Health

Happy Period! Niveda R and Gowtham S make eco-friendly sanitary napkins from kenaf fibre

Gowtham and Niveda have patented their innovation and won a stream of awards

Gowtham and Niveda have patented their innovation and won a stream of awards   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Young entrepreneurs, Niveda R and Gowtham S, make biodegradable sanitary napkin from kenaf fibres

Which sanitary napkin do you use? Niveda R dives straight into conversation with any woman she meets. They could be tilling their fields, at a shopping mall, or even a pedestrian. “This question works like an ice-breaker,” smiles Niveda. “Getting feedback from women has been a constant thing in our journey,” adds Gowtham S.

Kenaf fibre is extracted from pulichai keerai or gongura greens

Kenaf fibre is extracted from pulichai keerai or gongura greens   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The young entrepreneurs from Coimbatore are in the news for making sanitary napkins using kenaf fibre, extracted from the stem of the gongura greens (pulicha keerai), which are a staple in Andhra cuisine.

Niveda and Gowtham, alumnus of the Department of Fashion Technology in Kumaraguru College of Technology, extracted the fibre, which is absorbent and has natural anti-microbial properties to make a biodegradable sanitary napkin. They patented their innovation and have won a stream of awards with the latest one being the Cavinkare-Chinnikrishnan Innovation Award.

Award and accolades
  • The first Chhatra Vishwakarma Award instituted by the All India Council for Technical Education, the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Engineering Council of India
  • The India Innovation Initiative (i3) constituted by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and AICTE
  • SIDBI Startup Mitra Award for promising innovators
  • International Centre for Entrepreneurship award, Chinnikrishnan Innovation Award 2019 and Wonder Women award
  • Visit www.blisspads.com or follow bliss_naturalpads on Facebook and Insta
  • or call 9487843699

Their office, Green Delight Innovations Private Limited, is in Singanallur. It is a cosy, quiet space away from the hum of city traffic. A pile of cartons, packed and sealed, are ready to be shipped across the country and abroad. “There is zero plastic in our packing too,” Niveda points out. “We call our product Bliss pads. They decompose in six to eight months. Each pad has seven layers including a layer of kanef which is a good absorbent.” Besides the kanef, the other layers are of cotton and bioplastics that also biodegrade.

Niveda lists out the statistics. “We have over 300 million menstruating women in India. The plastics used in disposable sanitary napkins are not bio-degradable and take 700 years to decompose. Many women are still not aware that tonnes of menstrual waste (over one lakh every year, most of which are dumped in running streams) goes to the landfill. Sanitary waste disposal is a serious issue. It is bad for women’s health and the environment.”

The two friends discovered the potential of the kenaf fibre while working on a college project. “An NGO from Andhra that promotes sustainable living in villages approached us to make use of gongura stems in a productive way,” says Gowtham.

Kanef is available in plenty. And, they saw an opportunity to make sanitary napkins. First, they made a prototype of a wingless pad. “We won awards for the prototype. As Icreate (International Centre for Entrepreneurship award) winners, we were incubated for three months in Ahmedabad. It was a learning curve. We learnt about how to market the product. We did a market survey and interviewed policewomen, journalists, students in schools and colleges... More than 70 per cent of them were not satisfied with the sanitary products they used. They have a long list of complaints...itching, rashes, and unpleasant odour. The feedback gave us a boost in working on a better product.”

Bliss pads are available online and in stores

Bliss pads are available online and in stores   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

They developed the prototype in 2017 and they launched it commercially in 2018 September. With the Bureau of Indian Standards certification in place, they started selling Bliss pads on their e-commerce website. “We are also building a network of women distributors. We call them ‘influencers’. We have 50 influencers across Tamil Nadu who buy our products in bulk and sell them. We are scaling up our operations every day. Right now, our focus is on building a customer base,” says Gowtham.

In the last one year, they claim to have distributed two lakh pads, online and over the counter. They started with an investment of ₹30,000 and in one year the returns are approximately ₹10 lakh. “Now, we sell 10,000 packs (paper boxes) a month across India and also to customers in the US, Sri Lanka and Algeria. A lot of NRIs are eager to become influencers,” smiles Niveda.

They say it’s a win-win situation as it gives a fillip to women’s health and is good for the environment. As there are no chemicals used in the making, there is no odour. What is retained is the natural fragrance of kenaf fibre, a key selling point for them.

Their Facebook and Instagram pages have tips on menstrual hygiene. “Women are listening and making the switch. We engage with them at exhibitions too, where we put up stalls and display our products. We interacted with many women in Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, while making the product.”

Gowtham and Niveda are first generation entrepreneurs. And, there is visible pride when they say, “It feels good. Becoming an entrepreneur is challenging and risky. But we are always thinking about going forward.” Plans are afoot to diversify into baby and adult diapers.

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 8:24:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/niveda-r-and-gowtham-s-on-making-eco-friendly-sanitary-napkins-from-kenaf-fibre/article30037534.ece

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