Even though Indian women have mastered the art of juggling several roles - that of a mother, daughter, sister, wife, boss or anything else, they often tend to neglect their own needs, and put themselves after everyone else. But you can’t pour from an empty cup; sooner or later health issues are bound to catch up.
In order to highlight this pressing issue, Anika Parashar and Roopam Gupta launched ‘The Woman’s Company’ on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2020). The company ‘by women and for women’ aims to disrupt the women’s intimate and hygiene space with its bouquet of biodegradable products for every stage of a woman’s life cycle.
Advocating for women’s healthcare
Anika Parashar, who’s the Director, Founder and CEO - The Woman’s Company, has spent two decades in women’s health and wellness space. She has worked with women on various health issues, and provided solutions to several need gaps too.
As Business Head - Mahindra Retail, she launched an innovative concept called Mom’s Lounge. It dealt with pregnant women and new mothers, and helped them gain knowledge on everything related to fitness and wellness. Anika then moved to Fortis with her partner, and was the mastermind behind Mamma Mia - A Mom’s World, which is now India’s first and only comprehensive holistic health chain across seven locations in India.
“We were giving support to new mothers - free lactation support, free obstetric consultation etc. - services that weren’t provided before in the country, “ she explains. Anika has later served as the COO of Fortis La Femme.
Over time, Anika realised that she desired to do much more. She wanted to work in women’s healthcare, either finding solutions for menstrual health or finding a way to help women through their various life stages.
The initial idea was to consult various companies, invest in them, and be a mentor. But Anika recollects that her research found many gaps in the system- especially in organic health, biodegradable health, in terms of health and environment. “Dioxins were being used in sanitary pads and other products used in intimate body parts. After years of experience, fair amount of research, and narrowing options down, we got to a point where a bunch of investors said “why don’t you do it yourself?” That’s when I asked Roopam to come on board as a partner, and she took over the role of a COO, and we founded this brand together,” she says passionately.
Standing out amid competition
While there are several brands in the women’s health and hygiene space, Anika shares The Woman’s Company -run by women who are focused on healthcare- is different. “ We have experience, we understand the market and need gaps better than others. Not all those companies are created and run by women, so the understanding is different. Also, there are certain products that are unique - for instance, we have a biodegradable pee stick, there are similar devices but not the same,” says Anika, adding, “The teen pad has never been done - it is actually made to fit a teenage body, young girls have a certain level of activity, they do not want to give up on it. They have a negative perception of periods. Why? It is a natural process for a good 40 years. Why is that starting off at a negative note?”
The Woman’s Company also offers biodegradable organic pads, medical-grade menstrual cups, organic tampons with applicators, and biodegradable razors.
Speaking of competition, Roopam Gupta, COO - The Woman’s Company, adds, “We have no competition because we are the only brand offering a bouquet of products. All our products are biodegradable, right from the wrapper to the top sheet to the pad. There is no use of plastic in it. We have spent a lot of time understanding how long it takes for a pad to decompose and other important details.”
Learnings along the way
Every experience teaches you something, and makes you more adept at tackling challenges. During her 20-year career, Anika has learnt how to handle teams and meet expectations. There were times when she was the only woman amongst a sea of men - while it was difficult to find a voice and be heard, she was up for these challenges.
For her, there is no bigger learning than having self-belief. “There are multiple naysayers, and roadblocks. I have gotten demotivated along the way, but with conviction and belief, I have continued to blaze my own trail. The need to be authentic to yourself matters the most,” says Anika.
Roopam was heavily pregnant when she was asked to come on board. While she was unsure of taking up this role, Anika was confident of making her a partner. Roopam adds, “There are several challenges women come across, but it’s all on you if you want to take it as a challenge or convert it into an opportunity. The day before the launch, I was working with Anika, the next day my baby happened, and here we are.”
Anika also feels that while there are some men who find it difficult to accept women in leadership roles, there are many who are equally supportive. “Everyone doesn’t like it that you have that power and ability; there are mocking remarks, sexual innuendos. Amidst that, you also find incredible people, who really believe in you, who push you, and help you achieve your vision.”
(Edited by Athira Nair)