today. However, some of these alternatives are insertable which is a huge taboo in the Indian market and hence have not really picked up in popularity.
In our case, we don’t have any such taboos involved, which makes ours a preferred product in India. Nonetheless, there are questions about the hygiene factor that we are trying to solve.
We have seen our customers treat us with doubt and suspicion before trying our product. We have also seen the insane level of comfort and familiarity they show to us once they have tried and bought into our product proposition. The ‘health and hygiene’ industry is one where a personal touch is appreciated by customers. Our biggest learning has been to take every feedback from our customer seriously and that’s the only way we know we can succeed!
Q. How do you stand apart from your competitors?
A. GoPadFree panties are made of organic Oeko-Tex® certified cotton with a 5X absorbency as compared to sanitary pads. They can be reused up to 50 washes, making it a cost-effective solution for users.
We were an early entrant into the period panty market in India. We have only been able to grow because of the support our customers have shown us. In a span of around two years, we have sold close to 40,000 units and have been able to save more than 20 tonnes of plastic waste.
We currently count in the top 50 sanitary products on Amazon. We have also started selling our product in the Middle East and have received reassuring responses from the customers there.
Q. How did you come up with the name?
A: The Name ‘Healthfab’ always reminds us of our mission and why we started this company. We wanted to provide innovative and sustainable solutions in the underserved areas of health and personal care, thereby improving the overall quality of human life. This name really resonates with that philosophy.
We feel proud to say that our vision seems to be coming to life. For the financial year 2021-22 we grew by 400 percent. For the current financial year, we are already clocking growth of 20 percent month-on-month and expect this number to be even higher in upcoming quarters.
Q. How do you spread the word about your business?
A: As much as we love to talk about our business, our communications are mostly centred around creating awareness about this product category and why it is beneficial. We are active on social media channels like Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. We have also been able to get new business through word-of-mouth from our existing customers who refer us to their friends and family.
Q. What plans for the future?
A: We are working on expanding the reusable period panty category by ensuring the product reaches the masses. We have recently launched GoPadFree lite at a price of INR 549 which will help people understand how a period panty can be a cost-effective and long-term alternative to their current period products. Apart from the period panty category, we are working on developing four-five different product categories which will help people to live ‘fabulously’ through their menstruation cycles.
Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com.