CSR Champions

Corporate Social Responsibility is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with their stakeholders. As per the government’s mandate, businesses with annual revenues of more than 10bn rupees (£105m) must give away 2% of their net profit to charity. Areas they can invest this money in include education, poverty, gender equality and hunger.

We at Saral Designs understand the importance of collaboration for the greater good. We believe in leveraging available resources and utilizing it for creating a lasting impact. In the last one year, to increase our reach and improve last mile access, we have partnered with over 5 companies working towards eliminating the problems around menstrual hygiene.

Distribution of Active Ultra pads in collaboration with Precision CamShafts

Our partnership includes conducting awareness about menstrual hygiene among women and girls across all age groups, social and economic backgrounds. The awareness program is focused towards the menstrual education of girls, educating them about the biology behind menstruation and best practices which need to be followed at the time of their menstrual cycle. To properly understand the need of each school or community we select to work in, we first conduct a pre-test to see how much the women know about menstruation and the conduct a post-test to analyze the impact of the awareness session conducted by us. After each session, we distribute to girls and women free packets of ‘Active Ultra’ sanitary napkins sufficient for one cycle. A typical MHM session conducted by us covers the following topics:

  • Menstruation and body anatomy
  • Puberty and changes in body
  • What is menstruation?
  • Learningmenstrual cycle
  • Sanitation, hygiene& products
  • Hygiene practices during periods
  • Track your periods & Myth-busting
  • Right disposal practices for used pads
Students explaining the reproductive system during a session in Ghatkopar, Mumbai

We recognize our limitations as a social enterprise and know how imperative it is to partner with local NGO’s and individuals for the smooth execution of the program. In the past two years, we have developed strong partnerships with over 25 such non-profit organizations having well-built networks in the most remote parts of the country.

MHM session conducted in collaboration with Saksham Foundation

In a recent survey conducted by us to track the increase in knowledge about menstruation, health benefits and usage of hygienic menstrual products in the schools we work with, we found the following:

  • 100% of the girls went back and discussed the awareness session with either their mothers, sisters or friends
  • 82% girls used Active Ultra pads that were given to them.
  • 97% of the users found the pad quality to be excellent/good
  • Teachers from the schools observed a drastic reduction in the number of girls taking half day/ full day leaves due to period emergencies.

So far, we have :

Our Reach

But our work does not end here! There is still a long way to go and we will continue to make sanitary napkins more accessible to women, create awareness around menstruation and ensure every woman has a healthy period!

Students from a school in Chembur, Mumbai post the session with Active Ultra pads

Reaching the last mile through our Door to Door model

Menstruation is a taboo topic in India, because of which women are unaware of various menstrual hygiene products available in the market. 80% of women in India currently do not use sanitary napkins due to lack of awareness, affordability and access to quality menstrual hygiene products. This not only has an adverse health impact leading to reproductive tract infections and tetanus but also leads to workplace and school absenteeism. There is an evident need for menstrual hygiene awareness and good quality products in rural India, but there is not enough being done about it. As an organization that works in the menstrual hygiene space, we have tried multiple models with lesser cost, higher margins, fixed salaries, free samples distribution, etc. and at every step made mistakes and learned a lot from them. After spending 2 years in rural Maharashtra, we have finally arrived at a model which would work best given our vision and goals to drive change in this sector.

 This blog post aims to shed light on our Door to Door model which is very different from the models that large-scale and small-scale companies follow, because it makes sure that our product has a better reach that other companies fail to achieve, creates awareness on menstrual hygiene and health in rural areas and provides employment opportunities to women in villages. Through this model, we reach the most interior parts of our country, especially those, where a topic like menstruation, is not openly talked about.Our Door to Door model focuses on developing effective partnerships and building strong distribution systems, thereby helping us grow our sales networks and creating last mile access. We are able to do this with the help of Sanginis, who play a vital role in our program. A Sangini is a friend and guide to women in villages. She is their confidant with whom they can discuss anything about menstruation, a familiar face, a woman who will patiently listen to all your concerns, queries and provide any information you need about periods. A Sangini is also a trained village woman for sales and goes Door to Door educating people about menstruation.

