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Shark Tank India 2 exclusive! PadCare founder: We want to bring a revolution in the country, where menstruation is openly spoken about

The founder had struck a deal with Peyush Bansal, Anupam Mittal, Namita Thapar and Vineeta Singh.

Shark Tank India 2 exclusive! PadCare founder: We want to bring a revolution in the country, where menstruation is openly spoken about

  • Shilpa S

Last Updated: 07.33 AM, Feb 06, 2023

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When Ajinkya Dhariya came to Shark Tank India season 2 to pitch his menstrual hygiene management ecosystem, Padcare, little did he know that he was going to make Shark Tank history. The founder became the only contestant in the history of the show to receive an open offer from a shark, and Lenskart CEO and co-founder Peyush Bansal even went so far as to give him a blank check, making it one of the most memorable episodes of the show so far.

Although Ajinkya left the tank after having struck a deal with four sharks- Peyush, Anupam Mittal, Namita Thapar and Vineeta Singh, the young entrepreneur still has his sights on a much bigger goal and dream- making a revolutionary chance when it comes to the menstruation management systems in the country, and removing the taboo that still persists when it comes to addressing the subject.

OTTplay caught up with Akinkya after his shark tank success story. The entrepreneur spoke of the revolution he wants to bring about in the country, the role his mother played in helping him become the man he is today, inclusivity in menstruation management, and more.

Excerpts from the interview…

You created Shark Tank India history when you became the first pitcher to be made an open offer by the sharks. How does it feel after achieving something like this, where you had four sharks fighting over you?

We got an overwhelming response after our appearance on Shark Tank India, and after having struck a deal with four sharks. We were flooded with orders, receiving about 30,000 in just the last two days. We’re glad we got the chance to speak to the right kind of audience about our mission.

When the four sharks were fighting over a deal with us, my mind actually went blank. I was even a bit confused I think, but I am glad we got all four sharks on board. I am overwhelmed by the response from the sharks.

This is exactly the kind of revolution we want to bring to India, where every one can openly talk about menstruation, and it should not be a topic reserved for just women. It should be a part of our normal community discussions and social discussions. It should be normalised, only then empowerment will happen.

Menstruation is still a taboo topic in the country. When you initially started you talked about how your family was incredibly supportive and behind you all the way. But did you face resistance from the outside or from anyone else when you were trying to set up the business?

Our journey was kind of a roller coaster ride. When we first started working in this particular domain, around waste management, although I personally interacted with more than 1500 rag pickers to understand the issues around this entire ecosystem, starting from collection, to disposal and recycling. That’s how we identified gaps in terms of three aspects.

One, women need access to disposal mechanisms at while maintaining their health, hygiene and privacy condition. This is definitely possible and easy to do. But the problem is that at the back end, there is no technology available where the waste can be recycled. So basically, we have now ran an entire understanding about that.

When we started, apart from family, I got a good support system from the ecosystem, for which I feel incredibly lucky for. I was lucky enough to receive different government grants as well as grants from private organisations, from foundations, like Tata Foundation, Infosys Foundation, and a couple of others as well. So in this overall journey of PadCare, the PR, and the media also plays a huge role in the ecosystem to create awareness of our work. And every time we got good support from the PR, to educate, to create awareness, and share our thoughts. For instance, that's what you guys are doing on your platform also. So this is something we call support from the ecosystem. So not just family, the overall support from government, private organisations, NGOs, foundations, media, everyone supported our cause.

Coming to your family, your mother is one of your role models, and she has even offered you business advice before coming on Shark Tank, where she advised you not to dilute the equity by a lot. Even the sharks agreed that it was incredibly wise advice. So is she like a frequent advisor of yours when it comes to the business?

Laughs. So basically she is not part of the day to day business operations. But yes, she did play a huge part in mentoring and educating me on a personal level. As a founder, as a solo founder, we go through multiple decisions, face multiple failures on a day to day basis, despite them being on a smaller level. At the end of the day it is necessary to have someone with whom one can share their thoughts, failures, and learnings and in my case, I've got my family with whom I have a chance to share what I'm doing.

And I think that her advice about the equity dilution was not about money. I think her intent was to remind me that you're not doing it for the money, you're intention to start the business is to resolve this taboo around menstrual hygiene management, specifically on disposal of it. And so in a nutshell, yes, she was part of the day to day guidance and she was a listener. Actually as a founder I had an array of questions, and she was a good, patient listener. She is definitely a good mentor.

Coming to the business side, how did COVID affect your business?

COVID was a misfortune that affected everyone globally,and PadCare was just coming into its own. But at that time we were in the research and development stage. And frankly, PadCare’s journey from the lab to market happened during the COVID days. My personal mentality shift also happened during the COVID days. Because when COVID hit and lockdown started, we had a technology of disinfection. Within two days, we converted the technology into a design for a proper mass disposal processing mechanism. We literally converted our technology into that within two days and handed it over to one of the largest electronics manufacturing company, where they mass manufacture these kinds of products. So in this way we created an impact for the on the ground level. We sold a couple of these products for organisations in the medical field.

Before COVID, the concept of hygiene was not exactly ‘mainstream’ in India. But post COVID, opportunities started to open up for us as corporate hygiene was one of the prime part of the business eco system. So rather than negate it, I would say we used the COVID times to do good learning and know how to create good business.

Coming back to Shark Tank, you had spoken about how you wanted to build a team. Have you become closer to achieving that aim now?

Yes. We have got a good team on board. We are around 42 people across the six cities serving more than 250+ clients. Luckily, we have built a leadership team including founding members of our company. In the last six months, with mentoringand the we got from the ecosystem, we have built an excellent team, which we are planning to scale up. As of the moment, there are few leadership roles that we are still looking for.

How have the sharks coming on board made a difference to the business? How are they involved in the business as of the moment?

At the moment, the discussions with the sharks are going on.We are discussing with them and the exercise is on the closure front. Post the tank we have got a chance to really analyse the feedback that we received on the show, to help us ask the right kind of questions when it comes to business operations. The questions that the sharks asked helped us to take a step back, sit on things, and check and validate our operational scaling strategy. So yeah, it's helped us very well, in that sense. It is an extension of the full role of the sharks that is going to happen, but of course, the mentoring, the asking the right questions, that definitely helps as well.

Coming to the topic of menstruation, you talked about how you also supply your products to not only housing societies, but also corporations and corporate institutions. So I just wanted to broach the subject of inclusivity in menstruation. Because women are not the only people who menstruate as a lot of trans and non binary and gender fluid people menstruate as well. So how do you try to bring about inclusivity in the process of building your ecosystem?

So recently just a couple of months back, we started this initiative, keeping in mind the further particulars of the LGBTQ community. We are also working around creating an awareness around that as well. We have started our special collection boxes, for people with different gender identities. So that we have created that kind of mechanism. At PadCare, we do not think of menstruation from purely a female perspective. Even when it comes to the corporations we supply to, inclusivity is a big part of their agendas.

Yeah, we are trying to create an inclusive environment but it's just not about product categories. It's more about the awareness gap that we need to solve.