The pandemic has tremendously impacted the overall retail market and caused a drastic shift in consumer buying behavior and this has had the maximum impact on personal hygiene and sanitary products space.
Consumers were, for a long time, confined to products like soaps, face wash, and hair care products in the personal hygiene category, but with pandemic fear taking over, more innovative brands offering innovative products entered the personal hygiene space.
There has been an increase in demand for personal hygiene products like intimate care wipes, anti-chafing creams, sweat patches, sanitary napkins, urination devices, gloves, sanitizers, and oral care, etc. and the demand, according to industry leaders, will continue to increase as consumers have become more aware of hygiene and cleanliness.
According to IMARC Group, the global personal hygiene market reached a value of US $55.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.80 percent during 2021-2026, while in India, the segment is expected to reach US $15 billion by 2023.
The rise in demand and the projected growth of the segment is driven by the generational shift in the country, increasing awareness about maintaining personal hygiene and cleanliness, scare of the pandemic, innovation and technology, and also by the impact from social media platforms.
Furthermore, regular campaigns promoting personal hygiene, promotions by brands in the segment, growing trend of product premiumization, rising expenditure capacities of the consumers and rapid urbanization, and natural and organic nature of the products, etc. are the factors leading to the growth of this category.
While there have always been majors like ITC Limited, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and the likes ruling this segment, innovation and new technology in the space have brought in a number of start-ups exploring and even ruling this market. Largely, the personal hygiene space is dominated by fem-tech start-ups offering feminine hygiene products.
Here are five start-ups in the segment trying to make an impact and addressing the demand for personal hygiene products.
Pee Safe is a hygiene and wellness brand, offering products related to feminine hygiene and sexual wellness ranging from period care to intimate care and also environment-friendly products such as biodegradable pads and menstrual cups, with its sub-brands Domina (condoms for women) and FURR.
The brand entered into men’s personal and intimate hygiene space in 2019 with the launch of its new product called Pee Safe Natural intimate wash for men. Already helping India fight health issues, Pee Safe has now expanded overseas and is building local production of toilet seat sanitizers in Europe.
The start-up has recently raised US $3.75 million (Rs.25 crore) in a pre-Series B funding round led by entrepreneur Shaival Desai and existing investor Alkemi Growth Capital, which it will use to build its personal care brand FURR, for R&D purposes and product launches.
The brand’s online business has grown 40 percent quarter-on-quarter in the April-June period and 70 percent annually in 2020-21 and is planning on expanding its offline presence by adding franchise-owned brand exclusive stores to its 10,000 outlets across India.
“There was not much demand from the general public prior to the outbreak. However, this has increased sharply now. We feel that even after things normalize, the demand will keep growing and the hand sanitizer segment will be valued up to Rs.2,000 crore by 2025. The awareness about sanitation and hand hygiene has grown tremendously and after this experience, people are likely to adhere to the best practices as a way of life ahead,” asserted Vikas Bagaria, Co-Founder, Pee Safe.
Discrimination against menstruating women is widespread in India and periods have long been considered taboo, however, the country is slowly but surely moving away from this notion and realizing the importance of having a proper hygiene care ecosystem.
Nua was launched in 2017 by Ravi Ramachandran and Swathi Kulkarni with a promise to give its consumers holistic care through a wellness platform that has great innovative products, exclusive customization options, hassle-free delivery, and an impactful community, around women’s health and wellness. Nua has created a solution that is configured to a woman's individual cycle, delivered directly to her home, every month.
“From the start, we were clear that our aspiration was to provide access to these products to a large base of women and touch their lives. And so, it had to be a product that was good for them and what they were comfortable with. Secondly, we also took into account cultural nuances and realized that invasive products (like tampons or cups) are not easily acceptable. So, these were not our starting point,” said Ravi Ramachandran.
The feminine hygiene products market in India is expected to reach US $522 million by 2020, says Euromonitor.
