Tired of the constant challenge of disposing off sanitary napkins and the subsequent waste management issues, Rajesh and his wife Rashmi began their quest to find an eco-friendly alternative.
A quick research on this subject introduced this couple from Kerala to menstrual cups, which have already gained popularity abroad.
In 2014, after having used the product herself, Rashmi decided to take up commercial manufacturing of menstrual cups under the brand name ‘V Cup’, which was the first such initiative based out of Kerala. Made of medical grade silicon, these cups can be worn inside the vagina during menstruation. Once full, they can be cleaned and re-inserted and are durable enough to last over ten years.
For Asha Pradeep, a teacher from Perinthalmanna in Malappuram district, menstrual cups came as a blessing in disguise. Asha is one among the first customers of the product. ‘Panic and doubts’ is how Asha describes her initial reactions to menstrual cups.
“It was something I had never heard of before, and so the natural inhibitions followed. I had doubts about whether it is fine to use it after giving birth two years ago. But I must say, it was in the days post my delivery that the product actually saved me from having to use sanitary napkins,” she recollects.
She adds that it is natural to feel that the product is slightly on the expensive side. “But after using the cup, no woman would say no to it. The inhibition would only last till one realizes how comfortable it is,” she chuckles.
According to Rajesh, managing partner of the company, spreading awareness about the product was the most challenging of all: “About 99% of women aren’t even aware of the existence of such a product. Our immediate aim is not to make them buy the product, but to educate them about this alternative method. So, we conduct regular awareness campaigns at educational institutions across the state.”
Thirty-eight-year-old Preethy Mukundan from Manjeri shudders at the thought of going back to using sanitary napkins. A teacher by profession, she has been using menstrual cups for over two years now. Though skeptical at first about having to insert the product, it did not last long, she says.“I heard about V Cup from a friend, but was not comfortable with the idea at the very beginning. However, after having used the cup, I cannot imagine using sanitary napkins again,” she says.
Rajesh says that even though awareness camps are conducted in educational institutions to educate the students, most of their customers happen to be working women. “As far as students are concerned, they do not have purchasing power and attempts at spreading awareness do not end with the student, but the bigger challenge is to convince their parents that the product is safe for use,” he says.
Priced at Rs.1200, it comes with a hand sanitizer pen, a napkin, a cotton pouch and soap strips. Asked whether the cost acts as a deterrent for people, he says, “Most of the time, women don’t realize that it is a one-time investment and that the product is safe and lasts longer. Even then, I do not think cost is the reason some women choose not to use the product, but it is the inhibition of having to insert the product into the vagina that most women are not comfortable about.”
Though the company is registered in Thrissur, Kerala, the cups, which were earlier manufactured in Ahmedabad is now made in Mumbai, owing to difficulties in procuring the machinery required for production.
Speaking to The News Minute, Rajesh said that around 40 cups are sold every month across the country and are also exported to Poland. He informs that one-third of the products manufactured are sold in Kerala and the largest consumers of the product come from Pune and Bengaluru.