COIMBATORE: At a time when the call for sustainability in the realm of menstrual hygiene has been getting louder, here is a woman who has been quietly contributing to the cause with her eco-friendly sanitary napkins. For Rs 120 a pack (of four), Bhuvaneshwari of Tirupur provides 100 per cent cotton, chemical-free pads that work as well as any variant in the market.
What started out as a leisure-time activity in 2017 has grown into a full-fledged cottage industry that has a happy customer-base not just in Tirupur but Chennai and Bengaluru too. It was not until she quit her job, two years back, that she found her true calling -- facilitating menstrual hygiene without compromising on one’s health or the environment. Unlike the napkins available in the market that have a good mix of synthetic fibres, she makes her pads with just cotton fibre and cloth.
The ingredients go through multiple hot-water treatments to make the final product as absorbent as any mass-produced ones. The latter uses bleach to achieve the same. “The pads sold in the market have foam (synthetic) on the surface keep the product soft. However, they might cause irritation or harm the vagina. On the other hand, cotton is the best alternative and is used to make pads that are sensitive to the body,” she explains.
Bhuvaneswari makes these body-friendly napkins at the one-woman unit she runs out of her house. She sources the ingredients locally -- the gada cloth comes from the handlooms of her relatives in Somanur. The cotton is purchased in bulk from a factory in Tirupur. She uses a sewing machine to stitch up the ingredients into the final product. Despite the informal set-up, she says that hygiene is the highest priority during the making, she adds.
Building a brand
Bhuvaneshwari initially gave away the pads to her friends and family free. After they reacted well to the product, she decided to begin selling them. This small-scale enterprise caught the attention of people far from home just from the good word of mouth from her local customers. Soon, she started receiving orders from women in Chennai and Bengaluru. Then, just when the reach was beginning to plateau, Iyalvaagai’s Namma Oru Sandhai offered her the perfect place to market her product -- sold under the label ‘The Red Wedding’.
The cost of comfort
With her products becoming a hit, Bhuvaneshwari started making herbally treated variants. As opposed to processing the cotton fibre and cloth in just hot water, she treated them with herbal ingredients like neem, aloe vera, vetiver or turmeric. While the plain cotton ones are priced Rs 120, these herbal ones are charged Rs 150. The herbal napkins have found many takers, she says.