Women's personal marketplace

Women's personal marketplace

IndiaMontréal, Canada
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Decode Global is an incubator of mobile apps for social change. We provide international opportunities for humanitarian technologists and code for social good.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Many women living in rural areas of India do not have easy and discreet access to personal care products. Research has shown that less than 2% of women in rural India use personal hygiene products like sanitary napkins. Plan India in collaboration with AC Nielsen reported that over 80% of women in rural India use unsterilized clothes, sand, husk,and ash as alternatives to sanitary napkins. They also found that reproductive tract infections are 70% more prevalent amoung women who lack access to personal hygiene products. Further, research from the World Bank suggests there is a correlation to girls missing school and a lack of access to sanitary napkins.Cultural taboos about menses, social norms, pricing and lack of supply chain are reasons limiting women's access to personal care products

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our solution is to train women to be entrepreneurs and to develop a mobile application that would enable these women to sell personal hygiene products easily and discreetly. India has over 600 million mobile users with over 200 million being woman (mostly in the age where they would use these products) providing the application an instant access to a large number of customers. The approach proposed by Decode Global and the Boond Foundation involves entrepreneurship education, menstrual health education and strong technology. These two organizations will collaborate to train female entrepreneurs to order, sell, and market feminine hygiene products using mobile phones.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

A mobile application is very discreet, and the women using it (women rural entrepreneurs) do not need to go to the market and interact with a conventional shop-keeper (mostly male) or male members of the family making the acquisition of hygiene products personal and free of cultural taboos. The mobile application would be used as a multi-purpose tool enabling both the ordering of the product and its payment; providing awareness information to the rural women about benefits, usage and disposal for these items; dispensing health adivsory as well as generating employment for rural women. These women are instrumental in implementing the supply chain (with support from social organizations and NGOs). Moreover, this project will address a deficit of activity both within industry and academia that investigates the socio-economic impact of mobile technology for women, and how technology can be designed to complement grassroots development projects for women.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Programs currently exist to address parts of the problem. Unilever’s Shakti program trains women to sell products in rural communities, but this initiative is limited to a single supplier. P&G has pledged to work with the Minstry of Health & Family Welfare to produce inexpensive sanitary napkins for women in the state of Rajasthan. This approach focuses on subsidies while ours focuses on women entrepreneuship and job creation. A Muruganatham, an Indian entrepreneur, has created a machine to produce sanitary napkins at a low cost. He has sold his machine to female entrepreneurs. His approach encourages women as entrepreneurs and could be a potential partner. No programs using mobile technology were identified. We foresee these players as being collaborative rather than competitors.

Founding Story

While working as a product manager at Nokia, Decode Global's founder had the opportunity to participate in a research study that focused on mobile application development where women are considered the primary (and only) users of the technology. It quickly became apparent to me that there is a lack of attention both within industry and academia on this topic. Through many conversations with Rustam Sengupta of Boond, we came up with the idea of building a project around women's entrepreneurship, mobile technology, and increased access to essential products for women's health.
About You
Decode Global
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Decode Global

Organization Country

, QC, Montréal

Country where this project is creating social impact

, RJ

Age of Innovator

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Prize winner for "Youth Employment Services (YES) Women in Tech" competition

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How long have you been in operation?

Still in idea phase, but looking to launch soon

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Cost.

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to better the lives of girls and women by leveraging technology? (select all applicable)

Access to technology, Access to education/training, Access to health care, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Between December 2011 - March 2012 we conducted an extensive literature review of mobile app design for women’s economic empowerment, and technology review of mobile applications currently on the market. Our conclusion was there is a dearth of academic and industry activity around technology development for women’s economic empowerment. We are currently planning the prototype and focus groups/feedback sessions which Boond and Decode Global will do collaboratively.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

This mobile application will initially be for women rural entrepreneurs in Rajasthan. The pilot phase will start with training 50 women. These 50 women will be in 1 district of India with an average population of 1.5 million (or about 700,000 women). Hence the indirect impact of this application will be for around 400,000 women in the first phase (taking away women below 13 and over 50). The long term goal of the project is to expand the program to more districts in other rural parts of India and South Asia as there is a huge potential for scaling. We estimate an impact to over 10 million women over the next five years.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The main barriers could come from women not using the mobile application and not becoming entrepreneurs despite being trained through Boond's entrepreneuship training program. Another barrier could emerge from not having a strong and stable supply chain for sanitary napkins distribution.
We hope to avoid such barriers by enhancing awareness, skills and capacity to support scaling up of feminine hygiene related programmes in rural India.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Prototype Validaton and Mobile Service Validation

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Conduct awareness campaigns and discuss mobile application and its usage with villagers: 6 roadshows, 6 vilages, aprox.15K women

Task 2

Prototype design & development in collaboration with university researchers and Canada, US and India

Task 3

Entrepreneurship selection

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Mobile app development and supply chain

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Development of the final version of mobile application

Task 2

Training of the women entrepreneurs

Task 3

Development of the supply chain for the products

Tell us about your partnerships

Decode Global is partnering with Boond Foundation which has many years of experience managing supply chains and providing entrepreneurship training. They have recently expanded their entrepreneurship training to women. We also have partnerships with Nokia and Microsoft BizSpark Startup.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

There is a deficit of research and activity both within industry and academia that looks at the socio-economic impact of mobile technology on women, and how technology could be designed to complement grassroots development projects for women. The only research providing some insight on the topic is by Schroff and Kam in “Towards a Design Model for Women’s Empowerment in the Developing World”.