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.