On Tuesday, Delhi-based startup First Step Digital, which builds women’s hygiene and intimate care products like PeeBuddy and Sirona, announced raising Rs 2.96 crore as a part of their pre-Series A funding from Indian Angel Network (IAN).
First Step Digital will use the freshly secured funds for three things — making investments that will strengthen their market position, creating an innovative portfolio mix, and putting together a strong team.
Sanjay Mehta, Ishan Singh, and Vikas Kuthiala led this round on behalf of IAN.
Speaking about the product, co-founder Deep Bajaj said,
Women have a lot on their plates these days and we believe our products can assist them in taking care of their intimate hygiene and wellness needs in many peculiar situation which are not discussed openly including lack of usable toilets, menstrual pains, sanitary disposal, etc.
With over 90 million in women in urban areas and more than 210 million in rural areas, the founders believe the market for intimate hygiene and personal care is huge.
The funding and support by IAN will help us expand our footprint across the country and create a stronger team across verticals.
Sanjay, IAN's lead investor, commented on the investment, saying,
"Deep has focused on solving multiple hygiene challenges that have affected half the female population, that too without environment pollution. Things are changing rapidly, and with their products, they want to empower every single area and every single woman out there, which according to me is not only a noble initiative but has great potential too."
Vikas, lead investor at IAN, added,
“Deep, Mohit, and Deepak have been successful in introducing a lot of innovative products in the women’s health and hygiene space. We strongly believe in the team and their vision to transform this extremely crucial sector. We look forward to working with the PeeBuddy team and becoming stakeholders in their path to success.”
The idea was born when Deep, along with his co-founders Mohit and Deepak, through a personal experience, identified the lack of adequate basic facilities and toilets in the country, especially for women.
In 2015, according to a report by WaterAid, around 60.4 percent Indians didn’t have access to toilets in the country.
In an earlier interview with YourStory, Deep had said,
“We were four couples on a road trip. The women made our lives hell by wanting us to stop at every fuel station on the way! Plus they always wanted the toilets to be clean. Only one out of five toilets we found on the way met the ladies’ high standards.”
Aiming to bridge the gap and find a solution, they came up with a product called PeeBuddy — the country’s first female urination device which allows women to stand and pee even in dirty public toilets.
The three formed the parent company First Step Digital Pvt Ltd in 2015 to take on other challenges.
Apart from PeeBuddy, the company also has a product line called Sirona, which includes herbal feminine pain-relief patches (to avoid taking pills), oxo-biodegradable sanitary disposal bags (for clean and hygienic disposal of sanitary products), intimate wet wipes, applicator tampons, and underarm sweat pads. In wellness, they also have the BodyGuard range which includes natural mosquito patches and bands.
Their products are available on e-commerce websites like Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, Purplle, and Snapdeal and retail stores in Delhi like 24x7, LeMarche, Guardian, and NewU.
The need of the hour is to bring products like PeeBuddy to rural areas where basic sanitation practices are majorly lacking.
Further, one needs to understand that for women, the challenges go beyond just ill health, with humiliation, the fear of being harassed, and psychological stress attached to bad sanitation.