Name of your business:
Saral Design Solutions (Website: www.saraldesigns.in )
Tell us about your business…
Saral Design Solutions is a for-profit Social Enterprise focused on designing products to provide access to affordable and quality menstrual hygiene in India.
Saral has developed a machine to manufacture high quality sanitary napkins (“Aisha pads”) in decentralized manner. Decentralization helps in lowering costs incurred due to several layers of distribution. Aisha pads are being made available to these girls via various channels like medical shops, door to door sales and installation of vending machines in their schools toilets along with hygiene awareness.
What motivated you to start your own business?
Menstruation is a natural biological phenomenon that every woman undergoes. Due to poor access to and affordability of reliable products, women in India have been adopting unhygienic practices to manage their periods, which has severe health implications.
We feel access to affordable sanitary napkins is a basic right for every woman. While technology is making our lives easier, we believe that technology also needs to be used to address critical challenges that affect a huge segment of the population. This motivated us to build machines that automate processes to lower costs (of production and distribution) while maintaining the product quality and service.
Which have been the biggest challenges when starting your business?
The start is probably the most difficult time when you don’t have funds that you need to build the product. And when you don’t have a product and funds it is difficult to build a team.
How did you overcome these challenges?
The only thing that helped us in our early days was strong conviction in what we were trying to do. It helped us get early supporters and team members who believed in the vision and built the product.
How did you find your first customers?
We packed our bags with a dozen packets of sanitary napkins and entered into a slum locality in Ghatkopar. We started approaching women going door to door telling about the product and why we are doing what we are doing, how we are using technology to get costs down without compromising on quality. Out of the 15 women we met that day, 14 of them purchased our product.
What is the most effective way to sell your products/services?
Sanitary napkin sales are the most effective when it happens at a personal level along with awareness building on hygiene.
What is the most exciting part of running your own business?
Running your own early stage start-up offers continuous accelerated learning in every aspect of the business.
What is your least favorite part of running your own business?
Extensive paper work… India really needs to introduce many more reforms and automation in processes so that there is better ease of doing business in the country.
How do you stay motivated during difficult times?
“Anything that doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” – Something that I tell myself in difficult times.
Who inspires you?
My mother. Being brought up in a rural/ semi-urban setting, Hindi medium school educated from UP, from an area where female higher education was extremely rare, she is today a B.Tech, M.Tech from IIT Roorkee, a PhD from IIT Bombay and a Distinguished Scientist in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. Her struggles despite all odds, motivate me to push my boundaries.
What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?
Your success is the best way to empower other women.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Suhani!