We first identify Senior Sanginis, who are experienced healthcare workers and partner with them to create awareness about periods and for sale of Active Ultra sanitary napkins at the last mile. The Senior Sanginis are then provided training by our team on everything they need to know about menstrual hygiene. These Senior Sanginis select Sanginis from different villages who are appointed to go Door to Door and create awareness about periods. 

The selection of the right Senior Sangini, keeping in mind the role she plays in the community, is extremely crucial.  Senior Sanginis are usually associated with local NGOs, ASHA workers, Health officers, village Sarpanch etc. The selection criterion of a Senior Sangini for the implementation of our program broadly depends on;

Once we have identified the right Senior Sanginis, the next step is their capacity building. We do so by conducting intensive training sessions and orient them about the prevalent issues and how to create a demand for the product. Senior Sanginis and Sanginis have a set of responsibilities as mentioned below:

We provide our product directly to the Senior Sanginis reducing intermediaries, due to which each of them earns a higher margin.  With good financial incentives and a strong motivation to help other women in their localities, Sanginis proudly and effectively sell our products. Besides the profits from sales, we also incentivize them to organise sessions for awareness creation.

To ensure that we are addressing the problem from all angles, we also conduct several other activities to increase access at the last mile and to educate people about the problems surrounding menstrual hygiene.

Awareness sessions in schools/colleges: One of the best ways to reach a maximum number of girls is by approaching local schools and colleges. MHM sessions are conducted in schools and colleges to create awareness about menstrual hygiene followed by a product demo at the end of every session.

Donation Campaigns: We run a campaign called ‘That Time of the month’ in collaboration with Milaap to raise funds for girls who cannot afford sanitary pads. This campaign sponsors girls in school with six month supply of sanitary pads. Once girls start using pads from the beginning of their periods, they slowly build a habit of how to maintain good hygiene during periods and eventually become loyal customers of the product.

Awareness drives in communities: There is a continuous need to engage with the women of the village even after conducting the above-mentioned activities. 4-5 months post the campaign and door to door sales, we organize for a community level awareness session for the women and girls of the village. We train the Sanginis to conduct these awareness sessions in the villages they are from and have visited.

Door to door Sales: Sanginis visit approximately 30 women per day, ask questions, collect relevant data and in case anyone faces any problems or wants to know more about menstruation, one can discuss it freely with the Sanginis. Sanginis are also trained to talk about hygiene practices to be followed during periods and menstrual products available in the market. The Sanginis also keep a stalk of the sanitary napkins with them, therefore anytime someone needs the pads, they can directly approach the Sanginis in their village and buy it from her. 

This model has been adopted by us to increase last mile access after extensive research. Our learning’s from it have been huge and we are constantly experimenting and modifying our model given the changing times and preferences of the consumers.

We currently have a presence in 80 villages across Maharashtra and work with over 100 Sanginis in these villages. In a recent survey conducted we found that 100% Sangins that we collaborate with, take pride in spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene apart from the additional income they earn because it ensures better health of the women in their village. Our ultimate aim as a women’s health start-up is to ensure that 23% girls go back to schools, the health burden of 70% of women who suffer from reproductive tract infections is reduced and every woman has a healthy period!

“How we exported our first sanitary pad making machine to Bangladesh!”

Access to menstrual hygiene is a basic human right and the fight to provide this basic necessity to every woman is something we are working towards at Saral Designs. Availability of sanitary napkins is a huge problem in our country, especially since most good quality pads produced, are either imported or very expensive. In my experience of working in this field for 2.5 years, I have observed that the commercial manufacturing machines that make high-quality pads are high-speed, expensive (10 crore – 40 crore) and require huge marketing budgets for selling nearly 20 million pads every month. These machines which are imported from countries like China, Italy, Germany are meant for bulk manufacturing, making it difficult for small-scale businesses to sell such huge quantity of pads.

In India, most machines developed are manually operated and are unable to produce ultra thin pads. Being a part of India’s first hardware start-up that has designed a one of kind automatic sanitary napkin making machine, our aim is to create access at the last mile and set-up machines in different locations, enabling local manufacturing and distribution.

