Courtney Cox (our beloved Monica from F.R.I.E.N.D.S.) famously said,
“I’m the first girl to say the word ‘period’ on television.”
No, she didn’t say it on any of the episodes of the popular series. The word was actually spoken by her in 1985, when she appeared in a Tampax commercial. Can you believe that it was an unspoken word on television till then?
In our #MondayMotivation blog focusing on the #WonderWomen segment, we present a woman who is breaking similar taboos when it comes to periods, the stigma around them and the much-needed health and hygiene which seems to be lacking for women undergoing menstruation. Meet, Sanjana Pai, the founder of The Pink Box by Crimson Fuchsia Retail LLP. The Pink Box is a subscription service for everything women need on their period. Right from sanitary pads and tampons, to personal care items like pain relief cream, patch and roll-on; and other items like hand sanitizers, sweets, chocolates, etc, these boxes are everything a woman needs during her period. From where did Sanjana get the idea and inspiration to start this venture and what challenges did she overcome or face even today while keeping The Pink Box active? Let’s find out in her own words.
“Crimson Fuchsia Retail is our start-up, and we work in the menstrual hygiene space. Crimson stands for blood, which is the most vital element of our body. And Fuchsia stands for the fuchsia flower, also called The Dancing Lady, which represents freedom and joy. Our product, The Pink Box, is a subscription service for everything women need on their period. Our vision is to see India as a period-positive society, where women aren’t held back by taboo and stigma.
Some alarming stats around periods and menstrual hygiene got me into this field. In a joint paper, Christine Lagarde (MD of the International Monetary Fund from 2011 to 2019) and Erna Solberg (PM of Norway, 2013-present) said that raising women’s participation in the labour force to the same level as men can boost India’s GDP by 27 per cent! Barely 50% of Indian women have access to sanitary napkins. Social beliefs surrounding menstruation prevent women – in Urban as well as Rural India – from making the best use of their skills and unleashing their true potential! These facts and many experiences in my teenage and early adulthood motivated me to work in the menstrual hygiene field.
The biggest issue we’re facing, as a venture, is the stigma around menstruation. We have to constantly play our part in de-stigmatizing taboos, while also being sensitive towards various beliefs and traditions. Besides this, like any other start-up, we too face operating challenges often. The best way to get around these concerns is to hire the right talent and to consult professionals.
The turning point was coming face-to-face with the women facing problems during their period. I’m a firm believer of women’s rights and development, and children’s education. I’ve wanted to contribute to these fields since I was 16!
During my college years, I noticed a lot of my peers having to miss classes due to period discomfort. Although we were lucky to have a store on campus that stocked sanitary pads, we wouldn’t always get our preferred type of pads. As I interacted with more and more women, I became aware of diverse beliefs surrounding menstruation (one girl would throw pads away only in the morning, at the cost of leaving a used pad in the bathroom all night! – wrapped up in newspaper, thankfully).
I realized that the taboo and stigma behind menstruation was not exclusive to the grassroots level. It was an Urban Indian problem too! School-going girls are laughed and jeered at when their school uniforms are stained. College-goers have to go long hours without changing sanitary pads. I delved deeper into these social issues by speaking to women in different careers, reading research papers, scanning through forums, and more.
I was looking at a stark contrast –
On one hand, women don’t have a safe space to openly discuss their menstrual and reproductive health. And on the other hand, menstruation is normalized to an extent where we neglect taking care of our body – when it needs us the most! This led me to work on The Pink Box – a care kit for everything you need during that time, including timely delivery at your doorstep! We enable our subscribers to make their cycle a worry-free and comfortable one.
Despite the number of successful women in business, education, sports, science, and every single field one could think of, there is a stark gender disparity in India which needs to be worked on. Menstruation and the beliefs surrounding it holds back a lot of women from excelling in their education, work-places, at home, and more. Enabling them to be comfortable and worry-free about their own biology is the first step in unleashing their potential. With more women completing their education and contributing to their respective fields, we are sure to see a positive mindset change in our society.
I believe I’ve found my ikigai (a Japanese concept of finding your ‘reason to be’, which is an intersection of – what you love doing, what the world needs, what you can be paid for, and what you are good at) in making India a period positive society. And that’s what keeps me going!
