Personal Hygiene Company Soothe Healthcare is witnessing 2 X growth in FY21-22 with a rapid expansion in untapped geographies and array of new product launches. Soothe Healthcare is Rs 275 crores run rate company today.
The company is leveraging offline and D2C capability and recently launched its flagship Sanitary Pad brand – Paree in South and Northeast markets as well, expanding presence in 3,50,000 (approx) stores across Indian geography. Alongside in FY 21-22, the company has launched innovative baby care and adult care products as well.
In an exclusive interview with the Financial Express Online, Sahil Dharia, Founder and CEO, Soothe Healthcare shares his views on personal hygiene awareness and the need to encourage women to prioritize their menstrual health.
“The COVID 19 pandemic has fueled the growth of the personal hygiene market in India as there is increase in the awareness level for personal and menstrual health and hygiene that has further accelerated the growth of the sector. There has been a surge of over 12% in the personal hygiene market in India. The market is expected to reach Rs 20,000 crores by 2025 as compared to Rs 5,000 crores today,” he further adds. Excerpt
In which market did you see the maximum pick up and people taking seriousness towards personal hygiene?
The consumption of personal hygiene products grew tremendously in both tier 1 and tier 2 cities. The states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh ranked top 2 among the offline retail hygiene product consumption for Soothe healthcare, specifically for Paree Sanitary Pads. We also witnessed a phenomenal growth in our e-commerce business
Do you see personal hygiene awareness for women in tier 2 and tier 3 increasing?
There’s been an increase in the awareness for personal hygiene in tier 2 and tier 3 cities and especially menstrual hygiene for women. This awareness can be attributed to the easy access to smartphones and a growing internet penetration. Then with Covid-19, personal hygiene has become a focus and the accelerated growth of the personal care category is proof of that.
As a brand Paree Sanitary Pads has been active in not only raising awareness but also encouraging women to prioritize their menstrual health through its various initiatives like #SheFirst, Paree Period Leave etc. With strong personalities like Saina Nehwal and Janhvi Kapoor lending their voice to the cause we are confident of making a positive impact.
How do you make your products available to consumers and do you have affordable low-cost products for these people?
The biggest challenge faced by any FMCG brand in India is reach and we have worked towards creating a meaningful distribution network across India in a relatively short span of time. Our ecommerce presence has also grown widely.
Paree is a masstige brand which provides high performing sanitary pads at economical price points. We recently launched Paree Super Ultra with Double Feathers at a never seen before price of Rs.40 and Rs.45 for a pack of 6. Product innovation and Customer centricity are at the core of our business philosophy, and we address the real menstrual needs of our consumers at prices that don’t pinch their pockets.
How does it reshuffle the current business models for an FMCG player i.e. General trade vs ECom?
While e-commerce has spiked up like a hockey stick during the Covid times, general trade remains the backbone of our business model and can never succumb. E-commerce helps in reaching consumer across India at a very affordable rate. With the pandemic the consumer behavior has shifted towards buying things online, but majority of people still have the habit of buying goods from their neighborhood shops. An Indian consumer is a value driven consumer and very tactile in their nature and thus general trade will always prevail.
What is the demand-supply gap. What was the production demand in the first wave, second wave and what is the preparedness for the third wave?
In the first wave and the subsequent lockdown, neither the consumers nor businesses had any insight into how things will pan out! For Soothe Healthcare, while we were categorized under the essentials category we did face some production and transportation challenges. But being agile we promptly reassessed, adapted, and created a hybrid work model which is a flexible way of functioning that allows us to continue manufacturing and cater to the market needs while adhering to the government protocols. Soothe Healthcare currently has a capacity of manufacturing 1 billion pads per annum.
What are the regulatory challenges. What are the threats from unorganized players?
At present, we are requesting the Government to set quality standards for sanitary pads so that only good quality products reach customers. The quality of a sanitary pad is important for female hygiene and therefore must be a matter of concern. There must be quality checks held to ensure that the product is good enough to be sold to consumers. In the upcoming 2022 Union budget, we also expect the Government to allocate some funding towards creating such rules and regulations.
Talking about the unorganized players, the category has a significant unorganized market. These local state brands reach out to the nooks and corners of their locality, and in fact introduce the usage of sanitary pads to the womenfolk which is essential as sanitary product penetration is quite low in India. So instead of looking at these unorganized players like a threat we choose to consider them as an advantage since they are warming the market for us.