V-Excel, a Chennai based Educational Trust, primarily focused on providing lifespan services for individuals with special needs, launched “Thozhi” a low-cost sanitary napkin. This initiative was supported by Grundfos Pumps India Pvt. Ltd., one of the largest manufacturers of energy-efficient pumps.
Grundfos supported V-Excel in establishing a sanitary pad making unit where differently abled trainees are trained and employed. The objective of this initiative is to produce low-cost, commercially viable sanitary napkins. Autistic and intellectually challenged students are trained by V-Excel to operate this unit.
Sanitary napkin is an unmentionable term in Indian markets. It is never handed over to customers over the counter; always packed in black polybags, brown paper bag or in newspapers discreetly and then slid across the counter as it is some kind of explosive or banned product which is being sold secretly.
According to a survey conducted by AC Nielsen/Plan India, reveals that only 12% of 355 million menstruating women of India use sanitary napkins. Over 88% of women depend on different alternatives like un-sanitized cloth, rugs, husk sand, ashes etc. Use of these alternate products causes in serious women hygiene-related diseases such as Reproductive Tract Infection, which is 70% more commonly visible in these women.
Many studies conducted on uses of sanitary pads reveals that the biggest barrier of using sanitary pads is its high cost. For 88% of girls and women in India sanitary napkins remains a luxury due to a lack of affordability, claims the study conducted by AC Neilson/Plan India. Women spend on an average 2100 days of her life menstruating and accessibility and affordability of sanitary napkins or other menstruation products are largely absent because these products are beyond the purchasing power of lower income groups. The situation is same in other developing countries too because most of the market of menstruation products is captured by big brands as in the case of India 80-90% of the market is dominated by two multinational companies, Procter & Gamble Co. with near about 60% market share and Johnson & Johnson with 30% market share.
Hence step towards low-cost sanitary napkins are much needed and welcomed. “This endeavor of ours with V-Excel to launch Thozhi not only supports this cause but is also a means of promoting menstrual hygiene products for the underprivileged”, Mahathi Parashuram, Regional Head, Public Affairs, Communications & Relations, Grundfos Asia Pacific Region, said at the launch of Tozhi.
Corporates should come forward with NGOs or individuals to fight with this challenge because due to this a huge percentage of girls in rural or semi-urban areas have to leave schools because as their families can’t afford sanitary napkins. Awareness of government schemes is also very low. Dr. Vasudha Prakash, Founder-Trustee of V-Excel said, “we are constantly looking for partnerships with corporates that will result in opportunities for employment and independence for our trainees. This initiative with Grundfos is the culmination of a lot of research done in the sanitary napkin market and to address a desperate need in India.”
Napkins were distributed among girl students of a Government School in Chennai. Taking a step forward V-Excel will supply these sanitary napkins to some of the local schools for the underprivileged in Chennai.