How these women-led bootstrapped startups are making an impact in the menstrual hygiene space
With time, more people are opening up to the conversation surrounding menstruation, and these two startups are making a change in the menstrual hygiene industry.
The stigma surrounding menstruation continues to exist, but there are some changemakers determined to start conversations, educate people, and help women stay comfortable while on their periods. Here are two such impactful women-led startups, Laiqa and FLOH.
Laiqa by Monica Bindra, Nazish Mir, Ali Mir
Founded in February 2019, Gurugram-based Laiqa is one of the newest entrants in the menstrual hygiene industry. With the motto 'good for her, good for earth', Laiqa offers biodegradable sanitary napkins that contain just seven percent plastic, and also comes with biodegradable and recyclable packaging. The brand claims that its pads are “rash, chlorine, and fragrance-free and protects users from UTIs and yeast infections.”
Laiqa also offers personalised monthly subscription packs, which include a combination of day and night (Ultra-thin and Cosy Fluff) pads to suit each user’s flow. The team is available on call 24/7 within Delhi-NCR, and promise same-day delivery.
Laiqa has also partnered with several NGOs including Deepalaya, Dream Girl Foundation, Wishes and Blessings, and Uthaan. Through these partnerships, Laiqa provides a regular monthly supply of pads for girls in need, organises educational workshops, and donates clothes and other utility products.
How it began
When Co-founder Nazish Mir (26) lost a close friend to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) caused by poor menstrual hygiene products, she was determined to bring about a change. She approached her cousin and Co-founder Ali Mir (26) who was surprised at the nonchalant use of menstrual hygiene products among his friend circles.
Soon after, they met Co-founder Monica Bindra (47), a chemical engineer who is also an experienced market researcher and a serial entrepreneur. Being the mother of a young girl who frequently complained of rashes and irritation due to the sanitary products she was using, Monica, too, had similar concerns. Together, with their mission to provide high quality, comfortable and hassle-free products, Laiqa was born.
“With greater education, economic freedom and evolution, women today are demanding better products, more comfort and greater choices. LAIQA creates this for the consumer, right from product order to acquisition and experience – always in keeping with a sustainable future for one and all,” says Monica.
Laiqa is currently bootstrapped with around $250,000 collectively invested by all three co-founders. The brand is open to external funding opportunities in the future.
The co-founders say that earning trust from consumers has been an uphill task. Luckily for them, Laiqa's core team was formulated in May 2018 and they were able to get in touch with vendors, distributors, and a marketing team well in advance.
"The only tangible challenge we still face is getting past the noise and retaining customer attention. Thankfully, our product is the king of our operations; retentions have been organic, and numbers have been ascending," they add.
Reach and growth
Since its inception in February 2019, Laiqa has garnered over 1,500 customers and has seen a 158-percent growth just between February and March. The brand has reached women in 18 states with their products, and has over 450 repeat buyers.
“We have already dispersed 10,000 boxes in the market through our offline distribution and have sold 66 percent of our stock. Our distribution is focused most on the modern trade and chemist chains,” say the co-founders.
The brand attributes most of its success to their enthusiastic interaction with consumers both online and at events. Laiqa also runs the #ComfortChallenge where first-time visitors on their website can avail of a free trial pack, a move through which their clientele has expanded.
Laiqa's team include nine members working from its office, and eight people managing logistics at its warehouse.
"Laiqa is enabling women to opt for an experience that allows easy access, acknowledges their concerns and queries regarding their health, as well as offers a superior product that meets their prime requirements of ease, comfort, and lesser health hazards," the co-founders say.
The brand ultimately aims to help Indian women move past the stigma attached to menstruation by creating a platform for safe, healthy, and comfortable discussion.
FLOH Tampons by Gauri Singhal
Founded by 25-year-old Gauri Singhal, FLOH Tampons is the menstrual health and hygiene brand under parent company Visionaari, which was incorporated in November 2017. Based in New Delhi, Visionaari, which stands for visionary woman, is on a mission to reach out to the women of today with better solutions to take care of their personal needs.
Only a small percentage of women across India have access to safe menstrual hygiene products, and out of them, an even smaller number use tampons. According to Gauri, tampons help women have a more comfortable period, especially those who lead a very active lifestyle. Gauri says that FLOH's core ideology is to "share life-changing menstrual care products with all passionate, on-the-go women of today."
Gauri believes that bold and upfront communication, especially depicting period blood in its true colour unlike most other companies who portray it in a blue liquid, is essential to strengthening the conversation and action around menstrual hygiene.
"Nearly half of India's population is female, composed of go-getters, passionate girls, and driven women of all ages. They all face period problems at some point in their lives, and that's where FLOH comes in. We believe in normalising conversations around periods and breaking menstrual taboos," explains Gauri.
Visionaari encourages the unstoppable women of today who believe in both being empowered and empowering other women through their thoughts, confidence and unwavering determination.
How FLOH began
In September 2017, when Gauri was at a retail conference attending a panel discussion about menstrual hygiene, she noticed that industry experts who were speaking only mentioned the use of pads, and no other products. As a tampon user, this was when Gauri realised that she had to make a change and advocate the use of tampons among the larger market as well.
“Though Indian consumers from both Tier I and Tier II cities are very aspirational, they are held back from making the switch to tampons because there is a lack of awareness about the product,” says Gauri.
She explains that the menstrual hygiene industry is heavily reliant on brand loyalty, and the biggest challenge has been gaining trust among consumers.
“The entire journey of working on this project has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. But when we receive promising messages such as ‘It’s life-changing’, ‘Never going back to pads’, and ‘Periods don’t hold me back anymore’ it’s very encouraging,” Gauri adds.
So far, FLOH has acquired 50,000 unique customers across India within a year of operations. Gauri says that FLOH has grown its customer base by creating '360 degree product awareness' across channels.
She says, FLOH’s social media messaging is honest, bold and upfront and appeals to potential customers. She adds that the tampons have the potential to change the way people experience menstruation, and the eight-member team at FLOH diligently works towards encouraging consumers to make the switch.
As part of their 'digital first' nature, FLOH ran a video campaign called Millennials at your Cervix, where a group of millennials, both men and women, voiced their opinions about menstruation and menstrual hygiene products. Along with spreading the message on social media, FLOH also conducts awareness sessions at schools, colleges and corporates.
FLOH is also currently bootstrapped.
Gauri says that FLOH plans to improve product awareness both digitally and on the ground, and engage with its audience as interactively as possible.
"Aside from bringing product awareness our aim is to enhance our product portfolio with life changing menstrual hygiene products which are easily accessible, economical and convenient for the go-getter women of today," Gauri concludes.
Although menstrual hygiene is extremely important, most Indian girls and women resort to unsafe methods. With brands such as Laiqa and FLOH making a real impact, slow but steady change is on the rise.