Entrepreneur repurposes technology to fight the spread of Covid-19

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FEW YEARS ago, Saral Designs, a Mumbai-based startup, developed a fully automated sanitary napkin making machine to provide quality and affordable menstrual hygiene products to underprivileged women. As the 2020 pandemic hit India, the company optimized equipment to manufacture and distribute high-quality face masks. Two years later, the company fulfills two goals: to help women have a hygienic and safe menstrual experience and to protect communities from the transmission of Covid-19. Meanwhile, the company provides employment to women in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, parts of Africa and even conflict-torn Afghanistan.

At the onset of the second wave of Covid-19 in India, Saral Designs received support from USAID-backed facility SAMRIDH, which enabled it to maintain good revenue streams, cash flows and stable sales. Suhani Mohan, co-founder of Saral Designs, said that women entrepreneurs are increasingly solving social problems with innovative solutions. “A lot of the care work (for children and the elderly) is still done by women, which gives us unique insights…” she said.

Commenting on her journey, Mohan said: “We founded Saral Designs in 2015 and developed a range of production machines called ‘Swachh’ to manufacture sanitary napkins and reduce distribution costs through decentralization, although production costs have been reduced due to speed and automation. However, in 2020, when the pandemic first struck, we realized there was an acute shortage of masks. When we looked at the construction of a 3-ply surgical mask, we found that the manufacturing process was similar to that of a sanitary napkin. Our design team quickly began working on concepts and ways to convert our bandage machine into a facility that can also make masks.” With support from Mahindra Group, the company was able to develop a three-ply mask making machine within a week of conception.

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