Swachh 2.0 Manufacturing Unit

To put to test this decentralization model of ours, we recently exported our first machine- Swacch 2.0 to a local entrepreneur in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Ariful Forquan identified the need of female garment workers in nearby factories which causes several women to miss work or use unhygienic materials during their periods like husk, newspapers, ragged cloth etc. As a factory owner himself,  he faced a lot of problem due to the regular absenteeism of female workers. When he delved deeper into the matter, he found out that the problem is prevalent mainly due to lack of access and availability of high-quality menstrual hygiene products in the local markets. After extensive research and meetings with many manufacturers, Ariful realized that with manually operated machines, the product quality is poor and the model cannot be scaled, while the high speed lines require very high investments to start off. The hunt for a solution to this problem, led Ariful Forquan and his business partner Dr.Kalam to meet with Saral Design’s Founders Suhani Mohan & Kartik Mehta.

saral designs team sanitary napkin machine
Ariful with Saral Designs Team

Once the deal was finalized, we vowed to provide our new Production partners with an end to end training on running a sanitary pad making business. Our operations head put together a 3-week training program for Ariful and his team where each member from Saral Designs conducted detailed sessions depending on their field of expertise. It provided a holistic experience of running a business.The training involved interactive sessions on the following topics:

  • Technical know-how: In-depth understanding of the machine, how to operate, maintain it and explanation of all manuals related.
  • Pad construction: Making and Composition of sanitary pads, quality check and control, Raw material performance.
  • Sales and distribution: Support with partnerships and proposal writing, introduction to training modules etc.
  • Design and marketing: Packaging and designing of pads, content generation for social media, marketing techniques on different platforms.
Dispatching raw materials and the machine to Dhaka.

Once Ariful and his team left, we crated the machine and prepared for its departure to Dhaka.  The task of transporting a 300 kg machine across the sea, was executed effortlessly .

However, our job was not finished here! We still had a to install the machine in Dhaka and ensure it was up and running smoothly. To help our partners understand the expected timeline to set-up a Swacch machine, we broke down the process right from finalizing the deal to beginning production into steps as shown below:

On reaching Dhaka, we immediately got to work and within two days assembled the entire machine. We started production of sanitary pads from the third day and everything else fell perfectly into place! We stayed there for 7 more days to support them with any unforeseen issue that might arise pertaining to the machine.  We left Dhaka with a feeling of accomplishment and self-assurance for having successfully completed the job at hand.

sanitary napkin making machine
Vijay installing the machine in Dhaka, Bangladesh

The set-up of our machine in Bangladesh has instilled confidence in the entire team of Saral Designs. It has reassured us that our decentralization model when implemented across the countries in need of it, will create last mile access, provide job opportunities and empower women. There is a clear and evident need for better menstrual hygiene products especially in developing countries but due to lack of access to such quality pads, the demand is not adequately met. We at Saral Designs are here to ensure this gap disappears and that every woman lives her life with dignity and confidence.

Sanitary napkin making machine
Inauguration of Sokhi Production Unit set up in collaboration with Saral Designs

 

How we sold our first million pads

Here’s a story of how we sold more than 1 million sanitary napkins in a span of 12 months reaching out to more than 1 Lakh rural women across Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Manipur and many more. With the innovation in the product, production and local distribution we provide access to high quality ultra-thin sanitary napkins at an affordable price in these villages, through Sanginis, a group of women healthcare workers.

1 million

Founded in 2015, we commenced our operations in 2016 and have designed the world’s first compact, modular and automatic machine named ‘SWACHH’ that makes ultra-thin sanitary napkins. The automation reduces human errors and keeps the production rate high, to ~ 15,000 pads per day, while also reducing the cost of production. Further, the decentralized production enables a reduction in distribution cost by almost 30% leading to an overall price reduction.

Suhani Mohan, Co-founder and CEO, Saral Designs said “We are delighted to achieve this milestone in a short span of time. At Saral Designs, we believe that menstrual hygiene is the right of every Indian woman and we are committed to providing that last mile accessibility to high-quality pads. While innovation in technology and decentralized distribution have made the pad affordable by almost 50% as compared to a global brand, the percentage of first-time users of pads and our repeat buyers reaffirm the quality of our product. However, a vast majority of Indian women are still using unhygienic modes during their menstruation period. From our own survey in rural areas, we found a lack of awareness of hygiene, lack of accessibility and lack of affordability among the primary reasons discouraging rural women to switch to using sanitary pads.Hence, we are investing in awareness programs to address social challenges including taboo around menstruating women.”

