For a category not really known for innovative products, feminine hygiene has come a long way. Given today’s consumer’s awareness and preference for biodegradable products, a young crop of start-ups such as Carmesi, Nua, Heyday, Purganics and Pinq are going against the tide to offer organic and natural products. Euromonitor’s 2017 Consumer Lifestyles global survey found that in the feminine hygiene space, 19% believe organic products are better for them and 26% believe that such products are better for the environment.
Back to basics
These brands play in the premium segment with a significant presence online. Around 60% of their sales comes from metros and tier I. Carmesi, for example, founded by Tanvi Johri in January 2017, began with a synthetic product which was discontinued later and in November, 2017 switched to biodegradable product offerings. With manufacturing in China and a 60% margin, Carmesi is reportedly growing at 25% m-o-m with Rs 50 lakh in revenue in August. Johri aims to take the brand offline in a phased manner.
Another brand with a manufacturing base in China is Heyday, launched last year by Deepanjali Kanoria. With plans to enter modern trade over the next six months, its sanitary napkins are made of corn and bamboo fibre. A pack of seven napkins is priced at Rs 99 to aid adoption. Kanoria shares, “We are currently in talks with distributors in Nepal, UAE, Russia, Nigeria and Mauritius for international expansion.”
International manufacturing seems to be a thing for such companies; consider Purganics — founded by Nisha Bains last year — which sources and manufactures in Italy and Germany. Its napkins and tampons are made from cotton and a box of 10 costs about Rs 380-390. Bains is looking to launch a subscription model in a month and expects this to contribute 20-25% to overall revenues. It currently operates at a margin of 40-50% on the back of around 8,000 customers.
The most recent entrant in this space is Nua Woman, which went live in January this year and rolled out its online marketing efforts in May. Its products are manufactured in Korea and the napkins come with a paper based disposable bag. The brand allows customers to customise a pack as per napkin sizes, with a pack of 12 napkins priced at `169. Swathi Kulkarni, co-founder, Nua Woman, provides that the brand currently services 21,000 customers.
Carving a niche
The concept of period boxes, relatively popular in the West, is finding ground in India too — albeit in a very small way. The bootstrapped start-up Pinq is a product of that concept. The company’s founder and chairman Manveen Kaur wants to promote the experience rather than the product. The four boxes are a solution to that. They range from `399 to `1,499 with the buffet box carrying items such as lip balm, green tea, travel eye mask and a surprise gift in addition to sanitary napkins. The subscription model, Kaur suggests, has cultivated a 34% repeat purchase rate. Pinq manufactures and sources from China and operates at a 30-35% margin.
These new players occupy a very small space in the market but the intention is to get consumers away from the synthetic, gel-based offerings while speaking out about ingredients that go into making products.
Harish Bijoor, founder and brand expert, Harish Bijoor Consults, shares that the biggest challenge for these players is to enter the market where other players have the might of volumes and branding capabilities. He says, “To counter start-ups, down the line, MNCs may even look at creating an organic or natural portfolio or even buy out some of these firms. Start-ups can try crafting a new imagery among the youth and educate consumers.”