Menstrual health and hygiene are critical to women’s well-being and empowerment. An estimated 500 million women do not have access to menstruation products or proper menstrual hygiene management facilities (MHM), but FemTech solutions can help drive solutions.
The feminine hygiene market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.8 per cent to Dh2.28 billion by 2026. Joining the market race is FemTech firm PECTIV that specialises in female hygiene products and demonstrated consistent year-on-year growth in sales. This is due to its ground-breaking nanotechnology-based sanitary pads and a unique subscription business model.
In less than two years of operations, PECTIV sold over 100,000 packs, with a 200 per cent year-on-year growth rate in the first quarter of 2022 and had more than 80 per cent returning customers. The demand is led by 82 per cent of subscribers from the UAE and Saudi Arabia alone.
Dr. Elias Abboud, Founder of PECTIV, tells Omnia Health about the prospects and evolution of female hygiene providers in the region. Excerpts from the interview:
How is the feminine hygiene landscape shaping in the GCC, what are the driving factors and how does FemTech fit in?
High internet penetration, coupled with an emphasis on creating dialogue and awareness on female hygiene products in the GCC region, has resulted in creating pathways towards accessing knowledge on menstrual health and hygiene information. These developments have culminated in the emergence of FemTech as an important vertical of digital healthcare.
For someone well-versed with the regional feminine hygiene landscape and its unique challenges, we believe ultra-efficient products and telepharmacy models — both FemTech, by extension — can lead to a broader impact.
Dr Elias Abboud, Founder of FemTech firm PECTIV
Please enumerate the challenges and pain points within the regional context.
Conventional sanitary pads, the cornerstone of feminine hygiene, accompany many challenges. To begin with, they are prone to friction from physical activity such as running and walking, resulting in rashes and irritations. The presence of certain materials and chemicals in the pad can cause allergic reactions like contact dermatitis. The trapped moisture and heat, due to the blood flow, provide an ideal medium for bacterial growth, which in turn, can cause a range of health issues.
Typically, such conventional pads must be changed every three to four hours, regardless of the flow volume, to prevent infection, rashes, odour, and irritation issues. In the GCC region, due to the arid climate and the accompanying high perspiration levels, the need for hygiene is more pronounced.
According to the WHO, conventional sanitary pads are responsible for vaginal infections in up to 70 per cent of females. Even with good hygiene, conventional sanitary pads can cause infections in 30 per cent of females.
While there are 581 bacterial species commonly found in the vaginal biotope of women, some are pathogenic and can cause infections in the event of an imbalance in their composition. The change in vaginal microbiota can be due to menstruation and unsanitary douching. Such multi-faceted challenges encouraged the development of PECTIV’s nanotechnology-based sanitary products. The objective was to create a cure-all solution to these challenges.
How does PECTIV’s products address common feminine hygiene challenges?
PECTIV’s sanitary pads contain dynamic silver ions, which inhibit bacterial growth and prevent vaginal infections and candidiasis. In addition, these nanotechnology-based products do not cause rashes or irritations as they are free of toxic materials and chemicals such as phthalates and plastics.
From the efficiency standpoint, these pads boast four times more absorption, maximum aeration to dissipate moisture and heat, and side guards to prevent leakage. Besides pads and liners that are available in different forms, our product portfolio includes probiotics-based wipes and washes, which are free of alcohol, parabens, and other chemicals. These revolutionary products are available for subscription-based, doorstep delivery as part of our efforts to promote superior hygiene and break taboos.
What are the taboos in question? How do you intend to break them through FemTech?
While the awareness of superior feminine hygiene is increasing in the region, the accessibility to best-in-class products continues to be a challenge due to the taboos and hesitancies associated with buying them at the stores, in the presence of other people and men in particular. So, doorstep delivery provides uninhibited access, sidestepping the taboos and hesitancies. We went a step further by offering subscription options, which makes the process of monthly procurement more streamlined.
What is next for the company?
PECTIV believes in constant innovation. So, we are actively enhancing our product portfolio and developing new solutions as part of our approach to offering holistic feminine hygiene. Our aim is to expand systematically across the region, empowering females to not let inhibitions, taboos, and hesitancies get in the way of good health.
To that end, we have laid a strong foundation by registering with the US Food and Drug Administration and achieving European CE certification. In just under two years of operations, we have achieved great traction, culminating in the ‘Most Innovative Sanitary Pad 2021’ award.
We are, in our own right, the ambassadors of FemTech, gearing up for a feminine hygiene movement in the region.