While the segment is already being ruled by international brands like Whisper and Stayfree taking up the bulk of the market share in India, what differentiates Nua from them is that it works on an innovative direct-to-consumer model where women can customize sanitary pad boxes based on their individual needs and the products are delivered to them at their doorstep on a subscription basis. Nua secured its Series A funding worth US $4 million in 2019 by venture capital firm Lightbox with participation from existing investor Kae Capital.
Nua plans to expand its offerings to include other menstrual hygiene and women’s wellness products and is investing in technology and data.
PeeBuddy is India's first design patent-protected female urination device for women who are always on the go and frequently encounter dirty toilets in public spaces. Founded by Deep Bajaj, the company offers urination devices for women, and the Sirona range of sustainable and unique intimate and menstrual hygiene products, and later launched yet another breakthrough innovation in the pregnancy testing space. Called PeeBuddy PregRX, the product will be a one-of-a-kind unique funnel with a strategically integrated HcGtest strip. Most recently, it added to its range, PeeBuddy Before & After Toilet Spray.
“Ever since we started in 2015, the acceptance for unique hygiene products among Indian women has increased manifold. This customer validation further encouraged us to launch more products like Sirona menstrual cups, tampons, etc., and all have been very well accepted by customers,” Deep Bajaj said.
The award-winning start-up raised an undisclosed follow-on investment from Indian Angel Network (IAN) in 2019. In its last funding round in March 2017, it had raised Rs 2.96 crore from Indian Angel Network. Sirona is leveraging the acquired funds to sustain the ongoing marketing and distribution expansion initiatives. Sirona’s products are available across its own online portal and leading e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, and Nykaa, besides having a sizeable offline presence across Delhi NCR.
Heyday was launched in October 2017 by Deepanjali Kanoria and was recognized as a Forbes 30 under 30 Asia and India. The start-up is known for producing organic and biodegradable sanitary pads, panty liners, menstrual cups, and baby diapers.
It took two years of intensive research and development for Deepanjali Kanoria who had returned after quitting her job as a financial consultant in Manhattan, New York in 2015, to bring the Heyday prototype made from pure organic and natural plant fibers to life. The company continued to innovate and registered 3x of its revenue despite the lockdown.
Heyday is revolutionizing feminine hygiene with its rash-free, allergy-free, antibacterial, and safe innovative solution.
“When you have a good product at hand, you have to help it to reach the right consumers in order to scale. Our current strategy is to focus on expanding our reach and raising awareness about sustainable personal care in as many cities, retail stores, online marketplaces to many women and parents, as we can with a well-developed distribution system. Post our launch, several other brands have ventured into this market as well giving us proof of concept and growing the organic personal hygiene segment as a whole. Our USP lies in the fact that we never stop innovating and continue to introduce a superior quality experience to our consumers. Our repeat customer rate is 80 percent today for the same reason,” Deepanjali Kanoria said.
Founded by Raghav Sood and Sarthak Taneja in 2017, D2C personal hygiene startup Skin Elements offers men’s personal hygiene, odor management, female hygiene, skincare, hair removal, and sexual intimacy products and are 100 percent natural and vegan. The co-founders invested Rs.10 lakh out of their savings to start Skin Elements in Parwanoo, Himachal Pradesh, and today, the brand offers 19 products to customers across India, the US, Malaysia, and the UK. Skin Elements secured a US $ 02K seed round by Redcliffe Capital in 2018. In FY21, the company clocked a turnover of Rs 7.5 crore.
“It was challenging as well as satisfying to enter into unchartered territory with no competition and launching a functional product range that could have more visibility here than in a crowded market. Word-of-mouth played a key role in building trust among customers who began to feel comfortable in purchasing our products. To achieve this level of transparency, Skin Elements invested heavily in the paid advertisements since finding influencers in this segment was one of the key challenges, apart from educating the customers,” maintained Sarthak Taneja.
The start-up retails through its own website and is also available on major e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Nykaa Man, Purplle, Myntra, and Flipkart. Skin Elements prides itself in having a repeat purchase percentage of 40 percent which has helped the brand gain steady growth in sales with the market maturing with time. Moving forward, it has plans to expand its product portfolio and introduce 10 more varieties under its vast categories.