Despite there being ample emphasis on personal hygiene and no lack of medical as well as scientific evidence to highlight its importance, hygiene practices failed to make a major impact in India.
By Vikas Bagaria
In an ideal world, people should be able to do the right things and focus on the right areas as a default approach. However, the reality is quite different. Despite there being ample emphasis on personal hygiene and no lack of medical as well as scientific evidence to highlight its importance, hygiene practices failed to make a major impact in India. Eventually, a pandemic of the magnitude of Covid-19 made people notice this need and take steps to adopt personal hygiene practices. This realization and the importance of basic hygiene practices such as washing hands dawned suddenly. Hand sanitizers, face masks, disinfectants etc. are crucial components of our defense against the virus until a vaccine is found.
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During the early days of the pandemic, there was such a surge in demand for these products that they went out of stock in no time. The rise in demand can be gauged from the fact that the hand sanitizer market saw a growth of 53% in February, 2020 during the early days of Covid-19 precautions in the country. After the announcement of countrywide lockdown, this panic buying led to complete unavailability, and the scarcity of essentials like hand sanitizers, disinfectants and face masks became a major challenge for the general public. Even healthcare service providers and hospitals found it difficult to operate in the absence of these basic hygiene items. It is estimated that more than 50% of the people were unable to buy hand sanitizers and face masks during the time.
Consequently, people started making their sanitizer formulations at home and the major brands doubled their production. Several new hand sanitizer and personal hygiene products also entered the market. During the lockdown, the supply of these products was also hit for a while. Despite being essential items, it became difficult to replenish their stocks as e-commerce outlets suspended operations and there was a near-complete disruption of the logistics services. The scarcity of labour and raw materials made it challenging for the manufacturers and suppliers to continue operations.
However, with the passage of time, the supply chains were resumed and today there is ample availability of masks as well as hand sanitizers, disinfectants and other personal hygiene products in the market. Today, carrying a hand sanitizer bottle along has become as normal as carrying a water bottle. People have become highly conscious of their health and are taking whatever steps possible to protect them from the viral infection. Shops, public places, workplaces, and malls have hand sanitizers placed in common areas.
The personal hygiene market is set to cross $15 billion by 2023, and the hand sanitizers segment alone will be worth more than Rs 2000 crore by the year 2025. It is heartening to see that the pandemic has brought about a permanent change in habits. Even in the post-pandemic world, the experience and the chaos associated with it will ensure a sustained focus on personal hygiene. Considering the fact that Covid-19 is not the only infectious or communicable disease around, this enhanced awareness of hygiene will reap rich dividends in the future. By adopting basic hygiene and sanitation practices, India can save billions of workdays every year and the economic impact of such an improvement can be a great boon for the growth of the Indian economy.
Another key area that is now getting a lot of attention especially from the startups is the female hygiene products segment. There is a lot of awareness now and the market for feminine hygiene products is expected to reach $522 million within 2020. There is a steadily rising demand for products such as eco-friendly sanitary pads, menstrual hygiene products, toilet seat disinfectants and surface disinfectants. Once offices, schools, colleges and public spaces reopen, the demands for products such as toilet seat surface disinfectants will grow as nobody will be willing to come in direct contact with dirty toilet seats in public washrooms.
The market is also going to witness greater traction for online retail and D2C brands as the footfall in physical markets is likely to remain low even after lockdown is lifted completely. The silver lining to this cloud is that we have all learned our lessons and future India is likely to be a cleaner, sanitized and healthier India!
(The author is Founder, Pee Safe. Views expressed are personal.)