From papyrus in ancient Egypt to plastic-based pads in the modern world, the evolution of menstrual hygiene has been colossal. While we’ve come a long way, this progress has been backward when it comes to eco-friendliness and sustainability. On the other hand, even after 100-plus years of launching the first commercial menstrual pads, not all women have access to them. Some concerned and responsible minds like Tarun Bothra and Kristin Kagetsu are working day in and day out to address this loophole in the femcare space, while also trying to heal the trouble we have caused Mother Nature.
They have together built Saathi aiming to tackle the issue of limited access to menstrual products sustainably. Sharing about the inception of Saathi, the founders mentioned, “It all started when we realized that access to menstrual hygiene products in India was limited. We also recognized the dire need for sustainable solutions that address the waste management issues that come with using plastic-based sanitary pads. That’s when we decided to take action and develop biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads made from plant-based fibers. Our goal was to create a product that not only benefits women’s health but also the environment.”
Over time, they have expanded their product line to include menstrual cups, offering sustainable and long-lasting alternatives to traditional pads. Moreover, the team structured their business model to make an impact at every stage of their supply chain. The founders continued, “The impact begins right from sourcing. We locally procure plant-based raw materials like banana and bamboo fibers, which not only provide additional income for farmers but also ensures that our products are environment-friendly. Secondly, we run an all-female manufacturing unit, employing a team of 75 percent women, and our manufacturing process is zero-waste. Also, the products are distributed with the aim of empowering women and increasing their understanding of menstrual health.”
One of Saathi’s most notable achievements is their One Million Pads Initiative, which has distributed over 1 million menstrual products to over 15 areas across rural India. They recently launched a 10 million pads program, which aims to bring menstrual products to more remote areas of the country, leveraging the expertise of a dedicated team. In fact, Saathi holds the world record in the largest biodegradable pad distribution drive.
Their philosophy centers around the users, and they actively seek feedback from their customers to continually improve their products. Saathi takes a circular approach to problem-solve, creating products that have a positive impact on user’s lives and the environment.
With Saathi, all the stakeholders benefit, not just the employees or farmers, but customers too. Not only do they guarantee quality products that are hygienic and sustainable, they also actively work towards making menstrual hygiene a reality for all. Their social drive is a pan-India initiative with a special focus on women in the most remote areas. The distribution drive is conducted holistically where the products are distributed at subsidized rates along with MHM (Menstrual Hygiene Management) Workshops, to promote long term behavioral change.
Above all, the biodegradable and compostable pads degrade within six months, 1200 times faster than plastic pads. This not only ensures safe and hygienic disposal but also contributes to reducing plastic waste in the environment. In addition to pads, Saathi also offers a reusable and long-lasting solution to menstrual hygiene - menstrual cups made from medical-grade silicone. To further reduce waste, they provide sustainable bags for storing the cups.
Saathi is not just another company, it’s a movement - a movement that aims to change the way we approach menstrual hygiene and waste management. They are committed to creating an inclusive future of femcare that benefits everyone involved in the supply chain, from the farmers, to the consumers, to the environment.
Saathi’s remarkable growth, efforts, and accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. Over the years, the company has been recognized with numerous esteemed awards, honouring their position as a leader in sustainable menstrual hygiene products, including the Nikkei Asia Award 2022, the Josette Sheeran prize at Asia Society’s Asia Game Changer Awards 2022 in the USA, and the Waislitz Global Citizen Award 2022 in the USA. The company’s commitment to empowering and helping women has also been recognized by the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards in 2018.
They were also part of Circulars Accelerator 2022 in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, and the UNDP Growth Stage Impact Ventures Initiative 2021. Saathi’s dedication to sustainability and innovation has been recognized by some of the most respected organizations, including Time Magazine, which named Saathi’s biodegradable pads as one of the Best Inventions of 2019, and also received the St Andrews Prize for the Environment. In 2019, Fast Company conferred Saathi with Most Innovative Companies of the Year Award.
Moreover, Saathi is the only Indian company that has been included in the MIT Museum’s Essential MIT exhibit. It is also the only company from Gujarat to be a part of the UNESCO Green Citizen Project.
Catalyzing Sustainability and Circular Economy
While these accolades testify to Saathi’s armored position as a leader in the industry, they continue to push boundaries and seek innovative solutions to create a positive impact on the environment and the lives of their users. To achieve its goals, Saathi aims to expand its reach across India and beyond while creating a positive impact on people’s lives and the environment worldwide. They believe that by building a sustainable model for manufacturing hygiene products, they can address both the health and environmental aspects of menstrual hygiene in a cohesive manner.
The company’s unique Triple P model of purpose, profit, and planet ensures that they maintain a balance between social responsibility, financial sustainability, and environmental impact. By implementing this model, they hope to create a solution to the problem of limited access to menstrual products for generations to come. Ultimately, Saathi is on a mission to create a positive impact on society while ensuring a sustainable and equitable future.
"Saathi is not only an innovative solution to menstrual hygiene but also a socially responsible and environmentally conscious product. Saathi holds the world record in the largest biodegradable pad distribution drive.