Buying pads is a hassle. At times, it is an embarrassing experience for many women. For busy working women, getting time to buy it is a real problem. There is a group of women who are not even aware of it. Once period begins, it becomes a real problem. Many women get sick from using cloth rags and other unhygienic materials. Meenu Apa, a local startup, founded by a Bangladeshi woman aims to take pain out of getting pads and all period needs of women. The startup launched in early march received huge attention for its intuitive approach to solve a problem that has long been overlooked.
The idea of Meenu Apa is not something non-existent. There are companies out there working on the same problem. But this is something new to Bangladesh. The idea of using hygienic period materials is not common practice among many women here and social taboo around this is also a critical factor. A woman seldom feels comfortable sharing her menstrual needs. Given the context, Meenu Apa has hit the right spot.
Once we asked founder of Meenu Apa, who requested not to disclose her name, about how she got the idea she relates it to her own experience. “I used to buy pads for everyone in my household. I discovered that most of the women in my family were too embarrassed to ask, too ashamed to say that they're getting sick from using cloth rags, or that they couldn't afford to buy them themselves. It was a revelation. Another incident is more like a regular occurrence. Not being able to purchase pads due to lack of time. So I thought of starting something to solve this problem as a two-fold solution. Targeting busy working women who seldom get to buy their needs and also to fund or finance a mission to provide free napkins to those who couldn't buy them and to educate them on the benefits of using pads over rags.”
So far, the response from the market has been phenomenal for the Meenu Apa. It received warmth reception from the community. It is a very likely scenario given the fact that the startup is solving a real problem.
Once we asked its founder about the response, she says: “we get requests daily. The community is supportive as well. We receive offers of help, feedback regarding what products to include in the inventory etc. When I was starting out my target for this month was 100 orders, and in the past 10 days we have only achieved 10% of that. But the growth is fantastic and we have more than 900 facebook likes and growing which shows people are interested in us and we are solving a real problem.”
“As of now this is a self funded project, I’m investing from my own pocket,” says Founder of Meenu Apa, and “I want to bootstrap it to a certain level.” For the founder the startup is a side project while she works full time to earn her bed and bread.
Right now team Meenu Apa aims to break-even as earlier as possible. The basic revenue model is simple like all other e-commerce platforms: you buy at a bargain and sell it to people at a margin. Meenu Apa aims to put exceptional customer service at work so that they remain indispensable in the market.
At the same, it has a goal of spending part of its profit in improving lives of women. “After we achieve profitability, I plan to use a percentage of the profits along with funding from donors, to execute the second phase of the plan, which is partnering with a NGO to distribute and create a curriculum for workshops. We're talking to Shiree right now”- she says.
The company aims to become an intimate partner in the lives of women who use it and support them on a regular basis based on their preference. It aims to add a calendar with dates of each customer’s period date, and one can order for once and for all and Meenu Apa will deliver products based on her given timeline.
“We handle the delivery by ourselves,” says founder of Meenu Apa, “I have a delivery person but she was having trouble and was being teased and harassed. So we are considering few other options but we don’t want to go to conventional courier services”.
E-commerce is a delivery business. How fast and well you are at delivering goods on time define a large part of your fate. At the same time for Meenu Apa the question is also about comfort of its customer, whether they feel comfortable buying their period needs from a man. Meenu Apa aims to make it a woman to woman thing so that people can relate.
“For now my priority is to achieve the target of first month,” she says, “we will do our best to become exceptionally good at providing services, but I don’t have a game plan of that sort. I can’t predict the evolution of the project. Right now I want to go with the flow.”
Right now the startup is a team of 04 people and it aims to scale in coming days. The advantage Meenu Apa has over big guns in the market is of course it’s size and its vision to help women. It is small, humble, and human and it understands the problem clearly. It is also focused and mission driven. The founder aims to remain intimate with its clients and make that a strong selling point. She also wants to scale the project so that it allows her to deliver single delivery orders as well. At the same time Meenu Apa also aims to offer products at a wholesale price.
For Meenu Apa, it has got a real problem to solve and a problem that has been overlooked for a long period of time. Great business ideas are often less obvious and commonly overlooked. However, living the expectation is always harder than creating it.