A product made by the women for the women is how Zubaida Bai describes JANMA-the clean birth kit. The kit using eco-friendly materials has elements approved and recommended by the World Health Organisation for a safe and hygienic birth.
Zubaida, co-founder of Ayzh, a for-profit social venture providing health and livelihood solutions to impoverished women worldwide says, “I had witnessed the unsterile surroundings at a hospital during childbirth and decided to focus on maternal health. This led to the birth of Ayz in 2009 and we introduced JANMA in 2010.”
Born into a middle-class family in Chennai, Zubaida was no stranger to socio-economic hardships and her early life experiences taught her that sacrifice was a woman’s duty. Even so, her rebellious self got her an engineering degree and she grabbed a full-scholarship from the Dalarna University in Sweden to do a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering and in 2005 she married Habib Anwar and moved to Canada. However, the couple soon returned to Chennai and Zubaida joined Rural Innovations Network (RIN), a non-profit rural innovations incubator.
It was at this organisation Zubaida thought that much more could be done to help young start-ups. “I wanted to give back to the society and do something especially for women,” says Zubaida. Around the same time she enrolled in an MBA in Social and Sustainable Enterprise from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
The 32-year-old social entrepreneur had herself suffered from infection during the birth of her first child. “We sat down and brainstormed on maternal health as an area of focus and in 2009, we registered Ayzh in the US,” says Zubaida.
The couple conducted extensive research and spoke to several obstetricians and gynecologists, maternal health advocates and village elders. The two collaborated with several rural NGOs and partnered with Kuthambakkam Village on the outskirts of Chennai, to train women and provide employment by helping them assemble JANMA. The kit comprises surgical scalpel blade, blood absorbing sheet, cord clamps, medicated soap and /hand sanitizing wipes, pictorial representation of each item and its usage and biodegradable reusable packaging gifted to mother.
Ayzh has so far put together close to about 50,000 kits since the company’s inception and reached out to 2,50,000 people. The kit is sold for $2 or a little over `100. “We also collaborated with the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras’ incubation centre for more help to spread our awareness campaign,” she says. It has sold the units in India, Haiti, Afghanistan, and several countries in Africa. “Demand from other countries continues to grow. JANMA is sold directly to customers, and also to hospitals and health institutions,” says Anwar, co-founder, Ayzh.
“Since we wanted to do something different and look at things differently, we called ourselves Ayzh (read eyes). It is an abbreviation of our family’s first names,” says Zubaida, a mother of three.
The couple is doing research and development in adding more elements to Ayzh’s services. Anwar says, “Other products include a newborn kit to be bundled with JANMA, a post-partum hemorrhage kit, sanitation and hygiene solution for women and a household water filter.”
Ayzh has eight employees and Zubaida and Anwar are busy scaling their operations. “We are developing a franchisee model, where partners can set up their own Ayzh facility, employing low-income women. The products assembled will be distributed to customers in a regional market created by the Ayzh sales team,” informs Zubaida.
Reminiscing their start-up days, the two say that their journey seems to have only begun. “We want to create a safe and hygienic environment for young mothers. Most importantly, the social impact of the programme is helping women make their own living and that is what we want to promote. Hopefully, we will have our franchises soon in other states of India so that we can have maximum impact,” signs off Anwar.