Posted on October 11, 2022
by Huboo eCommerce Fulfilment
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How Asan Cup are tackling period poverty – Ira Guha, Founder & CEO

Who are Asan Cup & what are their goals?

Asan Cup are a global leader in menstrual support technology. They are dedicated to creating affordable and easily accessible period products for women across the globe.

Huboo is proud to be supporting Asan’s fulfilment needs. We recently spoke with company Founder & CEO, Ira Guha, to discuss the unique benefits her product offers and how the company is striving to achieve its goal of reaching as many women as possible worldwide.

You can read our interview with Ira below:

Tell us about Asan Cup, why it was founded, and your mission.

Ira: The mission of Asan is to eradicate period poverty and to make periods easy and safe for all women, no matter their income or nationality. I started Asan following a visit to my parents’ house in my home city of Bangalore in South India. The cook who works for my parents had missed a couple days of work. Naturally we thought she was ill.

It soon transpired she hadn’t been ill, but was using horrendous, low quality sanitary pads given to her by the government. They were so thick they were practically diapers, causing her severe discomfort. That was my first experience with period poverty.

At the same time, there’s also this huge crisis of period waste both in the UK and across the world. Millions of tampons are flushed down the toilet every day and they end up on beaches, in our water streams, and in landfills, which pollutes the environment. These are two really big crises we’re tackling.

While I was doing my masters at the Harvard Kennedy School, I worked with an engineer to develop a new period product called the Asan Cup. Menstrual cups have existed before but they’re not very mainstream, and a big reason for this is they can be quite hard to use. So, the very first thing Asan worked on at the Harvard Innovation Lab was to make a much better, easier to use, period cup, with innovations such as a little ring that makes it easy to remove and not susceptible to leakage and becoming discoloured.

The word Asan means ‘easy’ in several languages, including Persian and Hindi. This reflects our mission of creating a really simple to use cup.

How big is the challenge to overcome the lack of accessibility to quality period products?

Ira: It’s absolutely massive. In the developing world, around 50% of women and girls can’t afford period products, so they don’t have a safe way to manage their periods. That’s over a billion people! It’s really important to remember that we also have period poverty here in Britain. Around one in ten girls in the UK miss out on school during their periods, or don’t receive good quality period care. As you can see, the scale of period poverty is huge, so we’re setting out to tackle this.

What we found in our consumer research is that away from affordability, the needs of women and girls are universal and identical, whether they live in the UK or in a village in India. They need something safe, comfortable, and increasingly they need something sustainable.

Periods are universal so access to safe period care should be too. As a company, we try not to alter our products in different territories, so we have people from all over the world using the same Asan cup. It’s the same colour, same quality, with equal access to the same materials.

How do you make your products accessible to those most in need?

Ira: For every Asan Cup we sell in Western markets we donate a cup to a woman or girl in rural India. We don’t just give them a product, we teach them about period and menstrual health, educating them about our bodies.

We ensure that everyone who gets the product is benefiting from it, and there are now more than 20,000 women and girls using the Asan Cup across India. 36 villages rural Karnataka have been turned entirely plastic free as all the women and girls in the community having switched to our cup.

Tell us more about your initiatives in India…

Ira: One of the particularly powerful things about our work in India is that all the training and education about how to use the Asan Cup is done locally by women within the villages. This means we’re also creating a lot of local employment within India.

We aren’t just a brand that gives to charity – our social impact work really defines everything we do at Asan.

We started this initiative by working with village women, employing them to undertake the training and distribution required. Our commercial sales, which we also do, are in service of the donations.

When we realised there’s a high demand for this product everywhere, we realised that we can sell it to finance these initiatives. This really does make it a product driven by these rural women’s efforts, and I think that’s what makes it very exceptional. It’s not like outsiders going into villages promoting a new product. It’s actually something they want and they’re doing all of the promotion themselves.

It’s great to see that you’re also committed to sustainable practices, can you tell us how you do this?

Ira: When it comes to the product itself, we’re a zero-waste, plastic free brand. This includes all our packaging used through Huboo. However, the most important thing is to think about the life cycle of a product. A sanitary pad or a tampon needs to be replaced after every use, so you need to produce millions of them. Once they’re thrown away they either go to landfill or they end up in the water stream. It’s not only about pollution but the production, as these traditional products use water and electricity, unlike the Asan Cup which is a one-time production and can last for up to ten years.

You’ve partnered with Huboo to help with your order fulfilment, how has this helped your business?

Ira: It’s made things so much easier. Since all the logistics are being handled by Huboo, it’s freed up our time to focus on the things that actually matter to us in terms of getting the word out there and challenging existing expectations. We also now have time to generate donations while marketing and engaging with our consumers. We’re now spending less time focusing on fulfilment, so it’s great that we have a partner who takes care of this, allowing us to focus on all the other things we’re good at doing.

What made you choose Huboo?

Ira: What made me choose Huboo was the human element to it. I reached out to many different fulfilment partners, who required you to complete a long form to get a quote and access to the porta, and then you have to just figure out the logistics yourself to get going.

I think there’s a huge difference between doing that and having a human talk you through the process, giving onboarding advice and staying with you throughout the process. The single reason I chose Huboo was that there is someone I could put a face to, I didn’t want to just work with a portal, I wanted to work with people.

Even for a question as simple as “how much is it going to cost me to post this package?” anyone can say, “well, the answers on our website to go look it up”, but as a founder, you’re really busy. I don’t want to spend my time using the website to find prices, if someone can tell me how much it costs, that  makes my life easier.

Is there anything more you’d like to add?

Ira: One thing is there’s a lot of misconceptions around reusable products because we live in a society where we are so attuned to throwing things away.

There’s this idea that because the tampon is new, it’s also clean and safe. I think one really important thing I’d like to share is that actually, when it comes to safety for your body, the Asan Cup is a lot safer. The reason for that is both tampons and pads contain plastic and pesticides which have tons of toxins and harmful chemicals.

By contrast, the Asan Cup is made from a material called class six medical grade silicon, which is the same material used in breast implants and heart stents. It’s medically certified to be safe for the body and doesn’t have any chemicals or toxins so it’s going to do a lot less harm. Although there’s a preconception that something reusable is less hygienic, on the contrary, it’s much safer than tampons and pads that contain so many plastics in them.

To find out more about Asan Cup and their mission, visit their website here: Asan Cup – Best Menstrual Cup in UK

Use discount code HUBOO20 for an exclusive 20% discount on their product range: Asan store (asancup.com)