Kerala couple’s startup ends menstrual woes with cup of wows

FemiSafe founders Noureen Aysha and Naseef Nazar. Photo: Special arrangement

A young couple based in Kerala’s Kochi is addressing a pain point many women go through, period. FemiSafe, a startup launched by Noureen Aysha and her husband Naseef Nazar in 2020, has grown into a leading female wellness and hygiene brand with a basket full of products, starting with its iconic menstrual cup. While the company has clocked a turnover of Rs 1.3 crore in the previous fiscal, the value of information and awareness it has contributed to society remains immeasurable. Apart from selling 11 products in four categories – period care, personal care, intimate care and grooming — FemiSafe has been on a mission to raise awareness of menstrual health and hygiene at different levels of society. It has conducted sessions in over 100 institutions, including schools, colleges and corporates. At least 25,000 people have benefited from the sessions. On World Menstrual Hygiene Day, celebrated every year on May 28, the couple talks about the birth of FemiSafe. 

‘Parents had no clue we were selling menstrual cups’
Noureen, a native of Kozhikode who was brought up mostly in the UAE, got engaged to Naseef from Kanhangad, Kasaragod, during the pandemic days. Though they had studied engineering in the same college in Mangaluru between 2014 and 2016, they did not know each other in detail until they met again in 2020 during an event in Kozhikode. The meeting led to their engagement and the launch of a startup. FemiSafe was born out of a conversation between the two during their love in the time of Corona. 

During the pandemic-induced lockdown, waste pickup used to happen only once a week and used sanitary pads had heaped up in several corners. One such day, Noureen happened to see sanitary workers being forced to pick used sanitary pads with bare hands. They had to separate the gel from the plastic parts to segregate the waste. “The sight was distressing and I discussed it with Naseef. Since he knew that I have been using a menstrual cup for some years, he suggested that I raise awareness about the alternative,” Noureen recalls.  The casual talks gradually led to the idea of launching a venture of their own as both of them had already been fed up with the jobs they were doing. Naseef used to work as a software engineer while Noureen was in HR.

Noureen during one of her awareness sessions. Photo: Special arrangement

After they got married, the couple moved to Kochi finding it to be an ideal place to nurture their startup dreams. Their families had no clue about what they were doing. The couple, now co-founders of a femtech startup, chose to start with menstrual cups, a product they thought to be a necessity. “Menstrual cups are products many are afraid to use. A lot of women are scared about their own body and the flood of misinformation adds to their woes,” Noureen said. From her own experience, she had identified two key problems many find with the cups. The length of its stem troubled many because of the differences in female anatomy and the matte finishing of several brands made them prone to stains. FemiSafe wanted to start with a solution to these problems. They engaged with some manufacturers and gave them the required specifics. They got nearly 50 samples tested before finalising what they were looking for. FemiSafe cups come with a longer stem that can cater to almost all anatomies and a glossy finish that avoids staining in the long run. Once they were done with the cup, they took up the trouble of sterilising it. Soon, they launched a menstrual steriliser made of food-grade silicone which is heat resistant. The startup then diversified its product lines to include winged panty liners, disposable period panties, face razors, pimple patches, aloe gel and a water-based lubricant. 

De-stigmatising menstruation, step by steep
During the nearly four FemiSafe years, Noureen and Naseef have seen significant changes in the way society looks at topics like menstruation and personal health. “When we were thinking of starting our venture, we spoke to our close friends and families about menstrual cups. Only 50 per cent of them had heard about the product while a meagre 5 per cent knew about a brand selling female hygiene products. The lack of information was so great that we even came across women who did not know where to place the cups. However, last year after we finished one of our awareness sessions a mother in her forties came and collected a cup from us. She told us she wanted to keep it for her 11-year-old daughter by the time she would attain puberty. That was a gratifying moment,” Noureen said.

Noureen Aysha and Naseef Nazar with Hibi Eden during the Cup of Life campaign (Left). Noureen receives the Kairali Jwala Young Women Entrepreneur Award from actor Mammootty (Right). Photos: Special arrangement

Naseef corroborated her claim citing the growth they witnessed in sales. “When we listed our product first on Flipkart, we had counted some 100 sure customers. It turned out that only four of them were ready to buy our product. Now, we have close to 4.5 lakh customers,” he said. FemiSafe records most of its sales from Tier 3 cities. South India accounts for 65-70 per cent of sales with 30 per cent of it coming from Kerala. Naseef said now other companies in the sector are also focusing more on Kerala, mainly because of the higher rate of awareness in the state. “We see it more of an opportunity than as competition,” he said.
Social media for awareness
Besides the physical and online awareness sessions, FemiSafe effectively uses social media as a platform for sensitising people about female health and menstrual hygiene. “Our social media ads focus not on our products, but on creating awareness,” Noureen said. 

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