Promoting Menstrual Hygiene in Rural Areas by use of IVRS Technology

Promoting Menstrual Hygiene in Rural Areas by use of IVRS Technology

Anand, IndiaAnand, India
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

We are a group of students from IRMA who want to address the problem of awareness regarding menstrual hygiene in the women of rural areas and solving issues related to the accessibility of affordable sanitary napkins, by promoting the low cost sanitary napkins among the rural women; through use of the SHG model and IVRS technology.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The awareness on menstrual hygiene and usage of sanitary napkins is virtually absent in rural areas. Poor menstrual hygiene can cause fungal infections, repeated infections to RTI, cervical cancer and vulnerable to infertility. Other prominent diseases include Yeast Infection, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea etc. By creating enough awareness regarding menstrual hygiene's importance and use of sanitary napkins, we try to prevent such chronic diseases from happening in the rural areas.

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

The plan starts with spreading awareness and knowledge dissemination regarding menstrual hygiene to the rural women with the help of SHGs. The training regarding the same would be provided to the SHGs with the help of NGOs by stressing on the use of sanitary napkins & its advantages. Once the basic awareness is created, the SHGs would be given the low cost sanitary pad manufacturing machines and training to use them. Once the production process starts, the marketing and sales channel would be built with the help of SHG members, ASHA workers, ANMs etc using the IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) model.Thus its a PPP model where the Sakhi Mandals (SHGs) would be organized in tasks of production, spreading awareness, promoting and selling these in their respective areas using the IVRS.
Impact: How does it Work

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

Vision: To promote menstrual hygiene among the women of rural areas in India. Objective: To remove problems related to the issue of menstrual health among the women of rural areas.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Since our project is in ideation and pilot phase, we do not have any quantitative figures to show the impact, but we have got recognition from various organizations like - Concern India Foundation, Aakar Innovations, etc who support our project idea. The idea got a scholarship entry at the Sankalp Vilgrow foudation Awards and a mention at the Unconvention Summit 2013, and also a special recognition by the judges of the event Inspire India at IIT Bombay's Techfest 2013.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Since the idea is in its inception phase, we would want to see and plan growth as the inception phase and pilot phase materializes.

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

We do not have any competitors as such. The big brands like P & G and Johnson & Johnson would not compete in the low cost sanitary napkin market. Therefore, there is no existing competition as such. The peers would include organizations like Tribhuvandas Foundation or Smile Foundation who wish to do similar work in the rural areas.

Founding Story

From the experiences of the team members in a two months village stay in 2 states of Gujarat and Uttarakhand in India, the team members realized the lack of awareness regarding menstrual hygiene in the women of rural areas, and the need to promote it. Through constant brainstorming within the group and with experts, the group found IVRS and SHG model as the best solution to solve the issue!
Organization Name

IRMA (Institute of Rural Management, Anand)

About You
About You
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Explain what the "innovation" is about, e.g., is it the idea and/or the model you use to accomplish the idea, or your understanding of the target population, etc.?

Lack of proper menstrual hygiene has been a concern for many a social activists and those who wish to bring about some positive change in the lives of the rural women. However, lack of awareness, issues regarding accessibility and affordability, etc have been the cause for women not using products like sanitary napkins. We have identified all these issues and come up with the solution of providing low cost sanitary napkins to the rural women after providing them proper awareness regarding the importance of menstrual hygiene through the use of IVRS(Interactive Voice Response System) technology that would give generalized and personalized voice call services. Apart from spreading awareness IVRS would also be used for increasing sales as the system can be used to record orders. The entire plan would be implemented with the help of SHGs and a local NGO which would enable effective implementation and results. Thus the innovation is in implementation of the idea through integration of all available resources and technology.

Describe how your innovation model is distinct from any other organization in your field?

Many NGOs have tried promoting menstrual hygiene by putting up a low cost sanitary napkin manufacturing unit in the rural area. However, the issue with menstrual hygiene is not providing low cost pads alone, but also making the rural women aware of the importance of using sanitary napkins and about menstrual hygiene in general. Many women still consider it a taboo to use sanitary napkins and have beliefs and misconceptions regarding it too.
In our model, we have therefore tried to solve the problem of lack of awareness by giving generalized and personalized calls to the women of the rural areas regarding menstrual hygiene through use of IVRS technology. Apart from this, personal counselling and information sharing would be done by the SHGs through the support of the local NGOs.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

The success of the model lies in the fact that the local NGOs which know the whole and soul of the village and those which have a good rapport with the women of the village would be able to better create awareness and be able to convince the women for purchase.The model involves not only creating awareness, but also providing a source of dignified livelihood to the women of the villages by the setting up of a low cost sanitary napkin manufacturing plant. With the growing reach of multimedia by the mediums like television and movies, and by the strong presence of women NGOs, the women of rural area are now better prepared to accept concepts like menstrual hygiene use of sanitary napkins. Also the areas which would be selected would have high mobile penetration among the households.

How do you make sure you constantly innovate in light of (potential) external challenges, or your growth plan?

The first low cost sanitary napkin manufacturing machine was built by Muruganantham of Jayashree Industries has reported flaws in terms of low quality by many a users and therefore, the project which is taken up by many NGOs haven't reported much success.
We therefore aim to keep innovating and improving on the machine for better quality of napkins for which we are already in talks with Aakar Innovations which is making an improved version of the machine.
Apart from this, a high-tech but easy to use and low in cost application of IVRS is being worked out so as to create awareness as well as sales for the sanitary napkins.