In the entrepreneurial journey of The Pink Box, the major milestones have been
- In the very first year of our operations in 2018, our start-up was incubated in the first cohort of Flame Origins Program, an Incubator by FLAME University in Pune.
- On Menstrual Hygiene Day (28th May) 2019, we were featured in Period Party, a first-of-its-kind event to celebrate periods and come together as a community.
- We conducted the ‘Gift A Pack of Pads’ campaign to gift sanitary napkins to girls who are less privileged than us. We’ve benefitted over 500 kids so far, with 1000+ more to go! We also educate them about menstruation and personal hygiene.
So far, we’ve launched 4 different variants of The Pink Box
- The Ultimate Period Kit, where you received a curated box of healthy snacks, sweets, stress busters, collectibles, and your choice of sanitary pads or tampons.
- The Bio Box, where you can upgrade the regular pads in the Ultimate Period Kit for, yes you guessed it right, biodegradable pads! The healthy eats and stress busters are featured in this box too! This one’s for the eco-conscious women.
- The Travel Kit, which is curated to make your period – during trips and travel – more comfortable. We’ve also got handy hygiene products, along with a travel-friendly pouch!
- The PCOS Care Box, which is India’s very first subscription service exclusively curated for women diagnosed with PCOS. The goodies in this box are all part of a PCOS-friendly diet.
We’ve also initiated the ‘Back to the Sisterhood’ campaign, to promote sisterhood between women at workspaces. We also conduct educational sessions on Menstrual Health and PCOS /PCOD at offices and workspaces.
Right now, we are amidst a ’21 Days of Self Care’ challenge on Instagram and Facebook, where we’re engaging people with feel-good self-care activities to keep them going during lockdown.
The future plan is to expand into further in this field itself through,
- Sustainable Menstruation – We are focusing on making menstruation – as well as menstrual hygiene products – sustainable and eco-conscious. Each of us needs to make efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, and we aim to play a vital role in this.
- Community Building – We are creating a community for women where they can discuss women’s health without any reservations.
My biggest learning has been that,
“For just about anything, perseverance, patience and passion is all you need!
“Hard work is the way to go for any start-up, you have to constantly keep working at it.”
“Things work out when the time is right, don’t lose hope and don’t be disheartened. Keep hustling!”
And passion because you need to,
“Do what makes you happy and give it everything you’ve got.”
For those of you reading this, and have liked our concept of The Pink Box, we have some exciting news! We’ve made a Facebook group and page, and Instagram page called Creators Community. It’s a space for creators to express themselves – through art, poetry, music, recipes, workouts, anything that calls out to them. Through Creators Community, we aim to promote hobbies being developed during this tough lockdown period, as well as spread positivity.
**Source for Christine Lagarde and Erna Solberg’s joint paper:
To drop in a message to Sanjana, check out the various sizes and types of menstrual hygiene boxes available on The Pink Box, inquire about them or to subscribe to this wonderful and much-needed service, follow the links below:
- The Pink Box website
- The Pink Box Instagram handle
- The Pink Box Twitter handle
- The Pink Box Facebook page
Other personal/professional social media handles of Sanjana:
Sanjana’s life story and the exemplary work she does through The Pink Box has been featured in many blogs and on YouTube videos. It even finds a mention in the book titled Hill Top Run: Making Ideas Happen, which is a book mentioning some of the finest start-up stories to emerge from SIBM Pune.
Have a look at these through the links below:
- Hill Top Run: Making Ideas Happen on Amazon
- Unboxing video of one of the many boxes of The Pink Box on YouTube
- Blog link to being #5 on 20 Best Subscription Boxes for Moms in India
- Story of The Pink Box on SheThePeople
If you are looking for a space where your hobbies (which most of us are engaging in during this lockdown) can be appreciated and reach an online audience, share them with Creators Community. Follow their social media handles through links below:
- Instagram page of Creators Community
- Facebook page of Creators Community
- Facebook group of Creators Community
If you like what The Pink Box is doing and would like to help out a woman/girl-child in need of menstrual hygiene, you can contribute towards their efforts (just Rs. 35) through the link below: