In Conversation With Deep Bajaj, CEO and Co-founder of Sirona Hygiene
The pandemic has also created a shift in the consumer behaviour, with consumers opting for healthier, more sustainable options.
● How did you come up with the idea? When did you start working on it?
The journey to identifying feminine intimate hygiene issues started on a road trip we had taken in 2013. On noticing my wife and her friends’ encounters with dirty toilets, the idea for of PeeBuddy, India’s 1st Female Urination Device that enables women to stand and pee in unfriendly toilets, was born. Likewise, when I realised that for period cramps, using hot water bottles and pain killers was either cumbersome or had side effects. Thus, we came up with India’s 1st Feminine Pain Relief Patches. The further we explored the territories of feminine hygiene the more problems we unearthed. And soon I knew there were several unspoken or hushed problems women had been facing that needed to be solved.
Since then, we have offered a number of innovative and India-first products for feminine hygiene, for example Menstrual Cup Steriliser, Menstrual Cup Wash, Natural Anti-Chafing Cream, Rash-free Black Pads, Oxo-Bioddegradble Disposal bags, PeeBuddy Female Urination Device, and many more.
● How has Covid -19 impacted the health and wellness industry in India? How has the market been, pre and post Covid-19?
With the onset of the pandemic, awareness about health and wellness increased more than ever. Besides overall health worries, women faced the added concern of managing periods in a hygienic manner. In the initial days of lockdown, due to the disruption in supply chain, the accessibility of feminine hygiene products became a huge problem.
We at Sirona Hygiene wanted to offer better menstrual solutions and care, so we started raising funds for free distribution of sanitary products for underprivileged women.
The pandemic has also created a shift in the consumer behaviour, with consumers opting for healthier, more sustainable options. Menstrual cup, a smarter alternative to sanitary pads, has proven to be the solution to almost all period problems: it provides leak-proof protection for up to 8 hours straight, doesn’t cause rashes, lasts for up to 10 years, cuts out recurring expenditure on period supplies and doesn’t create sanitary waste! While we saw more and more women switch to the Sirona Cup long before the beginning of the pandemic, the conversion has been higher since last year. Till date over 6 lakh women have already switched to the Sirona Cup.
● Tell us about the product lines? Which is the highest selling product and recent sales growth?
We offer a comprehensive range of products for women that solve unaddressed problems from puberty to menopause. Our key product line are period, intimate and toliet hygiene.
As reflected by our sales, more women are adopting Sirona menstrual cups that are FDA approved and made of medical grade silicone. Till now we have sold over 6 lakh units of Sirona menstrual cups. Solving the problems of leakage, rashes and period inconvenience, it offers a healthy period option and helps cut down environmental waste significantly. Along with menstrual cups we also offer the cup ecosystem that helps maintains cup hygiene with India’s first Menstrual Cup Sterilizer and Menstrual Cup Wash.
Our star product, PeeBuddy, India’s 1st Female Urination Device has sold over — over 30 lakh units. It has given women the freedom from toilet discomfort and UTIs that they suffered with on using dirty public toilets.
● How is it different from the product offerings of other players in the health and wellness segment?
At Sirona we are committed towards an exclusive objective, i.e. creating products and driving conversations around the feminine hygiene problems. We are solving unaddressed problems from puberty to menopause with products that offer solutions for period flow, period care, hair removal, toilet & travel hygiene, intimate & sexual care, pregnancy, and other stages of a woman’s life.
Sirona is a feedback-first company and thus listens to its customers and makes products that solve their pressing needs. Here, ‘customer need’ takes precedence over ‘opportunity size’. If our customers need a solution, we go after the problem and come up with a unique and relevant solution.
At the development stage, we try our best to ensure the product is good for her (ingredient-wise) and for the environment.
With this approach, we have launched many of India 1st solutions like PeeBuddy Female Urination Device for women to stand and pee in dirty toilets, Herbal Pain relief patch with 100% natural actives, Natural Anti-chafing Rash cream for rashes in intimate areas, Rash-free biodegradable coloured pads, and more.
Another thing that sets us apart is our commitment to even those customers who can’t buy our products but need them. We donate 1 Re from every Sirona and PeeBuddy product sold towards the initiatives to improve the menstrual health and hygiene of underprivileged young girls and womxn in India.
● How is your brand breaking the taboo around menstrual hygiene?
