Aakar Innovations forays into retail with compostable sanitary pads

Jaydeep Mandal, Founder and Managing Director of Aakar Innovations, said the company's pads are free from harmful chemicals, artificial dyes and fragrances, plastics, and dioxin.

Aakar Innovations forays into retail with compostable sanitary pads

Monday October 23, 2023,

4 min Read

Aakar Innovations, a social enterprise, launched 'Anandi Athletic'—a 100% compostable sanitary pads—in Bengaluru on October 23, foraying into the retail segment.

Menstrual hygiene is not the easiest topic, but it's undeniably one of the most crucial aspects of women's health. Every woman deserves the right and the opportunity to access the necessary facilities during their periods. I'm delighted and proud to witness the passion, dedication, and determination of individuals working to provide women with the comfort and safety they deserve during menstruation,” Karolina Bielawska, Miss World 2021, said at the launch.

Menstruation is considered to be a taboo topic in Indian society and is often brushed under the carpet, leading to poor hygienic practices.

According to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS) report, 64.4% of women aged 15-24 use sanitary napkins, approximately 50% of women in that age group still rely on cloth for menstrual protection, 15% use locally prepared napkins, and 0.3% use menstrual cups. The use of conventional plastic pads can also lead to rashes, allergies, and multiple health challenges. 

Jaydeep Mandal, Founder and Managing Director of Aakar Innovations, explained that the company's pads are free from harmful chemicals, artificial dyes and fragrances, plastics, and dioxin. 

“They also protect from rashes, UTIs, cervical cancer and other lethal diseases. Moreover, these are ultra-thin and have an ultra-soft bio-nonwoven top layer, providing a soft touch and more comfort,” he told HerStory.

"We are offering ultra-thin and tri-folded pads, which provide both exceptional comfort and convenience. Our new product now utilises a natural-based super absorbent polymer, whereas we previously did not use any super absorbents. Furthermore, we've transitioned to using cost-effective Indian bio-nonwoven materials in the product,” he added.

Founded in 2011, the company has been providing affordable, biodegradable and high-quality sanitary pads to rural women who do not have access to menstrual hygiene, resulting in severe forms of social isolation, high school dropouts, and life-threatening diseases. Additionally, the company also engages extensively with the community to conduct menstrual awareness campaigns in villages.

The company presently has a single manufacturing unit located in Vapi, Gujarat, where women comprise around 80% of the workforce. According to Mandal, there are currently 65 women employed at the factory, and the number is expected to grow in the near future.

Anandi Athletic is currently priced at Rs 65-80 for seven pads.

Elucidating further, Mandal noted that disposing of every 17 plastic-based pads costs the government $1 in environmental costs. However, the company's pads can turn into 40-50 grams of compost within 3-6 months.  

Starting with Bengaluru the enterprise aims to extend across Karnataka beginning with one or two districts per month from December. The company will also be distributing one lakh pads as samples over the next three months. 

Talking about foraying into the retail market, the Founder and CEO further said, "We began our journey at the grassroots level, actively engaging with communities in India, Africa, and Nepal, to create awareness about menstrual hygiene and empower women. When we discovered a growing interest among people in Tier II and III regions for our products, we realised that by entering the commercial market, we could generate funds to better serve rural areas.”

Mandal further explains that the majority of sanitary pads are sold in the retail market, with only a small fraction being sold online. 

“To reach a larger audience and make a more significant impact, we recognised the need for a mass-market product. Our goal was to develop a product that could compete on price with multinational brands, while also prioritizing health and environmental friendliness,” he added.

Currently available in 50 stores, the company is set to expand to 200 stores within the next 10 days and reach 500 stores by December.

“When we look at it in the long run, our aim at Aakar Innovations is to raise awareness and sensitise people on menstrual hygiene management, and to figure out how we can make sanitary pads healthier, accessible

and affordable for all women and sustainable for the environment," Mandal said.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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