The conversation around it has never created as much buzz in India as in the past one year. From making sanitary pads tax free, the Sabarimala verdict (which allowed women of menstruating age to enter the temple), launch of government’s low cost biodegradable sanitary napkins, to the release of Akshay Kumar’s movie PadMan — sanitary pads are no longer a taboo topic in daily conversation.
Riding on this new found openness about menstrual hygiene is LightBox Venture Fund-backed Nua — a new age female-focussed startup (femtech) which believes in building a community, gain an audience and learn from feedback.
At face value, Nua’s sanitary pads are not the most unique offering in the market as compared to other biodegradable sanitary pads startups such as Carmesi, Heyday and Saathi. Most online brands also offer customisable and subscription services similar to Nua. Also price-wise Nua’s pads are not the most expensive but nor are they the cheapest.
As the Indian sanitary napkin market has been dominated by international brands such as Procter & Gamble’s Whisper and Johnson & Johnson’s Stayfree for many years, the Mumbai-based startup is not looking to compete with the big brands which have a exponentially stronger retail presence.
In the age of social media and community building, Nua has been able to build a safe space for women to openly express their concerns around reproductive and sexual wellness. Perhaps, this is one of the main reasons why Mumbai-based Lightbox Ventures invested $4 Mn into Nua. The deal also marks the first investment made by the venture capital firm from its third fund of $200 Mn which was expected to close by the end of 2018.
Prashant Mehta, partner at LightBox Ventures told Inc42, “We wanted to invest in a company that is based on delivering an amazing experience and not just a product. And I think what Nua has really captured is creating a leading brand in women wellness by providing a kickass experience.”
Nua plans to invest this new fund in making clever use of technology, hiring best talent and expansion of the product line.
Conversations Over Advertising
With the rise of social media, community-building has became an essential part of connecting with potential customers online. But in the market of women’s wellness and hygiene products traditional marketing has had more misses than hits when it comes to addressing concerns over menstruation.
And this is where NUA shines through.
This Mumbai-based startup cofounded by Ravi Ramachandran and Swathi Kulkarni in 2017 offers a customisable pack of 12 sanitary napkins with doorstep delivery. The consumer gets the flexibility to customise the number of heavy (320mm), medium (280mm) and light flow (240mm) pads in the pack. The company also offers women a subscription pack with the starting price of INR 169, coupled with period synced home delivery of the pack every month.
Currently, Nua has a following of 25.5K on Instagram and 29.3K Facebook page likes. NUA’s cofounder Ravi Ramachandran claimed that the Nua’s Instagram engagement is more than many influencer’s handle.
Nua has initiated social media series such as #PeriodStories where women had shared stories about their first period experiences to premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
“You will be amazed by how many women write to us. Saying we are going through period rashes, can you help me? What we do is, we try to respond to these queries by connecting them with experts in our network. For example (cofounder) Swati Kulkarni’s father is a gynaecologist and we conducted a question and answer session with him.” The company has also hosted Facebook live sessions with Cloudnine Hospital’s gynaecologist to answer the huge inflow of questions.
“Community building is not a one way road, it has to be two way conversation.” Ravi Ramachandran said.
The Currency Of Trust
“The single biggest reason why a person buys a wellness product or brand is trust. Trust is what underpins this sector specifically, thus our constant endeavour is to build trust in our customers. This is why the holistic experience helps, the more we do for them, the more their trust builds. I think online is the best place to do it, at least the best place to start with,” Ravi said.
A clear metric of their success is the fact that while being distinctly urban in their branding, more than 50% of NUA’s customers are from Tier 2 cities. Which shows that the company clearly understands that the basic human needs for being understood and having a sense of belonging, transcend market demographics.
Commenting on the product adoption in mid-tier cities, Nua’s cofounder Swati said, “The big gap in Tier 2 cities is even access to some of these things. When we talk to our consumers there, small things like home delivery is a big value addition, because they don’t have to go out to buy or ask their elders to get it from them.”
From a product point of view, Tier 2 consumers see a great value in the product and with the increased internet penetration, a lot of people have come up and engaged with the content too. From the content point, the big gap is women don’t have access to expert opinions. Girls from very small towns have used Nua’s social media platforms to ask questions about hormonal issues or simply voicing their period experiences, Swati added.
Talking of the company’s direct to consumer model, Ravi said, “If you do not have a direct to consumer model, you will lose out in today’s world. Post the emergence of Jio, India’s internet consumption has gone off the charts. There has been significant innovations in ecommerce, and financial payments. This is a channel where every brand in the country should invest. Not to say, offline channel is dead, it will stay. But fortunately or unfortunately online is where the world is headed.”
Today, menstrual hygiene is no longer an afterthought. According to IMARC Group, “Indian Sanitary Napkin Market: Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2019-2024”, the Indian sanitary napkin market reached a value of $511.5 Mn in 2018. Further, the market is predicted to reach a value of $ 992.8 Mn by 2024, growing at a CAGR of more than 12% between 2019-2024.
Recently the femtech segment in India has seen the foray of multiple new age startups focusing on women’s sexual and reproductive health. Starting with Gurgaon-based startup Sirona which is offering innovative products like Pee Buddy which allows women to pee while standing. And, many menstrual cycle trackers like Maya and Clue. Stressing on the potential of femtech sector, a 2018 Frost & Sullivan study said that Femtech could become a $50 Bn global market by 2025.