The Financial Express - - SPOTLIGHT -

What is it Fully biodegrad­able and eco-friendly san­i­tary nap­kins

Who’s be­hind it Saathi Pads, an Ahmed­abad-based start-up

TALK­ING ABOUT men­stru­a­tion or san­i­tary pads still re­mains taboo in In­dia. We might be on the cusp of be­ing a developed na­tion, but are far be­hind when it comes to the girl child be­ing ed­u­cated. One of the big­gest rea­sons for girls drop­ping out of school in ru­ral ar­eas is lack of ac­cess to san­i­tary pads. More­over, un­hy­gienic al­ter­na­tives like makeshift pads made from ra gs, old clothes, etc, lead to var­i­ous dis­eases and in­fec­tions.

Twenty-six-year-old Kristin Kagetsu, 28-year-old Am­rita Sai­gal and 26-year-old Grace Kane first thought of mak­ing low-cost san­i­tary pads when they were all stu­dents at the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Cam­bridge around five years back. But when Kagetsu moved to In­dia two years back to work for an NGO in Ut­tarak­hand, she re­alised that the prob­lem had an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent an­gle to it. “When I moved to In­dia, I spent time un­der­stand­ing what all op­tions there were in the san­i­tary pad mar­ket and re­alised that there were al­ready many low-cost man­u­fac­tur­ers. There were also many or­gan­i­sa­tions fo­cused solely on ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness on this is­sue,” says Kagetsu. “How­ever, san­i­tary pad is a dis­pos­able prod­uct that typ­i­cally ends up in a land­fill... and even then, it doesn’t de­com­pose for 500-800 years. In vil­lages, this is a big prob­lem. So we spent the past year on R& D to de­velop fully-biodegrad­able san­i­tary pads made from ba­nana tree fi­bre,” says Kagetsu, who founded the Ahmed­abad-based com­pany Saathi Pads two years ago with Kane and Sai­gal. Other team mem­bers in­clude lead engi­neer Tarun Bothra and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment lead Ru­pesh Ra­jawat.

Ba­nana fi­bre, which is usu­ally a waste prod­uct for farm­ers, is pro­cured from the ba­nana plan­ta­tion belt near Ahmed ab ad.Sa at hi Pads, a win­ner of the 2016 Young In­no­va­tors Chal­lenge Award, is 100% biodegrad­able and doesn’t need to be burned for dis­posal, re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions. It is also de­void of any toxic chem­i­cals, so it’s not likely to cause rashes. “You can also up­cy­cle these pads. They can be com­posted and put in bio­gas sys­tems. The ma­te­rial we have used makes Saathi Pads dif­fer­ent from other op­tions avail­able in the mar­ket. It’s an all-nat­u­ral prod­uct. There are no ar­ti­fi­cial chem­i­cals or plas­tic,” says Kagetsu.

Saathi Pads faced many chal­lenges in the be­gin­ning. Apart from ap­pre­hen­sions re­lated to men­stru­a­tion and san­i­tary pads that are still preva­lent in ru­ral ar­eas, the com­pany also faced a few hic­cups in the pro­duc­tion process .“When we started out, it was a chal­lenge to find the right ma­te­ri­als since we wanted the prod­uct to be com­postable,” says Kagetsu. The com­pany had five rounds of user tri­als, each ver­sion an im­prove­ment on the last.

Cur­rently be­ing man­u­fac­tured in Ahmed­abad for user tri­als and aware­ness cam­paigns, Kagetsu says they plan to launch Saathi Pads com­mer­cially in the mar­ket by next year, though the price is not fixed yet. “Right now, we are us­ing ba­nana fi­bre, but in the fu­ture, we are look­ing to use other sorts of nat­u­ral fi­bres as well,” says Kagetsu, adding, “We have a pad that is com­pa­ra­ble to com­mer­cial pads in terms of look, feel and func­tion. We are right now work­ing with the NGO Ekal Vidyalaya to dis­trib­ute these to one mil­lion women in Jhark­hand and Ra­jasthan over the course of the next year. We want to be present in the ur­ban mar­ket as well,” Kagetsu adds.


(Above) The san­i­tary nap­kins are made from ba­nana tree fi­bre; and the team be­hind the prod­uct

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