“On an average every women contributes around 105 kg of plastic waste through disposable sanitary napkins in the course of her menstruating years, says Anika Parashar CEO and Co-founder of D2C hygiene brand The Woman’s Company, underlining the need for biodegradable, eco-friendly sanitary products. Anika also noted that several brands of menstrual pads and disposable diapers are infused with harsh chemicals that are detrimental to their health.
With her vast experience in healthcare and wellness industry, Anika joined hands with her former colleague, Roopam Gupta to launch The Woman’s Company in March 2020 aiming to address serious gaps in the feminine hygiene industry in India. The D2C brand was driven out of the evident need in the market for quality, eco-conscious products and dissemination of health-related information for women. Anika tells The Plunge Daily about The Woman’s Company journey so far and its impact on feminine hygiene segment in India.
Q: What made you venture into women’s personal intimate and hygiene brands?
A: With two decades of experience in the healthcare and wellness industry, I already had an understanding about the need gaps and the challenges that existed for women. It all started when my daughter hit puberty. As a mother, I was concerned for her well being. I wanted products that would be certified, biodegradable, organic, rash-free, gentle on her skin and enable her to lead an active life even when she was menstruating. As I looked at the market, I saw brands selling standard products to all women, often infused with harsh chemicals that are detrimental to their health. The Woman’s Company was born to fill the need gaps in the market- to provide women with natural, organic, biodegradable products that are gentle on their body and cater to every need of a woman’s lifecycle. At The Woman’s Company, our aim is not just to be another D2C brand in the market but to build a platform that is vocal about women’s issues and provides them access to information in order for them to understand their body and health better and help them make better choices for themselves.
Q: You launched this platform in March 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. Please share the challenges and opportunities that came along with Covid.
A: The world went into lockdown literally after three weeks of The Woman’s Company’s inception. As pads were not considered essential items, we weren’t allowed to deliver them and we faced difficulty in delivering them to our customers. Working from home was also difficult because initially when you start a business, you want everybody to be brainstorming in real life, be on the same page. But the fact that we grew 40% month after month is a testimony that we grew in spite of the challenges and initial hiccups.
Q: How are TWC products built and manufactured? How your products have an edge over your competitors?
A: All of our goods are made in India, with the exception of our tampons, India currently lacks the capability to manufacture biodegradable tampons, but we believe that will change in the near future. Our items are unique; we have a few unique things, such as our foldable “Pee sticks,” which can fit into the back pockets of pants or a small clutch purse. Our “teen pad” is another unique product that is a smaller pad that is tailored for younger bodies for girls who are starting their period adventures so that their journey is more positive and their activity levels remain the same, and girls may begin their menstruation journeys on a high note. We also have a “Hot Pack,” which is designed to relieve pain during periods and is produced with raw and organic products such as wheat and muslin. We also have a couple of other interesting products coming out in October, so stay tuned!
There are several things that set us apart from our competition.
● Our Products are “Made in India”
● We come from a background of women entrepreneurs of a specific age and maturity, having previously operated women’s businesses. We have demonstrated experience in healthcare and retail, both of which are essential to produce and create these types of items for women.
● We control the intellectual property for several of our items, which is important, and we’re launching a couple of new products on a global basis at the end of October.
● Our backers are strategic investors who have opened doors for us in several other regions, the most notable of which being the United States, as well as with major global retailers and distributors, and thus the opportunities that we have at this early level are intriguing.
Q: Please share with us your business revenue model. Also, tell us about your journey so far and how you see the growth of the industry in years to come.
A: The Woman’s Company is a Direct to Consumer (D2C) brand operating in the women’s intimate and hygiene category.
We have seen phenomenal growth of the company since its inception. We’ve increased our sales by approximately 40% month on month. We have also got 50% repeat customers. Our average basket size has grown considerably. We have grown incredibly in terms of market share and revenue across the board, including our own website and other e-commerce platforms where we are present.
Today India is the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world. There is a tremendous potential in India specially in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. New age D2C brands are disrupting the market. The industry will keep growing in the coming decade and the next evolution in the start-up space will be led by women owned and purpose driven businesses.
