Advocating for menstrual hygiene or menstrual hygiene products is a task that has historically been assigned to women by societal norms. However, what if two men were discussing this matter? The resulting sense of awkwardness, novelty, and uncharted territory is something that Rajat Sarawgi and Arpit Goel have been facing.
Despite the traditional expectation that women champion the cause of menstrual hygiene, Sarawgi and Goel recognised the significance of this issue and, with their venture, are attempting to drive the change.
In 2018, the duo embarked on their entrepreneurial journey with a mission centred around addressing sanitation challenges in local communities. Initially, they started with their venture as Brand Bucket with a focus on distributing toilet seat sanitary spray. However, the outcomes fell short of their expectations, as the product did not pick up in the Nepali market.
Rather than being disheartened, Sarwagi shares, this setback fueled their determination and laid the groundwork for their path towards building on it and introducing more products that the market will relate to more and started working the same under PeeSafe Nepal.
Step towards menstrual cups
“As our venture progressed, we did the market research and our attention shifted to a pivotal yet often neglected concern: menstrual hygiene. In 2019, we both identified a troubling gap in accessible menstrual hygiene solutions and collaborated with Pee Safe (India) to bring products here,” Goel says.
The turning point for PeeSafe Nepal came with the introduction of the menstrual cup. The response from people was so positive that it initially overwhelmed the duo. The product is so successful, that it is still one of PeeSafe Nepal’s most popular products.
“We feel what made it so popular was its pricing. At Rs 599, it is affordable and for everyone. We wanted to change the notion behind menstrual cups being for the privileged. But it is not and it is for everyone,” says Goel. “To encourage more women and remove the hindrance of adopting healthier menstrual practices, we have kept the prices lower and more affordable.”
Having been in the market for a few years now, they have observed that the market is filled with numerous counterfeit or low-quality products with questionable certifications. Surprisingly, people still opt for them.
Sarawgi and Goel say they are committed to providing authenticity and integrity that continue to set them apart.
“Our menstrual cups are medical-grade silicone cups, developed with proper research and with certifications in place. And the quality and consistency grew and maintained the trust of our consumers,” say Sarawgi.
They have expanded their range to include sterilising containers and washes, making it easier for women to take care of their menstrual hygiene.
Sarawgi and Goel’s vision extended beyond urban boundaries. Through PeeSafe Nepal, the duo’s aim is to reach women in tier-3 cities and rural communities. They recognise that the willingness to try the menstrual cup and issues of trust are particularly significant among women in rural areas. Their long-term goal is to reach and empower females in these regions.
Redefining menstrual hygiene
However, during the years of introducing menstrual cups, PeeSafe Nepal has encountered numerous misconceptions about their use, including concerns related to virginity. To overcome these challenges and continue their educational efforts, Sarawgi and Goel have conducted comprehensive research on the subject.
The two used the influence of social media to amplify their message, sparking interest and inquiries from many regions across the nation. Their social media interaction also demonstrates that their products resonated particularly well with a younger, tech-savvy demographic eager for progressive change and open dialogues.
But being two males talking about menstrual hygiene was not an easy feat.
“We have shied away from talking about it upfront–showing our faces–because talking about menstrual hygiene is still a taboo in the society,” says Goel.
Having female friends and colleagues was a boon for the duo as these women breathed life into their campaigns and events.
“Through their involvement and their personal touch on our social media, our idea has resonated with our audience and the flow of queries and their interests have increased.”
Sarawgi and Goel’s commitment to holistic well-being and talk about menstrual hygiene extends beyond menstrual cups.
With their collaboration and extension of the initiative, they have diversified their products. PeeSafe Nepal’s product now ranges from intimate wash (wipes, powder and sachets), cramp relief solutions, biodegradable mosquito repellents, sanitary napkins and panty liners.
Each addition has seamlessly aligned with their values of quality, health, and sustainability, further cementing their position to talk about women’s comprehensive hygiene.
Despite challenges in local production, Sarawgi and Goel remained resolute in making a positive impact and exploring new avenues, upholding the quality and standards.
PeeSafe Nepal has also collaborated with other brands to give more sustainable and organic options for shampoos, body lotion and other cosmetics.
But with the strong base they have created so far, they already have their eye on the future.
Collaboration remains a fundamental aspect of our approach, so we are looking forward to partnerships with different experts. Our alliances extend with those who align with our advocacy for hygiene,” Goel says.
One of the key collaborations, they share, is with former Miss Nepal Sadichha Shrestha.
“Her advocacy and influence has breathed life into our campaigns, events, and programmes making it more streamlined around menstrual hygiene, making it easier for us to connect with the young females,” he says.
And as their main goal is to educate, they are looking for collaborations that allow them to work with children, to groom them from a young age. “Our experience shows that there is some initial resistance when it comes to switching to the different norms.”
Grooming and expanding is also their personal interest. And the two co-founders share that they are thinking of expanding. Having imported most products from India, the two wanted to set up their factory in Nepal but the logistics were not viable, they say.
“While PeeSafe Nepal’s ambition to manufacture locally was clear, the operational hurdles and the production cost were just too much. Even a simple factory can produce some 10,000 cups daily. However, selling them in Nepal is not as easy. So, it has been put off,” says Sarawgi.
However, PeeSafe Nepal remains undeterred in its commitment and will soon introduce a line of its products, with at least some of the packaging manufactured in Nepal.
“We also are in the process of researching and producing a line that might be exclusive to Nepal and the needs of the Nepali females,” says Goel.