Problem Addressed

Aakar Innovations evolved into a hybrid social enterprise when it realized the problem lay beyond access and affordability of menstrual management products and included the broader issue of lack of awareness. To simultaneously tackle the barriers for adoption of better menstrual hygiene management in India, Aakar Innovations focuses on access and availability to low cost, high quality products while Aakar Social Ventures focuses on expanding the dialogue regarding menstruation in order to promote awareness and normalization.

Innovative Approach

Aakar Innovations has developed a model that combines the production of high quality, biodegradable pads; the facilitation of rural enterprise; and the growth of awareness around improving menstrual hygiene management. Aakar works as a platform integrator which leverages a hub-and-spoke business model wherein it monitors and supports every production unit that it sets up. It uses technology and a distribution model to ensure it reaches more difficult populations. The organization also conducts institutional sales to nonprofits, development agencies, and other social businesses to reach more marginalized areas and to generate revenue for sustainability.

Freedom From Shame (Video)

Program Solution

Aakar Innovations is a hybrid social enterprise that provides low cost, high-quality, 100% compostable sanitary napkins to rural and slum-based women while simultaneously providing livelihood opportunities and community awareness on menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

(1) Supporting SHGs/Entrepreneurs: Aakar partners with NGOs, local governments, and CSR programs to help self-help groups (SHGs) to set up sanitary napkin production mini-factories by providing them with technologically innovative machines, raw materials, maintenance and access to finance and subsidies. Training and capacity building of SHG women is also part of the support provided in order to ensure that the quality of sanitary pads is not compromised and that each woman can maximize her personal profits. Aakar has facilitated the formation of 25 microenterprises across eleven Indian states and one international unit in Kenya. Each mini-­factory is able to employ 15 women directly on production and an additional 1,5­20 women indirectly through sales commission of Anandi® pads, thus, creating access for up to 5,000 women per unit. To date, Aakar’s women entrepreneurs have generated over INR 2 million (approximately 30,000 USD) in revenue.

(2) Creating Awareness: Aakar Social Ventures, Aakar’s nonprofit arm, was founded in 2013 with the belief that education and awareness is the basis for empowerment. Aakar Social Ventures believes that it is a human rights violation to neglect the need for women to manage menstruation. The nonprofit’s mission is to raise awareness through education regarding menstrual hygiene in order to empower communities to make informed choices. Aakar Social Ventures achieves this by integrating the many contextual factors that surround menstrual hygiene such as education, sanitation, disposal, and waste management into its creative and informative curriculum.