Exclusive: Paree leaders on the societal issues, business and marketing of women’s hygiene products

image-paree-ceo-and-cmo-on-mediabriefThe Indian market for intimate women hygiene care products was valued at US$ 499.8 Million in 2019, yet this growing industry faces major challenges in the market even today. To know more about the entire sub-sector and how it negotiates the challenges and navigates the opportunities, Riyaan Shaikh caught up virtually with Sahil Dharia CEO – Paree and Paridhi Mantri, ManagerConsumer Insights & Product innovation Paree.

Paree, from Soothe Healthcare, is one of India’s fastest-growing feminine hygiene brands currently selling sanitary pads to over 10 lakh women pan-India  and trying to bring about a change in people’s perception when it comes to women’s hygiene care.

This deep dive on this topic covers the importance of educating women on the relevance of feminine hygiene, how to overcome the completely undeserved stigma that surrounds  it in society, how to progressively market  and communicate about intimate hygiene care products to women, the ways in which the  lockdown has impacted them, and much more.

Soothe Healthcare, Paree has been in this sector for years, how has Paree as a brand changed/ evolved?

Sahil Dharia: Paree, the brand was launched with a vision to provide better quality hygiene to every Indian female at an affordable price. While the vision still remains the same the brand has evolved a lot in its short 4 years journey & both in terms of overall brand personality as well as product portfolio it has.

From being a brand starting off its journey at only Modern trade stores to as on this date being present at the core of distribution – General Trade in the hinterland of India. Not just that the brand has continuously endeavored for providing the best in class product and currently boasts of 5 different products that too come in varied sizes to cater to ever evolving Indian consumer segments and needs.

Even in terms of its messaging and marketing – the brand is unorthodox and keeps coming up with out of the box thinking. In such a short time, the brand has often provided thought leadership to the industry.

Time to time Paree comes up with products, campaigns or company policies that are ahead of its time and has therefore won many accolades, awards and recognition in the short span of time of its existence.

Given that some people still consider period a taboo topic in India how does one have a conversation about this topic?

Paree is a progressive brand that believes in normalising and having a candid conversation around periods. At Paree, we voice women’s real issues and focus on addressing these through our product innovations and campaigns. We understand the many needs and avatars of Indian women and are strong advocates on menstrual hygiene in the Indian society.

We believe that women, who are the backbone of the society and plays a pivotal role in any family needs to start focusing on her needs and health first  Sahil Dharia

We believe that women, who is the backbone of the society and plays a pivotal role in any family needs to start focussing on her needs and health first. Thus, we started the campaign #SheFirst during lockdown when her needs and requirements were almost muted.

We were the first ones to start the conversation on how Pads are as essential as food & soon it was followed by all the brands in the category.

Further, very recently, Paree took another honest & a progressive approach,that should relate to the youth of today, towards period talk by unveiling a video #PapaKiParee that showcased a father having a candid conversation with his daughter during her periods and understanding the physical and mental discomfort of heavy flow, cramps and PMS she endures.

From the corporate front, we also announced Period Leave for all our women workforce. The policy will extend a one-day Period Leave per month that will allow women the option to either take the day off (paid leave) for factory & sales staff or work from home for corporate employees.

Such moves are progressive steps towards keeping it real when it comes to period related issues like the physical or emotional discomfort that a woman might experience during her periods and how we as a brand can come together to make-workplaces more conducive for their women employees.

We wish to promote an open and frank culture where both men & women, talk openly and freely about Period Sahil Dharia

And yes, we are the pioneers and a step ahead in terms of innovative & progressive decisions when it comes to constructing a modern & a progressive India together.

Why do you think this topic still makes people uncomfortable in 2020?

Well we at Paree do not believe that progressive Indian women are shy of talking about periods or even her needs and requirements during periods. It is because of the unmet needs of these modern avatars of Indian women that we came into existence to solve these issues.

Key brands in the category have done the biggest disservice for so many years by whispering about this subject – Sahil Dharia

And with regards to that part of the society, that is still uncomfortable talking about the subject, is because of social conditioning of the people. How the key brands in the category have done the biggest disservice for so many years by whispering about the subject matter and also promoting the same.

image-composite pic of paree products-mediabriefThough, the Go-getter, achiever Indian women of today is now no longer ready to stand with hiding her discomfort. She has become vocal and articulates her needs and requirements well enough for brands like us to capture that as an opportunity to give them what they want.

Due to people’s reservation about menstruation as a topic, how hard does advertising and marketing the product and its benefits become, and how does one tackle it?

