Category : Social enterprise

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Posted On : 06th, November 2017

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Social enterprise


06th, November 2017    -    Social enterprise

When we are reaching mars and beyond, a basic thing like hygiene is still a pipe dream. Saathi, a social enterprise is using banana fiber to produce bio degradable sanitary pads and has taken a step forward in the sectors of health care and women empowerment.

In rural areas, without proper knowledge and facilities women skip school, stay away from their usual work and are even isolated during those times. Women from such background do not know the importance of hygiene products. Not taking proper care can lead to severe infections. Saathi is one of its kind initiative which addresses all these issues and how. 

 Flying back to the year 2009 the percentage of women using the sanitary napkins was 12% and now it has reached 16% which is still a not so great number. It was then this whole concept took birth says Amrita Saigal-Co-Founder and CFO of Saathi.

Saathi is a startup based out of Ahmedabad with Amrita Saigal, Grace Kane,Tarun Bothra and Kristin Kagetsu the three graduates from Massachusetts Institute of Technology leading it. They were joined by Tarun from Nirma University. It was in fact the situation that her grandmother has gone through, that changed Amrita’s perception about the menstrual cycles in India. When people still consider this topic as taboo to be discussed, she has taken a bold move in starting this startup in 2015 which not only is helpful for the women but also the Mother Earth. 

When in MIT they developed a prototype of a machine using which pads can be made by women. They won quite a good number of awards but the alpha prototype had to be redesigned. The initial capital was obtained from winning a business grant competition.  

A good amount of research has been done before starting Saathi. They met people in rural areas and found that even though women are ready to use the pads, they do not have a proper disposing mechanism. Most women in rural areas burn these pads which are mostly made from plastic releasing harmful carcinogens into the atmosphere. On an average 23kg of plastic is generated by a single woman in her lifespan.

This was what led to biodegradable pads. Then a study was done to find out the absorbability and voila! Banana fibers are identified to be perfect. The pads made out of banana will degrade in six months which is 1200 times faster when compared to the ones made from plastic. India is a one of the largest banana producers in the world. Once the bananas are taken off, the tree is cut down and is just useless. This banana stem is the contributor of the fiber. As a result of this the farmers are earning money even from the waste. There are certain environmental safe pads made from cotton but the advantage of banana fiber is that the water consumed per ton is six times lesser than that of cotton.  

Ahmedabad being close to the banana growing areas was the spot for setting up the manufacturing plant.

These pads are clearly made in India. Starting from raw material to the manufacturing, everything is from India. A patent has also been filed and there are eight women partners involved.

It is said that nothing worth having comes easy. This whole setup involved many hurdles where people would promise to deliver the products and never turn up. For instance they faced a loss of 3 lakhs as; a company which was supposed to design a machine did not do it in the right way. There was a problem from the staff as they tend to shift from one job to another.  

Before all this there was about 2 years involved in the research and development. Every small detail like the constant supplier of raw material, quality check of the material and taking the product to the customer were considered and taken care of.

They have associated with Ekal Vidyalaya an NGO that purchases and distributes the sanitary pads or more likely Saathi pads in rural areas of Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Gujarat for a year. There is a one million pads program on going to reach out to more women. In her words Kristin says “Everyone is aware that women do not have access to sanitary pads. If we do this in a sustainable and responsible way, that would be amazing.”that would be amazing.”

The pricing is pretty much the same as the ones that women in urban areas use. Through this the cost in rural areas can be subsidized. Along with this they intend to provide training and jobs to women from low income families.

They have a capacity to produce 100,000 pads a month which has been planned to increase by 20-30 times in the near future. These pads have been in the market since the early 2017 and are here to stay. Saathi has reached the top 20 of Tata social enterprise challenge.

Hard work never goes waste and the effort that has been put by the team at Saathi is recognized. The renowned Global Startup Challenge 2017 by Hello Tomorrow, a French startup accelerator was conquered by Saathi. This was preceded by their participation in Startups club demo day 2016, in which they were pitted against 10 startups from other parts of the country.

Saathi Pads won €15,000 in the wellbeing category sponsored by L’Oreal, €5,000 Impact prize and a grand prize of €100,000 at the Hello Tomorrow a Global Startup Challenge in Paris, France. This victory has definitely provided a boost in the investment but that’s not it. It will also provide a boost by putting Saathi in the limelight and help to grab the attention of personal care companies. Mr.Vivek Srinivasan, Co-Founder of startups club and a Hello Tomorrow representative says this about Saathi “Saathi Pads is a unique project that is targeted towards rural Indians. Their persistence and hard work has paid off.”

Though it is difficult to gain the trust of people initially, they have the confidence that this will hit the bull’s eye. 

Webiste: Saathi

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I am S.N. VIKRAM SIMHA.I am a final year student from REVA University Bangalore. I am a Blogger.I write content, quotes, short stories.I love to do something in the field of English.SO, I love to write content.

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