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Pandemic helped D2C brands to grow in market: Monica Bindra, Founder and CEO, Laiqa

The menstrual hygiene market has seen a growing appetite for intimate care, and menstrual hygiene products, Bindra told Financial Express.com.

Menstrual hygiene, menstrual hygiene market, laiqa, menstrual products, periods, menstruation, healthcare news, health news,
Monica Bindra, Founder and CEO, Laiqa

In the last decade, there has been a paradigm shift in people’s outlook towards period and menstrual hygiene products in the country. Undoubtedly, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has also raised self-awareness among menstruators in choosing the right product. Statistics reveal that revenue in the Feminine Hygiene segment amounts to US$5.85bn in 2022. Moreover, the market is expected to grow annually by 5.15% (CAGR 2022-2026). Meanwhile, India’s feminine hygiene market is valued at USD 896.75 million and is projected to witness a CAGR of 14.7% during the forecast period (2022-2027). Several industry experts have also pointed out that the feminine hygiene market in India is witnessing an unprecedented growth in the recent times.

However, despite the growth there are some persistent challenges. According to data by the National Family Health Survey 2015-2016, of the 336 million menstruating women in India, only about 121 million women uses sanitary napkins. Data suggests that less than 50% of rural women use sanitary pads while in urban areas the percentage is higher at around 77%. Financial Express.com reached out to Monica Bindra, Founder and CEO, Laiqa and she talked about the recent trends in the menstrual hygiene business, period poverty, stigma and taboo among others. Excerpts:

What are the recent trends in the business of menstrual hygiene products? How has the ongoing coronavirus pandemic influenced these trends?

The menstrual hygiene market has seen a growing appetite for intimate care, and menstrual hygiene products. The increasing awareness about intimate hygiene and eco-consciousness is pushing brands to launch environment-friendly and innovative products. Before, menstrual hygiene was limited to pads of some major brands. Even if other hygiene brands were available, menstruators were a little hesitant to try them. Now menstruators are open to trying products from new brands. They are more into self-care and are eco-conscious. One of the reasons that made the menstrual hygiene or intimate care range a boom is online platforms where a consumer can research on her own and buy products from new and growing brands. Those brands were available on e-commerce platforms for a long time but people have little to no faith in online platforms. Pandemic made people trust online platforms. Hence it helped D2C brands to grow in the market.

In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of brands focused on menstrual hygiene. What separates Laiqa from them?

There is a rise in menstrual hygiene brands but what separates Laiqa from others is that it is also into femtech. We have introduced an application named Period Pal, which is not just a period tracking application but it also educates the users with the help of blogs that covers topics related to female hygiene, wellness, lifestyle, and fitness. Furthermore, you can take expert advice from gynecologists, mental wellness experts, and dieticians for free. The motive behind providing free expert advice through our application is to encourage menstruators to take care of their health as it is the most convenient way for a person to consult an expert. Our period pal application is a contribution to educating and aware people of menstrual hygiene and wellness. Along with period pal, we also have a team of menstrual hygiene and wellness advisors with whom a menstruator can directly interact over a call and take advice on menstrual hygiene and wellness products.

ALSO READ | Popularity and usage of menstrual cups have increased after the pandemic: Experts

India is one of those countries where Period Poverty affects a majority of menstruating individuals. How does this pose a challenge for companies like Laiqa?

In our country where period poverty affects a majority of menstruating individuals, it becomes difficult for a brand like us to tell them “who we are”. A brand like us doesn’t even reach the stage where we could convey to the individual affected by period poverty about the brand or what we do because they are unaware of the importance of menstrual hygiene. Even after many initiatives by the government and NGOs to aware menstruators, they prefer going back to their traditional methods instead of using sanitary napkins donated by the government bodies and NGOs. Using the alternatives like rags, cloth, sand, and ash puts an individual at higher risk of urinary and genital infections, which could lead to some serious health problems. Being a hygiene and wellness brand we don’t want any menstruator to go through a stage where lack of hygiene awareness put them in a severe health situation.

There is still a large group of menstruating individuals who are hesitant to go beyond conventional products like sanitary pads or tampons. What are the reasons?

A menstruator being hesitant to use other period care products is a clear case of lack of knowledge which is the outcome of taboo. The period is a stigmatized topic. Talking about it seems illegal in your own home. Hence menstruators are misinformed. They know what others have conveyed to them. For instance, many menstruators believe that using a menstrual cup might break hymen or injure one. This piece of information is a product of a lack of knowledge. The good news is that gradually people are getting educated, breaking the taboo, and shifting to the new age of menstrual hygiene products.

The period is still taboo in India. What needs to be done to break the stigma associated with menstruation?

Women in India go through a lot when it comes to menstruation hygiene. Talking about periods is still prohibited in many Indian households. Period myths still float in society. One of the reasons is a lack of awareness. I aim to enable every person to manage her menstruation care needs, with confidence, dignity, and without stigma or taboo. For that, we conduct menstrual health awareness sessions with various Corporates, women’s forums, Schools, and NGOs where we talk about health problems that could happen because of unhygienic practices. Education is the key, being a menstrual hygiene brand, we should try to reach people as much as possible and educate them about periods and make them realize that stigmatizing periods will only bring severe health problems for a menstruator.

What are the challenges that you have faced since you started Laiqa? What are your key milestones and future goals?

The journey was not smooth or easy, there were a lot of hurdles to overcome. It was itself a big task to talk about menstrual hygiene with the audience as it is a stigmatized topic. Then pandemic happened and it changed the overall dynamics for us as we were new in this field. Everything was overwhelming for me, as Laiqa was in the initial stage. But with our efforts and determination, we overcame all those obstacles and made a growing brand that is focused on serving premium quality hygiene and wellness products to menstruators. It’s been motivating to see the positive response. It has allowed us to scale our production of sanitary pads. Now along with premium quality, toxin-free, and softest pads, we have hormonal teas, roll-on, intimate wash, period cups, and disposable period panties which are made of high-quality materials or ingredients and, are free from toxins. In the future, we would like to have an ecosystem of products that menstruators can use to maintain a comfortable, healthy lifestyle and launch new features of the period pal application that will benefit the users in all aspects during periods and day-to-day life.

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