Successfully Implementing a Sustainable Innovation: PadCare Labs

This content relates to : EMERGING ECONOMY – INDIA

HIGHLIGHTS

Social and environmental challenges offer significant opportunities for innovation.

Product innovations that address both these challenges have a higher likelihood of success

Branding and marketing innovations can bolster the effectiveness of these product innovations.

Gerard Athaide, Loyola University Maryland

Sanskrithi Thakur, MBA Student, Nalanda University

In India, approximately 355 million women are of menstruating age and the preferred method of menstrual hygiene management has been the use of sanitary pads. Other methods like using cloth pads and menstrual cups are not favoured due to fear of infection or lack of knowledge regarding their usage. The use of sanitary pads is already widespread in the cities but is also gaining rapid acceptance in villages and rural areas.

Over a lifetime, a woman typically generates approximately 125 kilograms of sanitary waste which goes into landfills or incinerators. However, since most commercial sanitary pads now have superabsorbent polymers (SAP) to provide high absorption and holding power, they can take more than 500 years to decompose in landfills. The incineration process is also not environmentally friendly as toxic gases like dioxins, furans, and other carcinogenic compounds are emitted into the atmosphere. Further, ineffective and/or open disposal can lead to drain clogging and health problems. For example, the waste collectors who handle the soiled pads are prone to health hazards ranging from skin infections to cancer.

PadCare Labs, a startup by Ajinkya Dhariya proposes to address these concerns via an innovative sanitary pad collection and disposal system in India. The pads are collected in ‘PadCare Bins’ which are placed in women’s washrooms. Each bin is equipped with an inner liner in which the used pads are placed; these liners curb microbial activity and also eliminate odours. Waste collectors benefit because handling the liners helps prevent direct exposure to and contact with the used pads.

Once a bin is full, a cloud-connected volume tracking mechanism indicates the need for waste pickup. The waste is collected and brought to a central processing unit where a machine shreds the pads and then deactivates the absorbent chemicals used in them. The pads undergo a multistep process including disinfection, decolorization, deodorization, and deactivation to transform them into cellulose and plastic pellets. In turn, these pellets are used to make various products like packaging material, tabletops, and plant pots. Body fluids (menstrual waste) which are a by-product of the process are directed towards a sewage outlet.

This start-up’s value addition is derived from 3 underlying innovations: product, branding, and marketing. The aforementioned innovative uses for the cellulose and plastic pellets indicates how technology can bring sustainable solutions to complex issues like sanitary waste disposal. The branding innovation is reflected via the name ‘PadCare’, which is a witty wordplay on the issue it addresses, i.e., the consequences of ineffective pad disposal, along with the solution it provides, i.e., taking care by segregating reusable components and effectively disposing non-reusable components. It also cleverly communicates to the customers that the company is focused on sustainability and care for women’s health.

PadCare’s pricing and distribution strategies reflect its innovative approach to marketing. With respect to pricing, PadCare requires a monthly subscription. This subscription-based pricing model lowers pricing barriers for customers and can facilitate brand loyalty. Following subscription, the number of bins installed by PadCare is based on assessment of an organization’s needs. The waste is collected weekly or fortnightly depending on the footfall and transportation to the central processing unit is handled by PadCare. Collectively these innovations have helped PadCare gain rapid market acceptance; over 150 bins have been installed in major cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad, and more installations are in the pipeline. As the founder reflects: “In the startup world, everyone is talking about AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning), but we are solving very actual social problems that is not just impacting our women and waste pickers but (the) environment as well.”

Authors: 

Gerard Athaide, ’95 Ph.D.

Professor of Marketing, Sellinger School of Business, Loyola University Maryland

https://www.loyola.edu/sellinger-business/academics/departments/marketing/faculty/athlaide 

Sanskrithi Thakur

Nalanda University, MBA Student

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sanskrithithakur/

To learn more, read: 

https://padcarelabs.com/

https://www.thebetterindia.com/237000/sanitary-pads-waste-recycling-ecofriendly-disposal-landfills-burning-ros174/

https://en.gaonconnection.com/menstrual-waste-hygiene-waste-pickers-sanitary-pads-menstrual-cups-environment-plastic/

https://www.thebetterindia.com/86209/red-dot-protect-waste-pickers-health-risks/

https://www.elsevier.com/connect/making-womens-sanitary-products-safer-and-cheaper