This femtech startup is starting no-filter conversations about menstrual and sexual health
FemiSafe, a femtech company based in Kochi, Kerala, was born out of a conversation between Noureen Aysha and her husband Naseef Nazar.
During their courtship period, the duo came across a disturbing sight – sanitary pads piled up to be picked up sanitation workers. This was during the pandemic and the frequency of waste pick-up had whittled down to once a week.
“It was horrible to see the bloody pads being picked up by bare hands. The workers had to separate the gel from the plastic so that the waste could be processed,” Noureen recalls.
At that time, Naseef suggested that Noureen could raise awareness about menstrual cups as she had been using one for years. This lead to extended research and the launch of FemiSafe, a femtech company, in 2020.
Noureen hails from Kozhikode and Naseef from Kasargod in North Kerala. Noureen, an engineer, grew up in Mumbai and Dubai and worked as an operations executive in the aviation industry and HR Manager with Mahindra prior to starting up. Naseef is a software engineer who came with relevant experience in the field before he left his job to join his wife in building FemiSafe.
The duo decided to move to Kochi to start up FemiSafe, a challenging proposition, because it was a new city where they had very little connections.
“We chose Kochi as the base for our startup due to its cosmopolitan outlook, networking, and logistics accessibility, and of course a forward-thinking crowd in terms of acceptance of a stigmatised topic,” Noureen says.
She explains that starting a femtech company in Kerala was both a challenge and a blessing.
“Our research established that Kerala – especially a Tier II city like Kochi - was ‘literate’ about menstrual and feminine hygiene, and available products. However, they were reluctant to discuss these topics.”
Starting uncomfortable conversations
To change this, FemiSafe “created” influencers out of people actively advocating women’s empowerment on Instagram with a decent number of followers.
“These people would reach out to more, to get the conversation going. We are also quite vocal on social media, with zero filters when it comes to menstrual, personal, and sexual health,” Noureen says.
FemiSafe offers multiple verticals ranging from period care to grooming and intimate care. Its offerings include menstrual cups and menstrual cup sterilisers.
“Made by a third-party manufacturer, our menstrual cups have a distinct feature as compared to others available in the market - a longer stem that can cater to almost all anatomies and a glossy finish that avoids staining in the long run. The menstrual steriliser is non-electrical, affordable, made of food-grade silicone. We were the first in the Indian market to launch this,” she says.
In the grooming category, the company offers face razors and aloe gel combo along with body razors and acne pimple patches.
The price range starts at around Rs 299. FemiSafe aims to launch around 20+ products this year as per its rollout plan.
Once the pandemic became less severe, the founders started offline community engagements in colleges, corporates, and panchayats. The aim was to create awareness and educate the community on healthier and sustainable menstrual hygiene practices.
FemiSafe’s target audience is in Tier II, III, and IV cities, and comprises college students, working professionals, and mothers. A majority of its sales comes from marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, and its own website. The products are also available in major pharmacies in and around Kochi.
Currently bootstrapped with an investment of Rs 30 lakh, the startup has an ARR of Rs 1 crore. Noureen handles the R&D, human resources, and product development while Naseef takes care of marketing, branding, and finance.
The venture is part of the Wadhwani Foundation LiftOff and Stanford Seed Spark accelerator programmes.
The competition is now fierce, from brands like Peesafe, Sirona, and Carmesi in India, and Bella, Cora, and Masmi abroad.
“Our strategy is simple, we have currently built a strong brand presence in South India with our awareness-first approach and will continue in the same way to strengthen our presence in other parts of India,” Noureen says.
She explains their working dynamics.
“As a married couple who runs a business together, we've got our departments segregated clearly when it comes to daily operations. Bigger decisions are taken together. We do have our disagreements but they have helped us see different perspectives, viewpoints, and different skillsets coming in action, which helps the work flow quickly and smoothly.”
Noureen’s plan for the future is clear: to make FemiSafe a one-stop shop for women’s hygiene and personal care needs.
(The copy has been updated to correct a typo)
Edited by Teja Lele