5)India has close to 12.3 billion disposable sanitary napkins to take care of every year, majority of which are not biodegradable/compostable. This poses a big environmental challenge for us. Your thoughts on the issue.
The fact is that every woman contributes to 105 kg of plastic waste through disposable sanitary napkins adding to the landfill which currently stands at around 12.3 billion annually. Imagine the impact this has on the planet, on global warming, and on the future of our planet. We want to make an impact in this area and therefore, all our products are organic and biodegradable and kept at an affordable price point keeping in mind the current condition of the environment.
Q: The menstrual health of millions of girls and women in India have been severely impacted by the Pandemic. Wanted to understand if you are also associated with social causes aimed at addressing these issues?
A: Being a startup itself, it is tough for us to have as large a CSR arm as we would like. However, we have associated in smaller capacities with various NGOs over the last 1.5 years since our inception and hope to grow this number as we move forward.
Q: Please tell us about your team, your presence (offline and online) in the country and the roadmap for future growth.
A: The Woman’s Company comprises a small but very hard-working team that gives me the confidence everyday to believe that anything is possible and we can move past all hurdles if the right kind of minds come together to make things happen!
Roopam, my Co-Founder, worked with me at my previous organization leading Branding, Digital and PR and when I left, she expressed her interest in joining me for my next initiative. Roopam was pregnant at the time when I offered her Co Founder and COO and was apprehensive about being able to do justice to both her baby and this new firm, but she did a phenomenal job birthing her baby and ours ☺ a week apart! Just shows the limitless capacity of women when we believe in each other. We’ve also recruited a number of professionals who we’ve worked with in the past and who believed in our capacity to develop something unique. Our team size is currently 12 people in India.Our team is a young and enthusiastic team with every skill set required for a D2C ecommerce brand a success, including finance, logistics, operations, supply chain management, digital, content production, and graphics.
We are present on all major e-commerce platforms including Amazon, Nykaa, Zivame, Flipkart, Smytten, LLB, Snapdeal and 1MG and a few smaller ones. We plan to launch on other online portals, stores and be on offline pharmacy shelves very soon. We plan to expand our presence in the Indian market with deeper penetration into Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in India. We are also working to expand our market in North America under the D2C model supported by our on-ground team.
Women’s wellness and health is our passion and our forte.Our vision is to be the leading player in the women’s hygiene and intimate category with a global presence and to touch the lives of 100 million women globally.
Q: According to one study, only 36% of India’s 355 million menstruating females use sanitary napkins. Moreover, Menstrual hygiene education is still a taboo in our country. How do you see private players playing a role in addressing this issue?
A: Social stigma around menstruation and the accessibility of feminine hygiene products are the two most crucial challenges in this category. At The Woman’s Company, we are tackling both these challenges by starting conversations around and access to information on menstruation and women’s hygiene. Secondly, by expanding our presence in Tier 2, Tier 3 cities in India more women can have access to organic, biodegradable sanitary pads and intimate hygiene products.
The need of the hour is to challenge stigma around menstruation and women’s hygiene. New age start-ups and private players in this space can create awareness, advocacy and start healthy conversations around menstruation, period, and menstrual health management.
Q: Women are leading the start-up space and making a mark. How do you see yourself growing in the segment?
A: India’s start-up space is increasingly being led by women. Today, nearly 14% of entrepreneurs in India are women.
We see ourselves expanding our presence and have a deeper penetration into Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities of India and position ourselves as ‘Made in India’. We are confident that we will be one of the leading players in the women’s hygiene industry in India in the future with an Omni channel presence.
Q: Please tell us about your company’s funding. What, according to you, makes your investors bullish about The Woman Company.
A: We have raised $1.4 million in a Pre-series A round. We are very proud to have on board three investors for this round who are genuinely passionate about sustainability and women-owned businesses. They have helped us to expand in several other markets, the most notable of which being the United States. I think that the investors have backed us because previously we have operated and scaled women’s businesses and we have more than two decades of experience in the women health and wellness category. We have a successful track record and experience in healthcare and retail; both of which are crucial to run a successful start-up in the D2C category. Besides, we are genuinely passionate and care about women’s health issues and understand the need gaps in the market like no other.