It definitely isn’t easy to market a product in a category which is plagued by reservations and inertia – though we take that as a challenge and an opportunity area. Since the category hasn’t been well spoken about, we became the first Indian company to talk about the real menstrual issues – Like Heavy Flow needs.

Almost every Indian woman faces the same, but it has been never been spoken about. We on the other hand have developed pads best suited for Indian females’ heavy Flow needs by designing the best in quality pads that absorbs in just 3 seconds and hence gives you the best protection even during your heavy flow days.

Not just that, we were the firstSanitary pad company that took a stance of not showing blue ink in our Ad.

Thus, in a short span of launching our advertisement, we got great reviews.

In continuation of that topic how does one gain market insights about the product when people treat it as a hush – hush topic?

Market Insight is all about developing a solution for what women need & not try and sell what you already have. Our own researches show that eight out of ten women are not satisfied by the product that she is using.

Which actually was a great insight and motivated us to capture what really was not fulfilled and just design the right product for that.

Our 3-Second proposition that therefore makes Paree a Heavy Flow Champion is a well-researched product going into the depth of what women want.

In India still only about 20% of women have access to or use sanitary napkins, what initiatives have Paree taken so far to significantly improve these numbers?

Paree is one of India’s fastest-growing home grown feminine hygiene brands with an objective of reaching out to every woman to assist her during her menstruation. Approximately 15 lakh women pan-India use Paree every month and growing significantly month on month.

We have tied up with leading supermarket chains across the country, with distribution across channels: General Trade Retail outlets, Modern Trade outlets, Pharmacies, and leading e-commerce portals.

We also have a CSR wing where we tie up with leading celebrities & like minded organisations to provide awareness on women health issues to the adolescent girls.

As the personal hygiene and sanitary napkins market is growing, what is Paree’s marketing strategy to reach out to more and more women?

We have a twofold approach to tackle this. One is to offer a great product by giving India the fastest absorption product with a 3-second claim.

Whereas for the more evolved market, we have created a product innovation to cater to the ever changing needs of women in this category – Be it the ultra-soft feel of the product for the hot & humid Indian weather conditions or introducing first ever double XL size in mid premium segment owing to the increasing need for the larger sized pads.

Further, our distribution network compliments our fast pace of growth by making Paree available even at the smallest of the stores in the smallest of the cities of the States where we are present. To being available on the e com and Modern trade stores as well – which is the choice of buying platform for the young modern Indian women.

How has the brand been marketing their products during the lockdown?

In absence to the outdoor activities, we as a brand emphasized more on digital for the increased online content consumption watched by our target audience during lockdown though Television remains the main stay.

Distribution in hinterland just complimented our marketing as during lockdown, movement from one State to another was very challenging.

Paridhi Mantri, ManagerConsumer Insights & Product innovation Paree

image-Paridhi Mantri, managing Consumer Insights & Product innovation at Soothe HealthCare.What are some period problems that women continue to suffer just because they are not aware about the available solutions? 

Paridhi Mantri: Women often face various forms of discomfort during their periods. It could vary from stomach cramps, period migraines, to heavy flow. Paree has always been an advocate for women’s real issues when it comes to menstruation and found that the real issues like Heavy Flow, which almost every woman experienceis often overlooked and not addressed.

This can be quite exhausting to the body, especially for working women. Heavy bleeding also results in painful cramps, weakness and rashes due to irregular change of pads, and basically takes a toll on our body as well as mind.

Using the correct products best suited for one’s heavy flow needs and following the right remedies can minimize the discomfort and allow a woman to menstruate at ease. 

Paree has been a pioneer in women’s hygiene and has introduced its innovative line of products to help with heavy menstrual bleeding, tell us more about these products?

Paree has invariably been ahead of the curve as a pioneer in women’s hygiene and has been progressive in its outlook to address the real issues faced by women during menstruation – Paridhi Mantri

Through consistent research and innovation, we have introduced a superlative line of products and are India’s only brand with 3 seconds absorption technology.

To directly tackle the problem of heavy flow, we introduced Heavy Flow Champion pads which comes with a unique channel flow and core formation that helps in the quick absorption to ensure a wetness-free feeling. The topmost layer of the pad extremely soft and delicate on the skin, leaving it rash free.

The pads have specially designed absorbent funnels that trap fluid inside and prevent leakage and its wider back helps in extra protection and absorption. The superior performance is owing to its 3 seconds absorption and has a smooth feel resulting in a worryless heavy flow day. 

How does one deal with heavy menstrual bleeding?