Organization Country

, GJ, Anand

Business Model
The systemic challenge you are trying to overcome (select one)

Bring accessible healthcare to communities in emerging markets

Health area (target market) where the need is [select only one]

Primary healthcare services

Categories along the health continuum you are covering [select all that apply]

Prevention, Long-term care.

Stage that best applies to your solution [select only one]

Idea (poised to launch)

Core strategies of your business model [select all that apply]

Approaches to behavioral change at the individual level, Redesign of the public healthcare system for more efficiency (in terms of processes, structure etc.), New/redefined roles for healthcare service provision, New approaches to distribution of health products and services, Unconventional partnerships (between traditional healthcare players and players outside healthcare).

If other, specify here:
Most relevant tools you are using to implement the strategies outlined above [select only two]

Technology, Education/training, Community financing, Others.

If other, specify here:

Integrating Human Resources by using the SHG model

What is your value proposition?

Value for money in terms of low cost but good quality sanitary napkins being easily accessible through the IVRS technology as well as the SHG model network.

Who is your customer(s)?

Our target customers would be – women and adolescent girls in the age category of 14-45 years, living in rural areas, semi urban areas and in urban slums; and non–users and infrequent users of sanitary napkins.

What approaches to you use to reach your customers?

Two major mediums would be:
1) Personal communication through NGOs and SHGs.
2) IVRS Technology - Generalized and personalized call and message services to pass on information and awareness in the rural women.

Apart from this, conventional mediums like - newspapers, community radio, leaflets, hooters, street plays, etc would also be used.

What are your primary activities?

Organizing meetings of the SHG leaders who would in turn pass on the information and awareness to their SHG groups, making generalized calls promoting menstrual hygiene through IVRS, making of low cost sanitary napkins in the assigned units and specialized machine, registering sales through IVRS and delivery of sanitary napkins by the ASHA workers, ANM workers and SHG members.

What other challenges - individual, organizational, or environmental – are you currently facing or might hinder future success of your business, and how do you plan to overcome those?

The major challenge includes changing the mindset of the rural women which is backed by too many superstitions and beliefs. Apart from this, to improve on quality of the product and still to deliver results at a low price would be a challenge.
Another bigger challenge is to develop an effective but easy to use IVRS technology application that could be used by the rural women easily but at an affordable rate.

Briefly describe your growth strategy going forward

We plan to start with a small taluka in the Kutch District of Gujarat called Mundra and cover all its 60 villages in the initial phase along with the help of the local women NGO there called - Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS). We then plan to move forward to other talukas of kutch, then other districts of Gujarat and then subsequently other parts of India.

What dimensions for growth are you currently targeting for your innovation [select all that apply]

New customer group(s), New regions(s).

What makes your business "ready" for growth?

Lack of any competition in the rural areas, and the need for such products, is the reason that we feel this business is ready for growth.

What are your key growth objectives?

The key growth objective is to do work at a slower pace but at 100% effective rate!

Social Impact
What methods for quantification of social impact are you applying (if at all)?


Could your solution work in other geographies or regions? If so, where?

Yes. The model is simple and easily replicable in all areas where a women NGO is present, and mobile penetration in the region is decent enough for IVRS technology to work.

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

We plan to cover the entire state of Gujarat in first 3 years by partnerships and tie-ups with multiple NGOs, and thus provide livelihood as well as solve issues of menstrual health for the women of the rural areas in Gujarat.

Organization's Country of Operation

, GJ, Anand

Elaborate on your current financing strategy

The initial funds/grants would be obtained from NABARD’s district rural innovation fund and other schemes under state and central government for Rural Development. Apart from this, the SHGs would bring in their personal money as funds for the extra money that would be needed as investment. Returns on this investment include money from the sales of the sanitary napkins in the rural areas as well as semi-urban areas,

Share of revenue generation in total income of organization (in percent)
Direct sales to patients or other beneficiaries (in percent)
Of the possible sources of these sales listed below, check all that apply to your current strategy

Licensing fees, e.g., for technology/franchise model (in percent)
Of the possible sources of these licensing opportunities listed below, check all that apply to your current strategy

Service contract with organizations, e.g., government, NGOs (in percent)
Of the possible sources of the service contracts listed below, check all that apply to your current strategy

Explain your revenue generation strategy in more detail

The revenue would be generated from the sales of the sanitary napkins, These sales would be generated by IVRS application where the women would themselves register their requirement, through direct sales by the ASHA workers, ANM workers, health workers, etc. and by the requirements as registered by the SHG groups.

Share of philanthropy in total income of organization (in percent)
Philanthrophy strategies you are using

Explain your philanthropic approach in more detail

The philanthropy of the group includes reinvestment of the profits earned into the cause of improving women's health in the rural areas, especially menstrual health, across the country.

Expand on your selections; explain how you will sustain funding over the next 1-3 years.

Though the initial funding would come from government scheme funds, NABARD funding, etc, with the passage of time and creation of adequate awareness, the units would be sustainable on their own as the demand of sanitary napkins is recurrent and the markets targeted (rural areas) have huge potential and scope for growth.
Thus, the project would remain sustainable for its entire life time by its own revenue generation,

Years in Operation

Idea phase

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