From ‘Code Red’ to ‘time of the month’, how many ways can you avoid saying the word ‘period’?
Talking about periods has often been a taboo subject. Even though we know that menstruation is biological still many of us resent it, or make faces like this is something disgusting.
It was so rooted in us that we start feeling ashamed to even talk about periods, we start using slangs for periods but dare to say periods in front of anyone.
Sometimes you are embarrassed and cautious, even to carry a spare pad in bags, you wrap it in papers or plastic bags.
It’s time to talk & shed the stereotypes
The heavy stigma around periods isn’t just limited to silence, it also reflects that how a lot of women still have little or no knowledge about maintaining period hygiene, because there is simply no one nearby to educate them. All it takes is one person, one drive, to change such a mindset.
In India, there is little understanding of menstruation and menstrual care products. Although sanitary napkins are used among the urban and upper-class population, their disposal remains a huge problem.
This is where TruCup comes. A Delhi based startup hopes that with the TruCup and consistent awareness about menstrual health and regressive mindsets will change.
A better way to manage your periods with menstrual cups. The reusable, bell-like devices unfold in the vagina to stanch the menstrual flow. They are as effective as sanitary pads and tampons.
TruCup was founded in 2018 by two women entrepreneurs Shivangi Bagri and Alakshi Tomar.
Truth should replace stigma, simplicity should replace wastefulness, and honesty should replace business motives. That is the world these two women entrepreneurs – Alakshi Tomar and Shivangi Bagri – wanted to create.
They named their invention Tru – menstrual cups that are lasting, hygienic, reusable, and environmentally friendly. For the entrepreneur duo, TruCup stands for the truth about menstruation, spreading awareness on menstrual health and hygiene, and giving better options to a large audience.
Shivangi Bagri, from Rajasthan, is a graduate in Design and Business Administration from Lasalle College of Arts in Singapore. She was previously Director, IC Green Solutions, a freelance stylist, and an editor at Singapore-based Affluent Magazine, World Business Magazine, and Vogue (Condenast).
Her Story Behind the Idea of TruCup
Shivangi Bagri used to have painful periods just like others, but her life was changed when she purchased a menstrual cup when she was in Singapore and realised that the product made her life better by easing her periods.
Being a Yoga teacher and a dive enthusiast, Shivangi’s life changed for the better after using a menstrual cup. It was then she realised how the current market products are misleading women by convincing them to buy products which contain synthetic fabrics, fragrances and chemicals. This motivated Shivangi to come up with the perfect menstrual cup.
Alakshi Tomar, from Shimla, has a postgraduate certificate in Human Resource Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur. She has worked at Accenture and was a Gandhi Fellow at the Piramal Foundation for education leadership.
Her Story Behind the Idea of TruCup
While working in schools in the slums of Mumbai, Alakshi straight out saw the problems around menstrual health and hygiene. She discovered the many myths surrounding it – like period blood being labelled ‘dirty’ and girls not bathing during ‘that time of the month’. The problems she saw while working in the slums coupled with her sedentary lifestyle during her periods made her switch to a menstrual cup.
Like most urban women in India, both Alakshi and Shivangi used sanitary napkins. But when they began using menstrual cups, their mindsets changed.
The two became friends in school and remained so even when they moved to different cities for higher education. They were clear about one thing – with the education, experience and exposure they had – they wanted to change the world for the better.
A turn WhatsApp conversation led to Shivangi and Alakshi exchanging notes and they realised that they were the only two people using cups in a group of 15 friends from school. The two figured there was an urgent need to create the perfect cup for all menstruating women. It was designed by Shivangi, following the experiences of design students who used the cups and their own.
According to TruCup, one billion pads and tampons are disposed of in India each month. Another 64% of women use cloth for sanitary purposes in India and another 95% of women do not use menstrual products due to taboo/myths surrounding insertion, virginity and hygiene.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were 355 million menstruating women in India in 2018. A National Family Health Survey (NFHS) survey found that 62 per cent women in the 15-24 age group use cloth for menstrual protection. Poor hygiene during periods often causes reproductive tract infections, depression, fear, and frustration, causing low participation in the workforce.
Shivangi and Alakshi set out to create demand in a market dominated by sanitary napkins and were able to expand organically to 56 cities through online and offline sales.
Women who used their products are their best promoters as they are vocal about the quality of their products and recommend it to other women.
TruCup trained more than 1600 women on menstrual hygiene, established partnerships through governmental and non-governmental agencies and impacted more than 60,000 women through different projects. Shivangi and Alakshi, however, have a long term goal to destigmatize the taboo surrounding menstruation and to make the public have conversations on menstrual health and hygiene.
TruCup plans to train people of gender roles and how gender roles shape the way people think, organise and know the world. TruCup also provides training on sexual and reproductive health as well as menstruation. Furthermore, TruCup also aims to create awareness about the environmental impacts due to unsafe disposal practices of sanitary napkins and the importance of sustainable menstrual products.
At present, TruCup only sells online – via its website, Amazon (US), Lazada (Singapore) and Shycart (online seller of sexual wellness product in India). It will soon start selling on Amazon India, Flipkart and Nykaa. The founders are also in talks with a few (offline) pharmacies, retail stores, swimming gear shops, etc. TruCup products are manufactured at an FDA approved facility in China. It plans to bring machinery to India in the next three years.
A TruCup is priced at Rs 999 for the urban audience and Rs 399 for the rural audience. Alakshi said that they are figuring out location-based filters to show the price differences on online shopping platforms. The duo sells it for discounted prices during their workshops in rural areas.
Although there are menstrual cups from other companies at relatively lower prices, TruCup aims to subsidise the cost in the long run by increasing revenues and decreasing production cost.
According to Alakshi, they reinvest some of their profits into their social interventions and are trying to build a hybrid organisation.
TruCup’s total investment, mostly from friends and the founders’ savings, is Rs 10 lakh.
To minimise cash burn, the founder-duo has no full-time employees (only interns) and work out of their homes. Their investors draw minimal or no salary, and the founders’ compensation depends on revenue. Most of the marketing is organic, therefore keeping customer acquisition cost low. Also, whenever they conduct awareness workshops outside NCR, they find volunteers for execution.
Menstrual cups have been available in India for in 8-10 years now, although it is yet to catch up widely. International brands like Eva, iCare, and Wow, along with Indian startups like Hygiene and You, Sikycup, Boondh cup, and Stonesoup, are making it more mainstream now. TruCup joins the club with great confidence.
A new revolution for women’s health is definitely on the way.