In his book Factfulness, Dr Hans Rosling remarked that the sanitary pads market remained the world’s largest untapped business opportunity, which could also make the biggest difference to humanity by improving women’s menstrual health, given the huge underpenetration of this product, especially in the third world. The issue got some much required publicity in India last year on the back of the success of a Bollywood Movie Padman, which was inspired by a South Indian social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham who introduced low cost sanitary pads. Earlier this year, the government of India’s “Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India (BPPI)” launched sanitary pads priced at Re 1, thereby fulfilling the BJP’s promise from its election manifesto. The article talks about how even in the suburbs of the national capital, sales have shot up on the back of such affordable pricing, highlighting the significant under-penetration of an essential product. However, the article also alludes to quality issues with the product suggesting Dr Rosling’s opportunity remains open for a private sector for-profit initiative to deliver a cost effective yet quality solution to women in the poorest parts of the world.
“Throughout the day, those dropping in at the Jan Aushadhi medical store in Shakarpur, East Delhi, can barely disguise their surprise. Among them Alvira Mukherjee, a teacher at Vivekananda College in Vivek Vihar, Delhi, who stops over on way back home to Laxmi Nagar from college. So, instead of one pack of Suvidha oxo-biodegradable sanitary pads, Mukherjee, 27, decides to buy two.
….Yasmita Arora, the owner of the Shakarpur Jan Aushadhi store, says customers, cutting across age, gender and class, have been buying the pads for themselves, their wives and daughters or relatives. While earlier she would sell around 500 of the Rs 10 pads per week, she has been selling as many in two days now, Arora says.
In one corner of Arora’s shop, 45-year-old Anju, with a dupatta wrapped around her head, has been waiting for some time, throwing anxious glances at the three male customers. Arora, realising what the matter was, seeks her out with a questioning glance, and Anju lifts two fingers and mouths the word “packet”.
While cotton swabs, band-aids and toothbrushes lie on top of the counter, and shampoos and diapers hang from a rod above, Arora takes out the Suvidha packs from inside a cabinet.
Anju, who lives nearby, says she and her 24-year-old daughter have been using Suvidha for a year. “When I heard the pads had become cheaper, I bought some extra packets for my relatives,” she says. As she leaves, some of the men around purchase a packet of Suvidha for family members to try.”

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