E-commerce is democratising the market for female hygiene products in India.
Thanks to the anonymity of online shopping, more women are experimenting with alternative products like tampons and menstrual cups and going beyond sanitary napkins, according to Flipkart.
Even though sanitary napkin sales command an 80% share of the segment for the Walmart-owned retailer, the significant rest includes intimate care products such as hygiene oils and gel, urination devices and menstrual cups.
“Online selling platforms provide customers a wide range of products, offers and discretion in delivery – encouraging women to experiment with purchase choices,” Nishit Garg, Flipkart head for books, general merchandise and home, told Quartz over email.
Going by the sales data, Flipkart identified that tier-1 towns and metros are leading in the demand for tampons and menstrual cups.
However, the popularity of these products is now trickling down to smaller towns as well.
Flipkart claims its feminine hygiene products’ sales witnessed a five-fold growth in the April-June period, mostly led by demand from tier-2 and tier-3 cities.
“Nearly 100 million of India’s 300 million to 400 million strong middle class currently live in tier-2 and tier-3 cities,” suggested Garg of Flipkart. “Many women in these places lack access to brick-and-mortar stores where they can purchase hygiene products. So, now they are turning to online channels.”
For instance, the Delhi-based tampon maker Visionaari, claims that about 50% of its orders now come from tier-2 and tier-3 regions. Gauri Singhal, founder of Visionaari, which markets the FLOH brand of tampons, said, “Because of the easy access at the click of a button and the convenience of getting products delivered home, there is traction in places like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.”
Thanks to the demand from smaller towns, the prospects look bright for the segment.
The share of feminine hygiene products in India’s overall online retail is still in low single-digits, according to various industry estimates. But it is growing.
In 2017, sales stood at $340 million and were estimated would grow to $522 million by 2020, according to the market research firm Euromonitor.
North and East Indian states lead the demand.
The popularity of the devices has also spawned a number of startups like Carmesi, Nua, Heyday and Azah, besides Visionaari. They’re keen to tap millennial girls and working women who are looking for differentiated products and are open to experimenting.
Deep Bajaj, the founder of PeeBuddy, the Gurugram-based manufacturer of Sirona – modern menstrual and intimate hygiene products, and PeeBuddy – a disposable, portable urination device for women, acknowledges the work done by established sanitary napkin brands like Whisper and Stayfree in spreading awareness around period hygiene.
However, now, “the market is moving towards products that offer convenience and are personalised,” explained Bajaj. “If a woman has polycystic ovarian disease, then menstrual cups are the best option for her, not sanitary napkins.”
Flipkart also claimed it has seen an increase in the demand for eco-friendly products in female hygiene. “Apart from cost-effectiveness, minimal waste generation is one of the major driving factors behind the increasing adoption of products like menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads,” said Garg.
This article first appeared on Quartz.