‘Being sustainable is the future!’ — that’d be the only key to sustain a better life — for us and our coming generations.
While Kiriti Acharjee, 31, believed in creating a brand that could be an eco-friendly choice for people, he also wanted it to remain true to its cause — something that could actually bring a difference in people’s lives.
And that’s how GoPadFree was born!
An eco-friendly period product labelled under the brand Healthfab, GoPadFree aims at replacing plastic sanitary napkins — to bring comfort to women & create a more plastic-free society. It reduces the total plastic waste generated during its lifetime by over 99%. While there are period panties in the market, this is the first stand-alone, reusable panty of its kind.
Unlike menstrual cups, which are a sustainable alternative but neglected due to the taboo and fear of insertion, GoPadFree wants women to experience a hassle-free and comfortable menstruation.
And though it is one of the major USPs of the product, it is not the sole reason for Kiriti to start it.
“I was looking to create a solution that would make the lives of the working women in my family easier. They found it difficult to go to work during their periods since there were fewer to no places to change pads and dispose of the old ones. Gradually, I realized that this was not restricted to my household. This prompted me to make a reusable period panty — that could replace conventional sanitary pads. There is no reason that we can’t provide sanitary care solutions and save the environment at the same time! Our product was a direct solution to all the problems,” shares Kiriti.
“I decided to start Healthfab — with the express purpose of providing a comfortable and hassle-free environment for menstruating women. I decided to test this first in my inner circle. After six months of testing and incorporating the feedbacks, I came up with the final product, the GoPadFree reusable stand-alone period panty. The product — claiming to be the first and currently the only one of its kind in India — was ranged on Amazon in 2020 at a premium pricing and has become quite successful since.”
Before starting Healthfab, Kiriti worked with Flextronics (known since 2015 as Flex) as a senior analyst in their supply chain and procurement domain. “It was here that I understood supply chain, procurement, and logistic operations at a large scale,” he adds.
“After working in Flex for 4 years, I decided to switch industries and jumped into e-commerce and joined Amazon as Associate Account Manager. A year later, I opted to join Cloudtail (a joint venture between Amazon and Catamaran Ventures). I was given a portfolio of ~USD 75 million to manage and grow. I decided to quit my job around August 2019 and started to learn more about other marketplace nuances operating in the Indian continent,” he further continues.
He was joined by Saurav Chakraborty and Satyajit Chakraborty as co-founders in September 2019, and they together registered their company officially.
As of this writing, the team managed to sell around 10,000 units and save 3 tonnes of sanitary plastic. “We have not been aggressive in promoting our product and have invested all our efforts in perfecting its features. We did not even expect to sell these many units so soon, but the customer response has exceeded our expectations,” the 31YO optimistically adds.
GoPadFree is currently one of the top 75 sanitary products on Amazon. The startup has also started selling in the Middle East and has got very reassuring responses from the customers there.
“While the product is highly rated with excellent reviews on Amazon, the aspect that has truly delighted us is the number of users who have reached out to us through our website to appreciate us for the product and give their detailed thoughts and feedback. This has made the whole experience personal — it makes us feel that we have genuinely made enough of a difference in someone’s life that they took time off to contact us!”Kiriti shares recalling the positive feedback
While every industry can talk about having a personal effect on its customers, it is never truer for anyone more than it is for the health and hygiene industry. The level of trust that a brand in this space can command from its customers is huge, and consequently, the rise and fall of a brand is intense.
“We have seen our customers treat us with doubt and suspicion before trying our product. We have also seen the insane level of comfort and familiarity they show to us once they have tried and bought into our product proposition. Each of us in the team has worked in a different industry, and none of us has experienced this level of engagement with any customer before. Our biggest lesson, consequently, is about taking the trust of the customer extremely seriously. There is absolutely no room to repair the situation once that trust is broken,” the CEO shares.
Menstrual health is still a taboo in today’s world — more so in India, it is an extremely under-served segment — where these issues are barely acknowledged, let alone discussed in public. This is that one common barrier that cuts across all demographics.
Since the ideation stage, all the insights and feedbacks incorporated were received from females in friends and family. But as the startup grew and broadened its customer base, Healthfab’s biggest challenge was to break through that social barrier and talk to potential customers.
“One thing we learned early in our journey is the importance of being willing to be proved wrong. This wasn’t a category we knew well and had to learn everything from scratch. A lot of information we obtained was disproved over time, and we changed course accordingly. This was particularly intense for the category we are working in since the janta doesn’t talk about it much. We approached every situation with the assumption that we may not always be right, and that helped us get a far better understanding of our customer than what we would have had otherwise,” he further shares.
While talking about investments and profits, Kiriti shares, “we are bootstrapped and has been focusing on expanding our categories. We believe that our product has achieved a level of acceptance that can now allow us to scale. We are working on additional product lines which are specific to the health and personal hygiene category. The underlying philosophy, though, is that they will all be environmentally friendly. We will further be approaching investors in order to expand our operations and manufacturing.”
Kiriti believes that if everything, in the beginning, is going your way, then you are on the wrong track! “For anyone who wants to start off, it is to surround yourself with folks who can offer constructive criticism for everything you do. That’s the only way you can ensure you are on the right track,” the entrepreneur ends it on an optimistic note.
With so many startups working in the femtech sector, the future is disruptive, competitive, yet demanding!
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