Saathi was founded by a group of MIT alums in December 2014. We recently established our headquarters in Ahmedabad and are building a team to run the pilots in Gujarat. Saathi aims to help girls stay in school in order for them to reach their full potential and have the ability to take on any career of their choice. Lack of access to affordable sanitary pads is one of the leading reasons for higher dropout rates of school aged girls as compared to boys in rural India. In addition, current pads are collecting in landfills or being burned and releasing toxic chemicals into the air we breathe. Saathi has developed a small scale manufacturing process to make affordable, eco-friendly sanitary pads from waste banana tree fiber for women throughout India. Pads will be manufactured by low-income women. In urban areas, Saathi pads will be sold to affluent, eco-friendly conscious consumers which will subsidize pads sold in rural areas to rural women. With Saathi pads, women will have affordable and hygienic sanitary pads which are safe not just for use but also when they are disposed of. Saathi has developed a small-scale manufacturing process to make pads using eco-friendly, biodegradable and locally available materials. We have developed a method of processing a waste agricultural product, banana fiber, to use as our core pad material. Saathi will work directly with farmers’ collectives to procure and process this material. This will also provide banana farmers with an additional source of income.
Each year, roughly 210 million women of menstruating age living in rural India are precluded from contributing to their communities because they lack access to affordable sanitary protection. The implications are real – every year, many of these rural girls and women miss up to 50 days of school and work respectively. Many of these school-aged girls either fall behind or drop out of school entirely. Additionally, India loses close to USD 15 billion in productivity because working-aged women stay home during the duration of their periods. Along with socio-economic challenges, cultural stigmas prevent many rural women from easily accessing proper feminine hygiene products. More alarmingly, many of these women resort to unsafe alternatives such as rags, which can lead to serious infections.
Additionally, in rural areas, disposal of sanitary pads is a huge issue. Those few women in rural areas who do occasionally use sanitary pads dispose of them by burning or burying them, since there are no other options. This leaves them exposed to the toxic chemicals in the pad materials, which poison the environment and have adverse health risks.
Our second group of consumers is the growing number of affluent, urban Indian women who are concerned with both the social and environmental wellbeing of their country. It is estimated that the average women generates 120-150kg of sanitary pad waste in her lifetime. This is not a small amount and hence our passion to make fully biodegradable pads.
Saathi aims to provide 100% biodegradable pads to women all over India while providing income-generating opportunities for groups of women and for farmers. Though we want to provide low-cost pads to the women who need them most, we also want to make sure the product is made responsibly with as little negative impact as possible. We believe responsible product development is the key to sustainable living.
StartupWave supported Saathi at the Mentoring Clinic organized at the Sankalp Global Summit in April 2015 at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi.
Saathi is looking for talent (both technical and non-technical), funding opportunities to support product development, marketing and other operational costs and mentorship. If you are interested in learning more about Saathi or getting involved, check out saathipads.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.