Meet the two empowering women who are bringing affordable sanitary pads for women
Empowering women with (em)PowerPads!
How would you like to introduce (em)PowerPads to our readers? What defines your company?
(Kiran and Tara) - On a basic level, (em)PowerPads is an affordable brand of thin, comfortable, high-absorbency sanitary pads, debuting in India with four sizes in every package. Our products are more affordable than the leading brands, and our intuitive packaging addresses the nature of women’s periods--we all start heavy and get lighter throughout the week. With our multi-size packs, women need just one package per month to address the full needs of her menstrual flow, from heavy days to light spotting, all without breaking the bank or sacrificing comfort.
However, the driving force behind our company is a deep desire to develop a company that is truly by women for women, and to develop diverse products that bring wellness into the lives of women. We are a bit quirky, a touch irreverent, and more than a little silly, but our goals are big and our tenacity is fierce—get ready to watch us shine!
So what gave birth to (em)PowerPads? What was that turning point that made both of you to start this company?
(Tara) - I don’t think there was one particular turning point that gave birth to the company. I'd say it was more like a collection of experiences that informed a decision to redirect our primary focus from non-profit work to developing a social enterprise.
Before launching (em)PowerPads, Kiran and I were running school mentorship programs for girls from violent backgrounds in Uttar Pradesh through our NGO, Strength India. We worked with 3 charitable schools in Varanasi engaging girls from the ages of 2-18 in activities to develop Social and Emotional Learning skills (often overlooked abilities like setting and achieving long term goals and making healthy choices in the face of peer pressure). The kids we worked with lived in slum communities; parents or siblings had abandoned many. They were often the only people in their immediate circles to have attended any school at all.
Nevertheless, they all knew what sanitary pads were, they had all used sanitary pads, and they all wanted to use sanitary pads. They knew the dangers of not caring for their periods through the development of hygienic routines. Furthermore, their friends, families, and counterparts who had always existed outside the guiding boundaries of academia also reported similarly. The reasons these women did not use pads consistently or properly was not some lack of education or access; it was not even strictly an issue related to poverty. The problem was actually quite simple: the pads available in shops were not good enough. They did not justify the expense of what little extra money these women had left after basic necessities, especially compared to other expenditures.
To put it in another way: why waste your drinking money on something that’s not really worth it...just because you’re “supposed” to? Nah!
Because of this we decided that it would probably be valuable to introduce a product that's actually worth it. Because when push comes to shove, even our favorite didis in the dera could agree with us that periods are more pressing than whiskey, and could be just as easily planned for.
Thus, the concept for (em)PowerPads was born.
What makes (em)PowerPads different from other sanitary pad brands? What is your USP (Unique Selling Point)?
(Kiran and Tara) - Every package of (em)PowerPads contains 4 sizes. This is practical because as women, we know that our flow goes from heavy to light throughout the week--we need more absorbency on day one and two than we need on day four and five.
Another unique point about (em)PowerPads is that the current version of the product is not the final version, it’s just the first version. We aim to diversify and hone our products specifically to meet our customers needs. (em)PowerPads will always have multiple sizes; however, in the future we plan to develop packages with two or three (as opposed to four) sizes, to meet the needs of women with particularly light or heavy periods. Furthermore, our goal is to create a company that, in addition to standard retail and online platform sales, can create customizable packages based on the individual needs of our customers.
Finally, we want to be sure that (em)PowerPads remain affordable for average people: college students, working women, stay-at-home moms from many walks of life. Women deserve options. We want choices to spend our money on products we actually want to use instead of being forced to purchase “whatever’s out there” so we can “solve a problem.” Caring for personal hygiene should be a point of pride, not stress. At (em)PowerPads, we believe that all women deserve these options, and we want our prices to reflect that belief.
As a start-up, you must have conducted some research before setting up your company. What were the research findings? Did you come across any staggering points?
(Kiran and Tara) - In addition to our work with the kids and their families through Strength India, our team wrote a 47-question survey and collected data from door to door from nearly 3,700 women from across 9 states in India, through which we validated the concepts behind (em)PowerPads. Although we were confident about the legitimacy of our professional observations with the schoolgirls and their families, we wanted to make sure that the conclusions that we drew held true across wider demographics.
We were pleased to find that they did. Women consistently cite lack of intuitive products as a main barrier to purchasing sanitary pads. In addition, we gained insight to several other market factors, in particular some trickier issues related to broader readiness for reusable products. Our research found that many women would struggle to maintain the necessary sterilization practices associated with using items like menstrual cups or period panties, even those from urban environments and/or stable financial situations. However, we are extremely hopeful about integrating more of these types of products in the future.
So tell us about how both of you met to start up (em)PowerPads?
(Tara) - Kiran and I met in 2014 when I had come to India to do a research project for school. I studied Sociology and Social Entrepreneurship at University of California, Santa Cruz through an intensive program that essentially requires students to undertake a graduate-style research project in conjunction with local NGO’s either in California or around the world. Since the program supported travel and I had always wanted to go to India, I put things together and decided to conduct my research here.
As a result, Kiran and I ended up working together in the same nonprofit organization in Varanasi (which is where Kiran is from). After my project was finished, I just never left. Kiran and I continued working together at that NGO for some time before deciding that we wanted to launch some initiatives of our own. In order to do that, our nonprofit organization Strength India was born as both a Section 8 company in India and a 501c3 nonprofit in California…and the rest is history.
In a patriarchal society like us where women are always showed their place in doing household work! How do you both feel to be a woman centric start-up? As a woman did you face any challenges in your lives?