Sapna Marade, a happy consumer and repeat buyer of Active Ultra from Kadav, Karjat says-I hardly go to the town as I feel shy asking my family members to get pads for me. Hence, I had to use cloth. Now that Sangini didi sells pads in our village, it is very convenient for me. Now, I use Active Ultra pads only. I like the quality of pads too”.  

Happy Customers of Active
Happy Customers of Active

As a part of our school intervention program, we also installed vending machines across 14 low- income schools across many villages in Maharashtra. We recently put to test our delivery model to measure its impact by conducting a survey across 60 villages and observed the following outcomes:

  • 52% of the total users of our product were cloth rag users before.
  • 3% of buyers feel that easy accessibility at the last mile has led to using them pads regularly.
  • 88% of the users who switched from other brands believe the product quality was much better. Remaining find it on par with the products they used before.
  • For our healthcare workers (Sanginis), apart from the added income, they said that they take pride in selling our pads and spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene.

Our learnings from this survey have been that increased access, coupled with a high-quality affordable product has enabled multiple women to make the switch towards hygienic menstrual hygiene solutions.

Reaching the ‘1 million’ target has been one of our biggest achievements. It reinforces our belief that we are heading in the right direction towards formidable change. This year we also reached out to people who are in genuine need of hygienic menstrual products, fostered strong partnerships and have had experiences that make this journey so much more meaningful. We are truly grateful and humbled by all the support and love we continue to receive.

Team Photo

(P.S To learn more about the survey, you can read our blog post – Health Impact Monitoring System which is a detailed and well – researched survey on our door to door delivery model.)

Health Impact Monitoring System

Health Impact Monitoring System

At Saral Designs, we constantly put to test our interventions and measure its impact on various communities. Our aim is to design a better future in menstrual hygiene via our decentralized production and unconventional distribution mechanisms. Through our initiative, we have sold more than 1 million pads in less than 1 year and have a presence in towns and villages of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Manipur in India, Bangladesh and Dubai. This Survey has been researched extensively in an attempt to make available all our findings for everyone’s use.

Of the various mechanisms for increasing last mile access, we have been working on creating a sustainable channel for door to door distribution of pads in villages of India. This study is to understand the key objectives and measure outcomes and impact of this delivery model.

YOYOYO

The survey was conducted by Sanginis who are trained village women for sales and awareness creation. They have a thorough knowledge of geography and members of the village, basic literacy up to class 10 and are comfortable travelling in the village and to the training centre when required.

The objective of the monitoring system is to provide continuous data to track the increase in knowledge about menstruation and health benefits and usage of hygienic menstrual products. The program will measure and track the awareness, intention to use, reported usage data and health seeking behaviour.

Of the 60 villages (a total menstruating population of ~25,000 women) we have a presence in,(via our door to door health workers -Sanginis), we interviewed 100 women. The sample size is ~0.4% of the total target population.

YOYOYOYO

The sample size has been arrived at on the following considerations:

  1. The chances of the program having different responses for different villages
  2. The sample size should be sufficient enough to provide an estimate of product usage and awareness for the total target women

Survey Mechanism

  1. Out of 60 villages in Raigad district of Maharashtra where the program is active, we selected 5 villages to do the survey(Kadav, Kalamb, Neral, Pali and Wadwali).
  2. 5 villages were chosen so as to include regions with the strongest sales and the worst product sales to get a balanced perspective and range of feedback.
  3. The survey questionnaire and data was collected from the users and Sanginis of the village.
  4. It approximately took a month to complete one round of data collection.

Analysis of the Survey:

YOYO

YOYO2

 Post our intervention in these villages we found that, there were 0.01% respondents who continued to use unhygienic cloth rags, 0.04% were using a pad for incorrectly (for Eg. Using the pad for more than 10 hours a day). 100 % of the Sanginis said that apart from the additional income, they take pride in spreading awareness about menstrual hygiene which ensures better health of their village women.

From this survey and our interventions, we have found that increased access, coupled with a high-quality affordable product has enabled multiple women to make the switch towards hygienic menstrual solutions.

However, our work does not stop here as there is still a need to continue and strengthen the MHM awareness programs to ensure 100% hygienic and proper usage of sanitary napkins.