As stated previously during heavy flow days, most important is to ensure that you are directly addressing the issue by using the right sanitary pads. It is important to opt for pads that are gentle and smooth on the skin, so it reduces the harshness and you feel comfortable.

Opt for a super absorbent pad that is also soft so you can stay wetness-free, rash-free and worry free throughout. Especially in humid weather, it is essential to keep your delicate areas dry to avoid any irritation. Therefore, using the right pads during your heavy flow days is crucial as it eases the experience. 

What are some tips to deal with heavy blood flow days?

Firstly, since heavy bleeding leads to feelings of weakness and dizziness, it is very important to get plenty of rest. Try to squeeze in as much of sleep into your routine so your body is well-rested and revitalized.

Secondly, it is vital to keep your body energized while it is discharging a lot of blood, therefore ensure you are staying hydrated by drinking a lot of water and you are following a well-balanced diet with nutritious meals. Make sure your meals are packed with foods rich in minerals like iron, vitamin C.

Thirdly, add in a short exercise or activity like yoga during your heavy flow days. This helps to ease the cramps and reduce the stress, so you feel refreshed and revived.

Fourthly, maintain good hygiene and cleanliness by regularly changing your pad, washing well, patting dry and wearing clean undergarments and clothes. Change your pads after every 4-6 hours to avoid any risk of infections and avoid causing any rashes.

Lastly, do not be ashamed of putting your needs first. Your need is as important as anyone else’s in the family & society.On the day of Heavy flow, there’s Paree Heavy Flo Champion pads, but when you have PMS/Cramps, you do not need to go out and win the world in the proverbial ‘white pants.’  Take a day off and stop making excuses, #KeepItReal.

How has the lockdown affected the cause of bring the topic of menstruation to the forefront?

The Lockdown has shown us that men can participate in household chores & attend to their work at the same time. These were earlier mutually exclusive.  The pandemic has in a sense created an equality between men and women by demolishing the stereotypes of office work and housework.

The pandemic has in a sense created an equality between men and women by demolishing the stereotypes of office work and housework – Paridhi Mantri

In this context, women’s contribution as the backbone of the family are duly recognised now and need to be front and centre because at Paree we believe the next decade belongs to women in India.

In what ways has Paree’s campaigns made an impact on women and society?

Paree believes that women are the backbone of our society and the primary caregivers in our families. Yet, they always put everyone else’s needs ahead of her own, when in fact, she should think of her needs first.

Amidst the current pandemic, when the lockdown was announced and sanitary pads were not included as part of the essential goods, Paree, took up the cause to reach out to women in this time of need and to encourage them to prioritize their personal health.

Our belief that pads are essential for every menstruating woman drove the dialogue that at a time of crisis, she comes first. Our initiative #SheFirst& #PadsAreEssential ensured menstrual hygiene products were available for women to maintain menstrual health in a dignified manner as they are more susceptible to infections during this time.

We joined hands with various organizations both government and private, such as CII-IWN, Rasoi-On-Wheels, Punjab Police, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights- the Govt of NCT and Municipal Corporation of Gurugram, to urge women not to neglect their health especially during the pandemic, and to ensure every woman had access to sanitary pads.

Through this, we successfully distributed over 2,00,000 pads to indigent women across the northern belt of India.

Paree also got unwavering support from women heroes such as SainaNehwal, Garima Avatar, Gurpreet Singh Deo, IPS, ADGP, and Punjab Police who helped us amplify our efforts and create awareness about menstrual hygiene.

This led to a nation-wide movement which was soon followed by all leading brands, wherein they also realised the importance of the subject and joined the initiative. Thus, Paree provided the thought leadership to the industry by being ahead of curve in its thoughts & campaigns.

Also, to ensure that every woman is aware of her menstrual needs and upholds her wellbeing, we also set up Free Health Check-Up Camps for Women in Walmart & Metro stores in various states and distributed free samples of our products.

Moreover, on the occasion of World Menstrual Hygiene Day, we announced period leave for our women employees. As a women-centric brand whose overall workforce comprises of 40% women, with 80% in Corporate office, the CEO’s direct management team includes 64% of women, our vision is to create a more inclusive and women-friendly environment, our goal is to emerge as a brand that women trust and an organisation that upholds the well-being of women.

Further, last month on Father’s Day, Paree launched a video #Papakiparee, a way of Celebrating the unconditional love and unwavering bond that a father and daughter share. This was a step towards taking the conversation further and normalising the discussion about PMS and periods through a father daughter relationship.

Paree has invariably been ahead of the curve as a pioneer in women’s hygiene through various initiatives like these and believes in keeping it real.

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