7 Years at Saral Designs

Saral Designs is a company that is at the center of hardware (Machinery building), disposable hygiene & Social impact-driven sectors. Today, Saral completes its 7 years, and I would like to celebrate this amazing milestone with all our clients, suppliers, investors, all employees, mentors, and everyone who has been supporting us on this journey through thick and thin. 

Over the last 7 years, Saral has installed 70+ sanitary napkin manufacturing units, which have supplied 17million+ pads to women in rural areas. Our technologies are present in over 13 states in India and in 10 other developing countries. We sold 8million+ face masks during the COVID pandemic when supply was scarce. We have been recognized for multiple innovations that we keep bringing to the market. I would like to take you through the journey of Saral over the last 7 years.

Finding a crazy enough cofounder

The purpose for Saral Designs had begun when Suhani had come across the insight that less than 12% of women in India use sanitary napkins. It was a shocking insight and a problem that was worth quitting a cushy corporate job and choosing to work full-time on. Elsewhere, I had already quit my corporate job in pursuit of coming up with an innovation that could positively impact society and working on an idea that could be scalable. We met by chance and I worked for a few months as a consultant to Suhani. Soon we reached a stage where we found enough trust in each other’s capabilities, we felt a strong alignment towards solving a big problem and hence decided to start up together. Both of us had heard enough about co-founder conflicts and so we worked to make sure that would not be the case with us. We had sorted our roles and had an SHA(shareholders agreement) in place.

saral design

Humble beginnings

We had come up with the concept of decentralizing the production of sanitary pads which was contrary to the centralized models of production and distribution used by MNCs and large companies. With the help of 2 interns from IIT madras, we started building prototypes of pads and machines from (you guessed it) my father’s workshop. It took us about 6 months of time to build our first working prototype. Many of the innovations that we use even today happened in this time when we were free to explore any idea at a rapid pace.

First near-death experience.

With a working prototype and a unique decentralization idea, we started to meet angel investors. Luckily, we found investors who liked our product and more importantly believed in me and Suhani as founders of Saral. We set out to build a brand of sanitary napkins and little did we know that we were taking up more than we could chew. We were involved in too many things from Raw material sourcing, and manufacturing pads, to designing machines for manufacturing pads, creating a new door to door model of distribution and awareness of pads, and creating a brand of pads. It took us only a few months to see how our funds were depleting at a rapid pace trying to do everything.  

Pivot and persist

This was a time for us to introspect and make some big decisions. We realized that our USP was in our manufacturing technology and we love to have an aspect of engineering and innovation in the work we do. We had to cut down on some of our activities, and we realized that we did not want to build just a brand of sanitary napkins for high-end consumers. We decided to pivot from a B2C to a B2B model where we would focus on making and selling our technology. This decision had converted Saral from a cash-burning company to a cash flow-positive and sustainable company. 

Social grants & programs

As a hardware startup, it can get challenging to get equity funding especially if the potential of a 100x return is not visible to a VC. With the kind of social impact that our work was having, we approached impact investors and grant organizations who would find value in the work we do. We were able to secure and execute programs where we could set up decentralized manufacturing units, and create awareness and livelihood in remote communities. Doing these projects not only made us understand the needs of our consumers better, but we were also able to work on making our technology more robust and find better ways of increasing our impact on society. Slowly and steadily, we kept growing and finding many entrepreneurs who were interested in purchasing our technology to start manufacturing pads.

Rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic

As Saral was building on its technology and growing its reach, COVID-19 happened to the world! It was devastating for our business as no client would be willing to purchase any capital equipment in the midst of a lockdown. We knew we had to do something to even survive. Before Covid had come to India, we had seen the lockdown in China and found it funny that regular citizens were wearing masks in public. However, by mid-march, we realized that it will be needed globally. With rumors of lockdown in India, Suhani led an all-team meet and explored options for us to start making masks. Our team was up for the challenge and in 15 days time we started making masks. During this time, we partnered with Mahindra & Mahindra, built a machine, certified the 3ply mask, and started producing them in M&M’s factory in Kandivali. We donated more than a million masks within a month. Later, we went on to develop an advanced fully automatic mask-making machine and tied up with Marico Innovation Foundation and Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India to distribute the masks. These pivots not only helped us to sustain during this pandemic but our team was very proud of the impact we could create and the experiences we had.

Saral Design

Machines for disposable hygiene products

As we came out of lockdown, our usual business started to pick up. We realized that there is also a market segment where mid-range machines would make a lot of sense for us to grow. We came up with our new series of Swachh 5.0 machines which had a 10x capacity of the Swachh 3.0 series and are suitable for a mid-scale entrepreneur. With our experience and strong hold on technology for manufacturing disposable hygiene products, we decided to move into other disposable hygiene products like diapers, underpads, wipes, etc. We came up with custom solutions for other kinds of disposable products like period pain patches, pad rolls, etc. We aim to be the leaders in hygiene technology in India and beyond.

Machines for disposable hygiene products

As we came out of lockdown, our usual business started to pick up. We realized that there is also a market segment where mid-range machines would make a lot of sense for us to grow. We came up with our new series of Swachh 5.0 machines which had a 10x capacity of the Swachh 3.0 series and are suitable for a mid-scale entrepreneur. With our experience and strong hold on technology for manufacturing disposable hygiene products, we decided to move into other disposable hygiene products like diapers, underpads, wipes, etc. We came up with custom solutions for other kinds of disposable products like period pain patches, pad rolls, etc. We aim to be the leaders in hygiene technology in India and beyond.

Share This Story

Tags