Landscape of menstrual products in India
Menstrual hygiene in India has become synonymous with disposable sanitary pads because of supportive policy initiatives, market evolution, and the positioning of these products as the most hygienic and safest option.
Yet, the increasing market size has not been accompanied by product development investments as market players focused on saturating existing demand with a particular range of sanitary pads (e.g., regular pads, and ultra-thin pads). Further, the diverse needs of menstruators in different geographic and socio-cultural contexts received less attention to trigger greater product development. Anecdotal and research evidence suggests that consumers received poor quality products through private, Government and NGO channels. This may be partially driven by manufacturers and suppliers offering low-cost, low-quality products in a competitive industry with shrinking margins, and a lack of understanding of ‘quality’ of sanitary pads amongst buying or procuring agencies, as stated by large, mid-sized and small manufacturers who have been witness to these trends. Increasing sanitary pads use has also brought to light concerns about disposal and management of menstrual waste.
As national ministries and state governments commit to and invest in programs for increasing access to menstrual hygiene products, accessible information about the fast-evolving product landscape is sparse. It is important to understand both the categories of products available in the Indian market and the relative advantages and disadvantages of inclusion in Government programs. Procurement stakeholders also need information on appropriate criteria for procurement and methods of ensuring product quality. The abovementioned conditions are necessary to ensure that menstruators have continuous access to affordable and quality menstrual products which fulfil their needs for hygienic management of menstruation.
To address this gap in knowledge, Development Solutions and WaterAid India conducted this study to map the landscape of menstrual hygiene products in India. The study has incorporated the perspective of supply chain stakeholders to understand the barriers and facilitators for the availability of good quality and affordable menstrual hygiene products. The study was supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as part of a larger engagement on improving the menstrual health and hygiene of adolescent girls in six States. Government stakeholders can be supported to make informed decisions about large scale programs for the distribution of menstrual hygiene products with this comprehensive overview of the product landscape in the country. Government agencies and development partners can also use this information to inform the procurement process as well as program design.