There are 336 million menstruating women in India, and 36% use disposable sanitary napkins, according to Menstrual Hygiene Alliance of India (MHAI). That’s 121 million women.
It’s no surprise then that the menstrual products market is growing. And fast.
Valued at $340 million by market research provider Euromonitor in 2017, the sanitary products market in India is predicted to grow to $522 million by next year. It is dominated by international FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) companies such as Procter & Gamble’s Whisper and Johnson & Johnson’s Stayfree, which, according to Euromonitor, have a retail market share of 50.4% and 24%, respectively. Their products are priced low to ensure maximum reach, especially in a country like India.
But not everyone is price-sensitive. Those who can afford it tend to seek quality alternatives. As in any industry.
So, despite the FMCG dominance in sanitary products, there’s been a flurry of menstrual products focused on health and comfort. From pain-relief patches to PMS-friendly juices to anti-rash creams to ‘naturally’ made pads, the Indian sanitary products market has, in the past few years, grown to accommodate more than just a basic need. Much like skincare, haircare, or even dental care, period care is a growing option available online.
And it’s catering to women who’d be happy to spend that extra buck for a comfortable period.
“It is a convenience-conscious market. There is a large audience that is not happy with their brands. They want value for money, but they want better products,” says Deep Bajaj, founder of Sirona, a Delhi-based online hygiene products company which offers tampons, cups and other products.
“It’s how [cab aggregator] Uber bettered the market from [competition] Meru. Now, even if it costs a little more, you are willing to take an Uber for the convenience,” he adds.
This shift is particularly interesting in the sanitary products space for it’s one marred with societal shame. Even today, sanitary pads are often wrapped in their trademark black plastic bags—to be used but not seen. Over the past few years though, India has seen its cultural mainstream, Bollywood, take on the subject with films like Pad Man and Phullu. Just a few months ago, the documentary Period. End of Sentence., which spoke about India’s menstrual taboos, won an Academy Award.
“About three decades ago, Whisper was the first brand to show a sanitary pad and mention the word ‘periods’, in our advertising.