Dealing with menstrual hygiene issues comes with a lot of challenges. The problem almost always starts with misinformation about the female body and myths around menstruation. We have been trying to bridge this gap with our social initiatives via expert-led sessions offline and online. With this, we are busting myths and creating awareness about the best menstrual management practices and solutions. Moreover, our content and community are playing an integral role in creating a dialogue around the unaddressed issues.
● Where are Sironna products available?
Sirona products are available on our website www.thesirona.com as well as other ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, BigBasket, Nykaam Myntra, Grofers, amongst others.
● What are the challenges you face in the Fem tech market?
Despite it being a great journey so far, we have faced our fair share of challenges. The first major problem we faced had to do with the taboo and stigma attached to what is today our star product- PeeBuddy and Sirona Menstrual Cups. Most retailers would wince at hearing the word “pee”, let alone getting to know its usage! The popular perceptions around feminine intimate hygiene created a lot of obstacles for us initially. So we became an online-first company, where we got an overwhelming response from people.
Because of the stigma and taboo attached to this category, adoption is a slow process. We have to educate the customer through different channels multiple times and our marketing efforts have to work double hard. But once the customer has used they product there is no looking back. The comfort and convenience that our products offer, become a part of the users life there on.
Now that we are gaining widespread recognition for our problem-solving products and social initiatives, new challenges are cropping up. We often have to deal with fraud retailers who sell fake products by misusing our name. Since the products are mostly intimate hygiene related, the ecommerce platforms close the return/ refund option. This can negatively affect people’s perceptions about the brand name. We are doing our best to identify them and call them out.
● What is the funding status and monetization model?
We are building the company on customer revenues. While we have raised two angel rounds, the focus is to build a customer-funding dependent business and to ensure we walk the talk, we pay a lot of attention to unit economics. Due to this philosophy – introduced by Mohit (co-founder), we have been
PAT positive for the past 2 years while growing in a healthy manner. Earlier this year, we raised $ 3 million in series A funding primarily to boost our marketing initiatives and reach out to more and more customers with our innovative offerings.
● Tell us more about your social initiatives
We take our social responsibility very seriously at Sirona. It is imperative to reach out and help women everywhere, especially the underprivileged ones. As a part of our social responsibility we aim to reduce period poverty in the country. We donate 1 Re from every Sirona and PeeBuddy product sold towards initiatives to improve the menstrual health of underprivileged girls and womxn across India.
Moreover, it to create more awareness and impart knowledge in this category we conduct workshops and webinars on an ongoing basis with corporates and NGOs both to reach out to all sections of the society.
We believe that this is just the beginning and the journey to make menstrual health & hygiene, convenient and dignified for women is far from over. We are steadily and consistently working towards helping women access better period alternatives.
● Innovation in the feminine hygiene is slow but Sirona Hygiene has managed to overcome that, tell us more.
The main reason for this is that at the core, we are a problem solving company – we make products that are innovative and solve problems for the customer during their journey from puberty to menopause. As consumer consciousness is evolving with increasing awareness around feminine hygiene needs and innovative solutions are becoming a highlight.
The Femtech market is extensively meeting the requirements of the modern woman by bringing end-to-end health and wellness solutions designed specifically for her. It has grown rapidly over the years, but has scope for still more growth.
Through our rigorous R&D we have managed to release several one of a kind products, often disrupting the Indian market. We thrive to make our customers happy, but we are also always ready to learn from customer feedback to improve our offerings wherever possible. So we always work towards creating new products that our customers require.
● What is the market size and opportunity?
The feminine intimate and menstrual hygiene market in India has been growing at a CAGR of 14.92% during the 2019-2024 period. It is expected to reach INR 58.62 billion by 2024.
There is a possibility for more growth as a large portion of the market in India, still remains untapped. Of the 365 million menstruating women in India, 82% living in semi-rural and rural India don’t have access to hygienic menstrual products like newspapers, rags, ash, dried leaves, etc. But this is slowly changing with social and awareness programs like those undertaken by Sirona, internet reach, increasing education percolation, campaigns by the government, etc. Empowering rural women both financially and socially is an important investment as it will not only lead to a more equitable society, but also a stronger market and economy.
● What are your future prospects and next trigger of growth?
We are set to expand on all fronts with all guns blazing. From growing our product range, to increasing market penetration, expanding our team to improving the customer experience and social impact- we are doing it all to effectively solve unaddressed problems across the country.
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