(Tara) - We feel like we have an amazing opportunity to fill a variety of market gap by building up a company that is by women for women. Through introducing both intuitive and innovative products that women use, need, want, and wish they had, we will be able to concretely demonstrate that women’s places, lifestyles, and identities are far more diverse than the completion of household work.
Though both of our founders have experienced gender-based oppression, Kiran is a true example of resilience. Kiran grew up in a joint family of nearly 30 members in a rural part of Uttar Pradesh, just outside of Varanasi. To this day, each family has a single room to themselves; until 2007, they all lived in a mud house. From a young age, Kiran pushed against the gendered boundaries that her family and society imposed upon her: why should her brother get milk but she shouldn’t? Why should her father have to be served food first, while her mother was expected to eat his leftovers from the used plate? Kiran’s relentless questioning of such backward norms was matched only by her determination to overcome those circumstances, and eventually be able to support her family as well. Every choice she made reinforced her desire to rise above and do something with her life—up to and including riding her cycle to college every day, nearly 7 km from home over many unpaved roads, to save the 30 rupees she was given for daily transportation.
Kiran’s story is impressive.
However, it is far from unique.
At (em)PowerPads, we think that women like Kiran are the driving forces of change and innovation in society. We have developed our company in the spirit of these rebels, these fighters, these women all around us who, like our co-founder Kiran, face unreasonable expectations and barriers to success because they are women, and smash right through those barriers because they expect the most of themselves.
Did you face any obstacles while setting up your company? Who all were your support system during your journey?
(Kiran) - We faced numerous obstacles setting up the company! Legal navigation and understanding different rules in India has been a major challenge—neither of us have a specific business background, plus the legal and business infrastructure is much different than it is in the US, so it’s been a trial by fire as we learn the ropes together. Finding trustworthy people who understand that just because Tara is a foreigner doesn’t necessarily mean that she is especially wealthy or well-connected has been rather a disappointing issue for both of us, and has resulted in a few setbacks over the years. And of course there are always challenges inherent to starting a business from scratch, no matter who or where you are. For the most part, we try to look at obstacles and setbacks as painful learning experiences that we would prefer to avoid repeating. It helps keep things positive in the face of difficulty.
Tara’s father has also been a major force in the maintenance of a positive attitude despite obstacles in the path. He is our biggest cheerleader, with consistent advice and moral support that has pulled us through a lot of low points, as well as helped us decide on how best to direct our highs. We are so lucky that we have our families as the support systems that we do—without them, life would be far more difficult.
What is the change that (em)PowerPads wants to bring about in the life of women? In what ways will your company empower women?
(Kiran and Tara) - We think that everyone deserves access to safe, comfortable, high-quality products. This isn’t just a privilege, it is a right. At (em)PowerPads we want to continue developing products that go beyond meeting needs. We want our products to become the things that women are happy to choose every month because they know they are getting what they want. Furthermore, our goals have always been to create multi-level jobs for women. From entry-level and local labor to high-skill management, developing job and career options for diverse women will always be a priority for (em)PowerPads.
What made your company think of coming up with 4 pads in different sizes? Is there a specific use of each pad that our readers must know?
(Kiran) - Tara’s from California, and grew up always having multi-packs and multi-sizes of whatever menstrual products that were available, which were usually pads and tampons. I was always surprised that it’s not a common offering in the Indian market because it just seems like common sense to me: you don’t need the same size every day.
That said, there’s not a specific use case for each pad; however, we encourage each woman to pay attention to her individual needs to be sure she’s using the right pad for the right day. (em)PowerPads are currently introducing 4 sizes in every package, color-coded so you know which size is which. Blue pads are overnights, purple pads are heavy flow, green pads are normal flow, and the cute little orange ones are our panty liners. If you use the orange panty liner on your second day, I can pretty much guarantee that it’s not going to be a good time…but that’s why we have the blue and purple pads, with green for those in-betweeners!
We need more absorbency on those heavy days, but as things taper off we don’t want to waste larger pads—too expensive! And who among us hasn’t ruined a pair of panties by spotting into them after we could have sworn 'aunt flow' vacated the premises? With (em)PowerPads, you don’t need to worry about any of it anymore.
So really, the answer is that the use case is up to our users! This kind of individualized variation is also the reason behind our introduction of 3 package sizes—with seven, nine, and 12 pieces—because each woman knows her own flow the best, and deserves to have the perfect amount of the right products to address the issue. We also welcome feedback from all of our users, because again our goal is to be able to create a company that can adapt, tailor, and customize our products to the needs of our customers as we develop as a company.
In which all places has your products being distributed to? Do you have plans of bringing your products on the online platform?
(Kiran and Tara) - At this point we are launching the company in Mangalore and are managing most of the distribution ourselves. However, we have goals to migrate to online sales in the coming months as we gather up some steam—so keep watching us grow!
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You can now find @em.power.pads at Shree Cheerumba Fancy store, near Urwa Market in Ashok Nagar! 🔴🔴🔴 Tell your local shopkeepers they should stock the only sanitary pads in India that come with 4 sizes in every package, at a price you can actually afford every month. 🔴🔴🔴 This guy gets it 😍 get yours today!
Do you have an empowering message for our beautiful readers?
(Kiran and Tara) - Don’t let anyone else’s voice drown out the sound of your own thoughts and opinions. Your gut is probably better than you give it credit for—listen up. And if you don’t offer to yourself the same kindness and forgiveness you extend to others, you are probably being undervalued by one party or the other (if not both)—fix that shit.
We are a bit quirky, a touch irreverent, and more than a little silly, but our goals are big and our tenacity is fierce—get ready to watch us shine! - (em)PowerPads
Hey beauties, to know more about their products, you can contact them at @em.power.pads on Instagram.
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