Why this ex-Amazon employee felt the need to start a D2C menstrual hygiene startup
In 2020, Kiriti Acharjee was looking for one thing — a solution to make menstruating comfortable for the working women in his family.
He realised the existing solutions made the period a hassle — the frequent changing of sanitary napkins or tampons at regular intervals seemed tiresome.
“This prompted me to make a reusable period panty. The product was a direct solution to the problem at home. The women in my family found it difficult to go to work during their periods, a place to change, and a method to dispose of the used pads,” says Kiriti.
He started— an eco-friendly intimate care brand — in Bengaluru. Kiriti decided to speak to his inner circle of women, understand their needs, and look at different designs to build the product.
The idea was to bring comfort to menstruating women by offering products that make the period hassle-free and painless, thereby increasing their productivity. After six months of testing and incorporating their feedback, Kiriti introduced the GoPadFree leakproof reusable period panty.
HealthFab listed the first-of-its-kind intimate care product on Amazon’s marketplace in 2020 at a premium pricing.
At present, one GoPadFree panty costs Rs 1,150 per piece. Once he had the idea, Kiriti reached out to his professional network and roped in Sourav Chakraborty and Satyajit Chakraborty as co-founders for the startup.
The need for a period panty
“An average woman uses 25 pads in each cycle. Each change involves the hassle of ensuring proper placement and concern for disposal. The frequency of changing pads also causes disruption, affecting work and sleep,” says Kiriti.
He adds the standalone reusable period panty reduces the number of pads used — 5X that of a standard sanitary pad — due to its high absorbance property.
The environmental-friendly product also eliminates the hassle of finding places to change and ways to dispose of the used pad, as it can be reused till 50 washes, cutting down sanitary plastic waste by 99 percent.
Before taking the entrepreneurial route, Kiriti worked for the likes of Amazon and Cloudtail. Sourav, on the other hand, worked as an embedded system engineer at John Deere and Company, while Satyajit was a services consultant at Altran.
“We used to import the finished product, but now we are moving to wholly local manufacturing. We are also in the process of modifying our supply chain, which will allow us to experiment and work on different styles, making HealthFab a lifestyle, along with niche functional value,” explains Kiriti.
While every industry can talk about having a personal effect on its customers, it is more true for the health and hygiene industry.
“The level of trust a brand in this space can command from its customers is huge, and consequently, the rise and fall of a brand is intense. 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,” Kiriti says.
For HealthFab, the biggest lesson is taking the trust of the customer extremely seriously. “There is absolutely no room to repair the situation once that trust is broken,” he adds.
Another challenge has been to break through the social barrier and talk to potential customers. Right from the planning stage, most of the insights behind the product were from women who were friends and family. “This continues to be a major challenge as we broaden our customer base,” adds Kiriti.
Market and future
According to GlobeNewswire, the Indian feminine hygiene products market was valued at Rs 32.6 billion in 2020 and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16.87 percent to Rs 70.20 billion by 2025.
HealthFab competes with companies, including Sirona, Sanfe, The Woman Company, Plush, Carmesi, and HeyDay, in this space.
Since January 2020, the bootstrapped D2C brand has sold over 12,000 units in India. “In this short period, we are in the top 100 sanitary products on Amazon. We have also started selling in the Middle East and have got reassuring responses from the customers,” he says.
In 2021, HealthFab has grown by 400 percent in comparison to 2020 numbers, and the startup is growing by 30-40 percent quarterly.
"We are working on additional product lines, which are specific to health and personal category. These products are designed to cater to this and other underserved categories. The underlying philosophy is that they will all be environmentally friendly,” says Kiriti.